The Dover Trap

Last January in my public remarks to the Ohio Board of Education after it had narrowly voted to retain the ID creationist lesson plan, I said that “This Board has set a ‘Dover Trap’ for every local school district in Ohio”.

By “Dover Trap” I meant that the Trojan Horse “critically analyze” benchmark and the creationist model lesson plan that operationalized the benchmark tacitly sanctioned teaching intelligent design creationism (in any of its guises) in Ohio schools, and in doing so it exposed Ohio local school districts to the same risk that Dover took. Aside from the pedagogical problems of teaching the intellectual vacuity of creationism, any district that tolerated or sanctioned teaching Wellsian B.S. would in effect be betting $1 million that it was worth teaching.

Father Michael Cochran of the State Board was quoted as saying, “If they think we are wrong — take us to court.” That’s easy for Cochran to say: He wouldn’t pay for anything. But for some little district in Vinton County or Holmes County or Coshocton County, it would be a devastating blow to be so ill served by the Ohio BOE.

In a recent development, the American Family Association has offered similar legal assistance. In a press release its Center for Law & Policy has offered to defend the Ohio State Board if it reinstates the deleted material. (The Ohio ID creationist organization SEAO was a project of AFA.) One can expect that AFA’s defense will be as “free” as the Thomas More Center’s defense in Dover, and worth just as much.

Now that the offending benchmark, indicator, and lesson plan are gone from the Ohio state standards and model curriculum, there is not even the weak justification of State Board action for local Ohio districts to lean on. Any Ohio district that teaches intelligent design creationism-inspired glop now is wholly on its own.

I commend the “Dover Trap” phrase to colleagues elsewhere. Remind local superintendents that neither their state BOE nor their state legislature can protect them from the federal courts, and that they stand to take an enormous hit if they teach sectarian ID creationist pseudoscience, including the “teach the controversy” and “critical analysis of evolution” shams.