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Editorials

A tired, old debate

Wrap creationism up in any package – it’s still bad science.

The trimmings on Sen. Dennis Kruse’s evolution bill this time around will omit references to religion or evolution, but the “truth in education” approach he plans to take still amounts to dumbing down science instruction in Indiana classrooms. While it’s an improvement on the intelligent design bill the Auburn Republican unsuccessfully pushed last year, it deserves the same fate.

Kruse’s proposal sets teachers up to defend long-established scientific theory in the event any student wants to engage in a theological debate. That debate might be appropriate in a literature or philosophy class; it is a distraction in a science classroom.

Gerry Wheeler, executive director of the National Science Teachers Association, told the Indianapolis Star that the Senate Education Committee chairman’s latest proposal is one of the “very insidious ways of trying to get non-science into the science classroom.”

“It’s fine for a child to have religion. It’s fine for a child to believe whatever he or she wants to believe,” Wheeler said. “But within the science classroom, if we’re going to produce the strong workforce we need for this country, we have to stick to science, and we have to stick to the evidence behind science.”

Kruse’s counsel on the new approach came from the Discovery Institute, which first conjured up the intelligent design approach and now rejects it in favor of more scrutiny of evolution.

“(Discovery Institute) believes that evolution should be fully and completely presented to students, and they should learn more about evolutionary theory, including its unresolved issues,” according to the think tank’s website. “In other words, evolution should be taught as a scientific theory that is open to critical scrutiny, not as a sacred dogma that can’t be questioned.”

“I would refer to it as truth in education, so students could question what teachers are teaching them and try to make sure it’s true what they’re teaching,” Kruse explained.

But Sen. Tim Skinner, D-Terre Haute, said there’s no need to mandate questions in the classroom.

“If Senator Kruse had education experience he would know that students across the country are already doing that every day in the public school classroom,” Skinner said. “They question everything, and I think a teacher who’s actually doing their job will answer those questions.”

Give Rep. Robert Behning, chairman of the House Education Committee, credit for his skepticism. He said the proposal seemed vague and that he was disinclined to pursue it.

“I don’t want to do something that’s going to burden schools to the point where they’re going to spend their lives trying to validate what is assumed to be true,” Behning, an Indianapolis Republican, told the Star.

The U.S. Supreme Court has clearly ruled that it’s unconstitutional to teach creationism or intelligent design, as violation of the Establishment Clause prohibiting any governmental endorsement or support of religion.

Concealing the real aim of his legislation makes Kruse’s proposal no less objectionable. It’s an unnecessary distraction for the General Assembly, for taxpayers and for Indiana schools.

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