[Repost with minor modifications form gregladen.com]
As indicated in a press release by the National Center for Science Education, the National Council for the Social Studies has released a position statement on Intelligent Design.
…There have been efforts for many decades to introduce religious beliefs about the beginning of life on Earth into the science curriculum of the public schools. Most recently, these efforts have included “creation science” and “intelligent design.” Following a number of court decisions finding the teaching of creationism and intelligent design in the public school science curriculum to be unconstitutional, there have been efforts to introduce these beliefs into the social studies curriculum….
The American Heritage Dictionary (2007) defines intelligent design as the “belief that physical and biological systems observed in the universe result from purposeful design by an intelligent being rather than from chance or undirected forces.” Attempts to introduce this doctrine, originally termed “creationism,” then “creation science,” and most recently, intelligent design,” into public school curricula have been found unconstitutional in state and federal courts….
These decisions have struck down state attempts to interfere with the teaching of evolution in the public school science curriculum….
Because federal courts, to date, have ruled against the teaching of creationism and intelligent design in the science curriculum, an approach called “critical analysis” has been introduced to get around these decisions. This approach seeks to incorporate what the courts have ruled to be religious belief into the public school curriculum by contending that public schools should take a critical view of the theory of evolution. In this critical view, particular attention is to be focused on any uncertainties in the fossil record as well as what are contended to be examples of “irreducible complexity.” This view then introduces intelligent design as an explanation addressing these uncertainties.
This “critical analysis” approach to teaching intelligent design has attracted political support in several states and districts. It was a motivating force behind former Senator Rick Santorum’s unsuccessful attempt to include a statement that evolution was a controversial scientific theory into the original No Child Left Behind legislation. It has also figured prominently in the much-publicized battle over the treatment of evolution in the Kansas science standards. In Ohio, the state board of education has suggested that although a critical analysis of the theory of evolution with the teaching of intelligent design should not be put into the science curriculum, “social studies appears to be a good fit” (Columbus Dispatch, September 2002).
Rationale for Recommendations
Social studies may, at first glance, seem to be a better fit for this approach to teaching intelligent design, but the same constitutional issues arise whether religious beliefs are taught in science or in the social studies curriculum. While the social studies classroom is the proper forum for the discussion of controversial issues, educators should be wary of being used to promote a religious belief in the public schools. This unintended outcome can be the result of teaching students that a scientific controversy exists between intelligent design and the theory of evolution when, in fact, no such controversy exists.
Teaching about religion in human society is an important component of many social studies courses (see the NCSS position statement “Study about Religions in the Social Studies Curriculum,” revised and approved by the Board of Directors in 1998). However, teaching religious beliefs as the equivalent of scientific theory is not consistent with the social studies nor is it allowed under the First Amendment. Evolution is a scientific theory subject to testing by the scientific method. In contrast, religious teaching based on the existence of a supreme being does not allow for the scientific processes of hypothesizing, gathering evidence or questioning as they are based on faith, not scientific observations or experimentation.
Nonetheless, social studies may have to contend with these issues because of local or state mandates. The curricular recommendations that follow allow for substantive discussion of the issues surrounding intelligent design, while avoiding First Amendment problems. Most significantly, these recommendations prevent the social studies curriculum from being a repository for intelligent design instruction in the public schools, while still allowing students to analyze the political, legal, and historical issues involved.
Prior to teaching about intelligent design, social studies teachers should check their district?s policies related to teaching controversial issues and teaching about religion. There are a number of ways in which social studies teachers might introduce the issues surrounding intelligent design in their curriculum. The following recommendations examine the issues from a social studies, rather than a religious, perspective.
* Constitutional perspective: …
* Historical perspective: …
* Sociological perspective: …
* Anthropological perspective: …
* Public issues perspectives: …
© Copyright 2007 National Council for the Social Studies. All rights reserved.
This is a partial reproduction of the original statement. If you are a teacher or school administrator, you obviously will want to read the entire document, here.
I disagree with their recommendations, or at least, think something should be added. It is part of the strategy of many pro-creationism groups to bring in creationism as a sort of “innocent bystander” in a broader discussion, but once it is in the classroom, it is easy for a teacher who wants to teach creationism to do so. The teacher can keep the actionable information … handouts, words written on the boards, other teaching material … within “legal limits” but allow or even encourage the conversation to go places it should not go. Given the fact that a significant percentage of teachers in public schools are, in fact, creationists, I think this is a dangerous and potentially ineffective policy.
No, it is not true that the NCSS has given the green light to creationism in schools. But Creationism is a Boston Driver on Mass Ave at 4:00 AM on a Wednesday morning … where red lights are only vague suggestions. They will, I promise you, take advantage of, and even be encouraged by, this policy statement. Expect trouble.