Permissive and Academic Freedom Strategies

Another creationist approach is to propose policies that allow rather than require the teaching of creationism or antievolutionism, and some of these bills and regulations attempt to protect teachers who may do so. An example is a sample policy that the Discovery Institute began circulating in 2002, and which it encouraged the Dover school board to adopt: "Teachers, in their discretion, may encourage students to consider both the scientific strengths and weaknesses of evolutionary theory in order to better understand the assigned curriculum. This policy does not call for the study of creationism, nor does it call for the study of intelligent design theory" (Cooper 2004).

Although the Dover school board did not adopt the policy, in 2004, the school board in Grantsburg, Wisconsin did, with slight modifications: "Students are expected to analyze, review, and critique scientific explanations, including hypotheses and theories, as to their strengths and weaknesses using scientific evidence and information. Students shall be able to explain the scientific strengths and weaknesses of evolutionary theory. This policy does not call for the teaching of creationism or intelligent design" (Quick 2004).

The Discovery Institute has argued since about 2002 that teachers should not be required to teach ID, but if they choose to teach it, they should be allowed to do so. This perspective may also be intended to make legal challenges more difficult to mount: a policy requiring the teaching of ID could be challenged on its face (i.e., a facial challenge), whereas an individual teacher who chose to teach iD in his or her classroom would require an "as-applied" legal challenge, which is a much more difficult undertaking. A teacher would have to be caught in the act of teaching creationism, which would require more monitoring than is usually possible in an American classroom. Permissive policies of this nature also have the advantage of appealing to a teacher's or the public's support of academic freedom.

This was the approach used in Union County, North Carolina, in 2006 when a citizens' group, the Fair Science Committee, unsuccessfully called for "an objective critique of the theory of evolution as currently being taught" and "academic freedom within the classroom" (Fair Science Committee, 2005). Although popular, calls for academic freedom at the precollege level, under present legal interpretations, fall on deaf ears: the law provides the K—12 teacher with little academic freedom. Courts have consistently held that a teacher has the responsibility to teach the curriculum of the district, as directed by administrators and any governing body. This has been demonstrated clearly in creationism/evolution cases such as Peloza v. San Juan Capis-trano. In this California case, a teacher lost his suit claiming that his free speech and free exercise of religion were compromised when the district required him to teach evolution. The district's right also to tell teachers what not to teach was illustrated in Webster v. New Lenox, an Illinois case where a teacher sued for his claimed right to teach creationism even when the district had directed him not to. The court held that the district was within its right to restrict Webster's curriculum in this matter. On the other hand, if states were to pass legislation giving K—12 teachers more academic freedom, the strategy of using the academic freedom to teach creationism might gain some legal credibility.

Conservative legislators in Florida reacted to the inclusion of evolution in the 2008 Florida science education standards by introducing legislation they called the Academic Freedom Act. Modeled on a sample policy written by the Discovery Institute, the bill called for teachers to "objectively present scientific information relevant to the full range of scientific views regarding biological and chemical evolution," it protects a teacher from discrimination for doing so, and also provides that students will not be "penalized... for subscribing to a particular position on evolution."' Although the bill contended that its implementation would not require any change in the Florida science standards, teachers and scientists disagreed, denouncing the bill as "a subterfuge for injecting the religious beliefs held by some into the science classroom" (Florida Citizens for Science 2008). This is because the bill called for the presentation of scientific information, and proponents of ID and creation science both promote their views as scientific. Teachers were also wary of the bill, fearing that it would leave the door open for students to promote creationist views in their assignments. Eventually, the two houses of the legislature were unable to reach agreement on two different versions of the bill, which therefore died when the legislature adjourned in May 2008.

Also in early 2008, the state of Louisiana enacted its own Academic Freedom Act, similar in spirit to the Discovery Institute's model legislation but based on a policy used in the northern Louisiana parish of ouachita. The original House version of the bill called for strengths and weaknesses of evolution, but such language was dropped in the Senate version of the bill. This bill (SB 733) was couched in the familiar critical analysis language, calling for "critical thinking skills, logical analysis, and open and objective discussion of scientific theories being studied including, but not limited to, evolution, the origins of life, global warming, and human cloning."

The heart of the bill is the encouragement of the state board of education to "create and foster and environment within public elementary and secondary schools that promotes critical thinking skills, logical analysis, and open and objective discussion of scientific theories being studied including, but not limited to, evolution, the origins of life, global warming, and human cloning." Teachers are permitted to use "supplemental textbooks and other instructional materials to help students understand, analyze, critique, and objectively review [the] scientific theories being studied." Teachers are allowed to use additional instructional materials to critique evolution. This seems to allow the purchase and use of creationist materials, as the content of such materials is composed of critiques of evolution. Although the final version of the bill had been modified considerably from its origin, teachers and other critics of the bill contended that its passage was unnecessary: that teachers were not being stifled over the teaching of evolution.

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