My daughter is a seventh grader at Wilkinson Middle School. Recently she came home and asked some very smart questions about genetics, evolution and how it fit with our faith verse other religious traditions. This is nothing new in our home, we discuss topics like these all the time. The discussion passed and so I was happy to have had time with my daughter discussing her school experience, answering her questions and where I couldn’t, guiding her to a source to find the answers.
At the most recent School Board meeting Mrs. Gilhousen suggested a change to the framework of Evolution curriculum in our district.
Parents, teachers and students have been exposed to our current methodology of teaching evolution for years with no issues, as was pointed out by the chairwoman.
The suggestion was that we teach all the theories and/or that we teach the controversy.
I would suggest that this is a direct challenge to teacher autonomy and an unnecessary action that could confuse students as well as being a possible violation of the establishment clause of the U.S. Constitution.
The fact that there are literally thousands of creation myths, the fact that teaching mythology in science is absurd. All that aside, requiring teachers to address even a small amount of creation myths challenges the autonomy of science teachers in their classrooms.
It would also put teachers in the precarious position of attempting to balance the secular teachings of science with the mysticism of multiple cultures and religious traditions if not inadvertently promoting particular religious beliefs – a clear violation of the establishment clause of the Constitution.
This suggestion also chances our students of being confused. Being exposed to extraneous information for no other reason than the religious beliefs of a single board member seems a high price to pay.
Where would we draw the line of which creation myths have “value” and how do we avoid the implication of bias and/or the favoring of particular religious traditions over others – a direct challenge to the findings in Edwards v. Aguillard.
Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District was a case very similar to what the board discussed. The decision in this case was “Teaching intelligent design in public school biology classes violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States because intelligent design is not science and “cannot uncouple itself from its creationist, and thus religious, antecedents.” While this case was heard in Pennsylvania the precedent seems clear.
We don’t teach about Vishnu in Biology for the same reason we don’t teach mitosis in ELA.
Thus, it is a violation of the public trust for a single board member to exceed their mandate and push a personal issue absent a public outcry. The saying goes vox populi vox dei, the voice of the people is the voice of God.
As parents we have a spiritual obligation to raise our children to follow the right path. That means taking an active part in their education as well as discussing where curriculum and personal belief intersect. I, for one, do not want teachers filling the role of spirituality, particularly if such a role would only serve to marginalize one’s religious beliefs in order to promote secular teachings.
It would be my hope that students not be subjected to the thousands of creation myths in a science class, that teachers not have their autonomy challenged, that our district take into account the precedent of the past several years as well as the cases across the country throughout the past 50 years and make no change to the methodology we currently use to teach evolution.
Roel Escamilla Jr.
Editor’s Note: Mr. Escamilla has filed paperwork as a candidate for the District 3 seat on the Clay County School Board, the seat currently held by Betsy Condon.