Should colleges that teach creationism be accredited?

Should sectarian religious colleges that teach creationism be accredited? Our colleague, Joshua Swamidass, writing in the Wall Street Journal, answers with a qualified yes. Specifically, the issue involves an accrediting agency known as Transnational Association of Christian Colleges and Schools, or Tracs. Tracs was established in the 1970’s to provide accreditation for colleges and universities that taught young-earth creationism and six literal days of creation, rather than modern science. Eventually, Tracs was recognized by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation, or CHEA, which is in essence an umbrella agency that accredits accrediting agencies. The recognition of Tracs by CHEA is up for renewal this year.

But should Tracs colleges be accredited? Should Tracs be recognized? Dr. Swamidass thinks so but would require stringent conditions. To oversimplify his position, he thinks that colleges should be allowed to teach creationism, but if Tracs is to accredit them, then they must agree to teach modern science as well. He writes,

As a matter of academic freedom, scientists should tolerate institutions that teach creation science. But deviations from national norms in a science curriculum need to be prominently disclosed, tracked and reported. In practice, that means transcripts that clearly state which courses and degrees include creation science. Credit from courses that include creation science should not be used toward science degrees. Nor should they be eligible for transfer to secular institutions.

Dr. Swamidass notes that the “public arena” is pluralistic and concludes,

… Avoiding conflict by unconditionally renewing Tracs’ membership is an unacceptable approach. But we need a more constructive solution than simply excluding those with whom we disagree—even if they seem obviously wrong, as creationists do.

The best solution is to respect Tracs institutions’ unique character while holding them to high academic standards. Insisting on policies of transparency and academic freedom might even lay the groundwork for change in future generations.

Appendix. The CHEA Committee on Recognition meets virtually March 8-10. You may register for meetings at 9:00 a.m. EST on March 9 and 10 here. I understand that they will discuss Tracs the morning of March 10 and make a recommendation to the full board, which will decide the matter in October. They no longer accept new comments.