It appears that we may be set to begin principal shooting on Dover: The Sequel, this time in Virginia. There has been some uproar in the Chesterfield County School District lately, where the school board has been in the process of ordering new science textbooks and has been under pressure from some in the community to incorporate teaching about intelligent design along with evolution in those classes. The Chesterfield Observer reports on what happened at recent school board meetings in this regard:
At issue was the concept of intelligent design, and why none of the proposed textbooks offered an alternative to evolution for how the universe came to be.
Intelligent design proponents urged the School Board to include that theory in the school system’s science curriculum so students can consider differing viewpoints in the classroom.
Here are some specifics:
But some proponents of intelligent design who spoke before the School Board last week believe limiting discussions to evolution is anything but neutral.
“Our children are not being educated; they are being indoctrinated,” said Cathleen Waagner. “Let the evidence speak for itself and let [the students] draw their own conclusions.”
Another speaker, Michael Slagle, presented a document containing 700 signatures of scientists worldwide who have questioned the validity of evolution.
“Students are being excluded from scientific debate. It’s time to bring this debate into the classroom,” he said.
The school board did end up approving the regular textbooks by a unanimous vote, textbooks that do not include ID at all. But then the school board chairman, Thomas Doland, issued a memorandum that appears to instruct the superintendent and the curriculum officials to find a way to incorporate ID in to science classrooms outside of those textbooks. Here is the full text of that memorandum:
Chesterfield County School Board Chair Thomas J. Doland read this statement during the May 22 board meeting. Mr. Doland asked that the statement be included Memorandum No. 45 regarding textbook adoptions for Chesterfield County Public Schools.
“Our vision for this school system is anchored upon the understanding that our schools must be thriving, dynamic, and inspiring educational environments that produce self-directed learners. Self-directed learning occurs only when alternative views are explored and discussed. The unimpeded exploration of different perspectives is essential in this regard, and the School Board wholeheartedly encourages such exploration. We implore our students to expand their knowledge through research, to debate the concepts as presented, and to develop their creative and independent thinking skills.
The Virginia Constitution authorizes the State Board of Education to approve textbooks and instructional aids and materials for use in courses in the public schools of the Commonwealth. The State Board has adopted applicable regulations and our School Board is complying with the Constitution and those regulations as it adopts textbooks for use in Chesterfield County Public Schools. The School Board is cognizant that technology now allows easy access to an almost infinite number of resources facilitating learning. To suggest that we should limit our students’ access to specifically approved textbooks and instructional materials would not only inhibit self-directed learning but would also ill-prepare our young people for the challenges that will face them in the competitive global market of the 21st century.
Science textbook statement from School Board Chair Thomas J. Doland (cont.)
“We have received much interest and concern from our citizens relating to the theory of evolution as taught in our science classes. It is the School Board’s belief that this topic, along with all other topics that raise differences of thought and opinion, should receive the thorough and unrestricted study as we have just articulated. Accordingly, we direct our superintendent to charge those of our professionals who support curriculum development and implementation with the responsibility to investigate and develop processes that encompass a comprehensive approach to the teaching and learning of these topics. We also ask that the Superintendent report to us the results of this assignment and his evaluation of its success.
As it relates to every aspect of our official duties, we have each taken an oath to uphold the Constitution of the United States. The U.S. Secretary of Education has reminded us that “the First Amendment requires public school officials to be neutral in their treatment of religion, showing neither favoritism toward nor hostility against religious expression. He further states, “[s]tudents may express their beliefs about religion in homework, artwork, and other written and oral assignments free from discrimination based on the religious content of their submissions. Such home and classroom work should be judged by ordinary academic standards of substance and relevance and against other legitimate pedagogical concerns identified by the school.” We must never confuse the requirement for religious neutrality of the government with the rights of our students to engage in religious expression. To this end, the School Board directs the Superintendent, the School Board Attorney, and other appropriate members of the staff to instruct all of the Board’s employees responsible for the education of our students about these principles that we have sworn to uphold. This instruction shall be accomplished on an ongoing basis with verification provided to the School Board annually.”
Looks to me like they are going to develop supplemental materials, outside of the textbooks they approved, to put ID into science classrooms along with evolution. If they do so, of course, a lawsuit will be filed immediately and it will end up costing the school board a whole lot of money. They have been led in to the Dover Trap and the result will likely be the same. They would be wise to step back from the precipice on this one.