An old debate is coming back to Ohio schools and courtrooms: Should schools be allowed to teach creationism?
Currently, the Ohio school system clearly discusses how evolution should be taught in schools; however, it says nothing on how to address religious views concerning the origins of the Earth. Instead, the state leaves that up to local districts to decide — to a point.
Due to the language used in House Bill 597, which proposes the end of Common Core standards within the state as well as other state standards, religious views could be mixed in with the science concerning evolution. According to the vague bill:
“The standards in science shall be based in core existing disciplines of biology, chemistry, and physics; incorporate grade-level mathematics and be referenced to the mathematics standards; focus on academic and scientific knowledge rather than scientific processes; and prohibit political or religious interpretation of scientific facts in favor of another.”
State Representative Andy Thompson, co-sponsor of the bill, said it does offer flexibility for schools to teach religious beliefs within their science curriculum, specifically allowing for Intelligent Design, which states that the world is too intricate to have been created on its own and there must be a supernatural force involved.
“It gives some flexibility to districts to pursue what they think is most appropriate to their students,” Thompson said. “We want to have the ability to share perspectives that differ. Teaching one thing to the exclusion of anything else limits the discussion.”
According to Thompson, students should be introduced to these theories of evolution, “to consider the perspectives of people of faith.”
He went on to say that the new standards are based on the set of the standards previously used in Massachusetts prior to Common Core. Thompson believes this set of standards that helped rank the state so highly in academics on a national level.
However, the language concerning religious beliefs does not appear to come from the Massachusetts standards.
A federal court ruling in the Kitzmiller v Dover Area School District 2005 case from Pennsylvania could be the key to this debate. The ruling said that teaching Intelligent Design in schools was unconstitutional, stating that doing was “cloaking religious beliefs in scientific-sounding language.”
Despite this ruling, similar debates are popping up elsewhere.
In Florida, Pinellas School Board candidate Ken Peluso believes creationism should be taught in schools.
“I think creationism and evolution should be taught side by side and I don’t care what classroom,” Peluso said Thursday in response to a question at a School Board candidate forum held by the Suncoast Tiger Bay Club in St. Petersburg.
Creationism does not currently appear in the state standards, which refer to evolution as the “fundamental concept underlying all of biology.”
Peluso, on the other hand, believes students should “know the facts” so that they can make their own informed decisions.
In the UK, Education Secretary Nicky Morgan is suggesting primary school students be taught “fundamental British values” in response to the idea of teaching creationism in schools. Currently, any school that teaches the subject in relation to science will be stripped of any taxpayer funding.
While it unclear exactly what constitutes “fundamental” values, parents are happy to have the guidelines in place.