In a reversal, the acting education commissioner for the state of Maine recently has said he does not support the teaching of creationism in schools. He had stated the opposite when he ran for governor in 2010.
Bill Beardsley had answered “yes” when asked if he believed in creationism, or the idea that life was created by divine intervention, and thought it should be taught in schools during a lightning round of questions in a gubernatorial debate in 2010. However, in an about-face earlier this week, he said he does not think the topic should be taught in science classes, adding that he would not be pushing through any efforts to change the science standards in the state to include creationism.
“There’s a place for religion and a place for science,” Beardsley said. “Do I believe in science? Of course I believe in science. My mother was an astronomer. Am I a person of faith? Yes, I happen to be a person of faith.
“I keep my faith separate from my secular work,” he added.
However, he added that the Department of Education does not act alone when it comes to determining what curriculum is taught in classrooms across Maine. Standards are set by the state, but it is left to local school districts to determine the curriculum which will be used to teach those standards, writes Noel Gallagher for The Portland Press Herald.
Bill Beardsley was announced as acting education commissioner by Governor Paul LePage on Friday, succeeding acting commissioner Tom Desjardin. Desjardin is expected to continue on as acting deputy commissioner. Beardsley will have the position for six months, at which point LePage will have the opportunity to appoint him to the position permanently if the Legislature confirms the decision.
LePage has appointed “acting commissioners” for almost an entire year now, allowing him to put who he wants into the position for six months without needing confirmation from the Legislature. Beardsley said the possibility of his role becoming permanent has not come up so far. “I would hope that the governor continues to seek how best to put in somebody permanently,” he said.
The department has not had a permanent education commissioner in almost a year, as Jim Rier left in November 2014 after 11 years of service due to health problems. After taking over the position, Desjardin was forced to take a medical leave after he fell in his barn and broke his back in September.
“It would be much better for the institution, and the program as a whole, to have someone in there full time,” says Republican state Sen. Brian Langley, who co-chairs the Legislature’s Education and Cultural Affairs Committee.
Until that happens, the union representing teachers in the state, the Maine Education Association, says they will work with Beardsley, although they would prefer a permanent commissioner.
“What MEA is hoping is that this will be a chance for us to work more collaboratively with the Department of Education,” says Lois Kilbey-Chesley, president of the Maine Education Association. “We look forward to being able to work with Dr. Beardsley on all the things that effect our students.”