Victory in Gull Lake

Last evening I attended the Gull Lake school board meeting on a sweltering night when they were to decide whether or not to allow two 7th grade science teachers to teach ID as they had been doing for the last couple of years. I am happy to report that after about a year of effort and controversy, the school board voted unanimously that ID could not be taught in science classes in that district, nor could the book Of Pandas and People be used in the 7th grade class where it had been used as a supplemental text for the past couple years by two teachers there. They did so in the face of a lawsuit threatened by the Thomas More Law Center on behalf of the two teachers, who claim that they have a right to teach ID in their classes even if those with authority over the curriculum do not agree.

I gave a brief talk to the board that focused on two things. First, the fact that many prominent ID advocates had themselves said that it was premature to talk about teaching ID in public school science classrooms because it is not yet a full fledged scientific theory and has not been established within the scientific community to warrant such inclusion. Specifically, I quoted Bruce Gordon's statement that ID had been "prematurely drawn into discussions of public science education where it has no business making an appearance without broad recognition from the scientific community that it is making a worthwhile contribution to our understanding of the natural world." Second, I sought to reassure the board that the lawsuit threatened by the TMLC has little hope of succeeding and that they almost certainly know that. As I wrote on the Michigan Citizens for Science webpage a few weeks ago, there are three precedents for such a suit. In all three, the complaint was dismissed and the dismissal upheld on appeal.

The final result in Gull Lake was as follows. The ad hoc committee that was formed to reach a resolution on the issue, which was made up of 7 people including the two teachers who were teaching ID, voted 5-2 against teaching ID, with those two teachers obviously being the 2 yes votes. It was then sent to all of the junior high and high school science teachers, where again only the two teachers in question thought it should be taught. It was then sent to the District Curriculum Council, which voted 15-0 against teaching ID. And last night, the school board vote to reject ID in science classrooms was unanimous. They did accept the committee's recommendation that the board approve ID as a potentially suitable subject for a high school level elective course in social studies, humanities, political science or philosophy, but that would have to go through the normal process of being approved separately by the administration and could not begin until at least fall of 2006.

So all in all, a resounding victory for the advocates of quality science education. We now await the decision of the Thomas More Law Center on whether they will actually file the suit they have been threatening. In speaking with a couple members of the Gull Lake board last evening, it seemed that they were all expecting such a suit to be filed. I'm not so sure. The TMLC must know that they have virtually no chance of winning that suit, so if they file it will only be because they want either the media attention or the donations that would follow that attention. And at this point, they have their hands full with the Dover ID trial, and that frankly isn't going well for them at this point either. So good news all the way around.