A School Board's Education

There is a certain sequence that is common to flare-ups involving religious antievolution advocacy. First, there is some starting event, where people raise some form of antievolution as appropriate to insert into a science curriculum in some manner. Second, there is some notice of this. Third, other parties bring those involved up to speed on the state of religious antievolution. Fourth, the initially enthusiastic advocates of religious antievolution desist or are overruled.

Note that I said common. Most of the cases of religious antievolution intersecting with public K-12 education resolve fairly shortly. If they do follow this common pathway, one usually has no more notice of it than that initially given to the problem. It is when a case goes pathological that it may become well-known, as in the cyclical antievolution of the Kansas state school board, the long-term antievolution advocacy of the Tangipahoa Parish school board, or the spectacular self-destruction of the Dover Area School District. Even intermediate cases demonstrate how readily our attention passes on to extreme cases, as shown by the flirtation the Darby, Montana school board had with “intelligent design” creationism a few years back. Darby was set to provide that first lawsuit over “intelligent design” creationism that it seemed the Discovery Institute was spoiling for, but the community had its elections for the school board before a policy was implemented, and the voters elected people who were not amenable to the IDC program.

In North Carolina, the Brunswick County School Board recently demonstrated steps 1 through 3 of the common sequence of religious antievolution advocacy. A speaker before a school board meeting suggested that creationism should be taught in the public school science classes. The members of the school board showed a certain initial enthusiasm for the suggestion. A reporter filed an article laying out how those events happened, plus the useful information that all the school board members favored including creationism in the science curriculum, and that even their legal counsel initially thought that they might do so legally if creationism supplemented but did not displace evolutionary science there. Shortly thereafter, another article reported on the response to those events at the state level, where it was noted that various legal precedents said that the course of action contemplated by the Brunswick County School Board was plainly unconstitutional.

What we don’t know yet is whether the Brunswick County School Board case will follow the common sequence and give up the idea of explicit inclusion of religious antievolution in the public schools, or whether this case will progress in a pathological way toward giving certain religious doctrines privilege by government authority.

I go into some of the possible outcomes at the Austringer.