NCSE Evolution Education Update for 2012/05/25
(by NCSE Deputy Director Glenn Branch)
Dear Friends of NCSE, Are private school scholarship programs promoting creationism at the expense of the public schools? Plus a poll on attitudes toward evolution in New Jersey, and the two antievolution bills in Missouri are dead.
PRIVATE SCHOOL SCHOLARSHIPS "A BOON TO CREATIONISM"? Private school scholarship programs "have been twisted to benefit private schools at the expense of the neediest children," according to The New York Times (May 22, 2012) -- and part of the problem involves the teaching of creationism. At issue are programs in eight states that allow taxpayers to donate money to non-profit groups that award scholarships to students attending private schools; the taxpayers receive tax credits in return for their donations. "This school year alone, the programs redirected nearly $350 million that would have gone into public budgets to pay for private school scholarships for 129,000 students," the Times reported, adding, "While the scholarship programs have helped many children whose parents would have to scrimp or work several jobs to send them to private schools, the money has also been used to attract star football players, expand the payrolls of the nonprofit scholarship groups and spread the theology of creationism." "Some of the schools use textbooks produced by Bob Jones University Press and A Beka Book, a Christian publisher in Pensacola, Fla.," the Times observed. Such textbooks were at issue in the 2005 legal case ACSI v. Stearns, where the plaintiffs charged that the University of California system discriminated against applicants from Christian schools by rejecting high school biology courses that use these creationist textbooks as "inconsistent with the viewpoints and knowledge generally accepted in the scientific community." In court documents, the university system described the books as "inappropriate for use as primary texts in college preparatory science courses due to their characterizations of religious doctrine as scientific evidence, scientific inaccuracies, failure to encourage critical thinking, and overall un-scientific approach." The plaintiffs, though aided by the expert witness Michael Behe, lost their case as well as their subsequent appeals. According to the Times, "Most of the private schools are religious. Nearly a quarter of the participating schools in Georgia require families to make a profession of religious faith, according to their Web sites. Many of those schools adhere to a fundamentalist brand of Christianity. A commonly used sixth-grade science text retells the creation story contained in Genesis, omitting any other explanation." ?You have to keep in mind that the curriculum goes beyond the textbook,? the headmaster of a Christian school in Georgia told the Times, adding, ?Not only do we teach the students that creation is the way the world was created and that God is in control and he made all things, we also teach them what the false theories of the world are, such as the Big Bang theory and Darwinism. We teach those as fallacies.? The Times explained, "The programs are insulated from provisions requiring church-state separation because the donations are collected and distributed by the nonprofit scholarship groups." For the article in The New York Times, visit: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/05/22/education/scholarship-funds-meant-for-needy-benefit-private-schools.html For NCSE's collection of documents from ACSI v. Stearns, visit: http://ncse.com/creationism/legal/acsi-v-stearns POLLING EVOLUTION IN NEW JERSEY A bare majority of New Jerseyans accept evolution, according to a new poll from Monmouth University and the Asbury Park Press. Asked "whether or not you personally believe in ... the theory of evolution -- that humans evolved from lower life forms," 51% of respondents said yes, 42% said no, and 7% volunteered that they don't know. Democrats and independents, males, college graduates, and people between 35 and 54 years of age were more likely to answer yes; Republicans, females, those with only a high school education or less, and people over 55 years of age were more likely to answer no. According to the report, "The poll was conducted by the Monmouth University Polling Institute on April 11 to 15, 2012 with a statewide random sample of 804 adult residents, including 644 contacted on a landline telephone and 160 on a cell phone. Live interviewing services were provided by Braun Research, Inc. and the telephone sample was obtained from Survey Sampling International. ... For results based on the total sample, one can say with 95% confidence that the error attributable to sampling has a maximum margin of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points." For the report of the poll (PDF), visit: http://ncse.com/news/2012/05/polling-evolution-new-jersey-007420 And for NCSE's previous coverage of evolution polls and surveys, visit: http://ncse.com/polls-evolution ANTIEVOLUTION LEGISLATION DIES IN MISSOURI When the Missouri legislature adjourned on May 18, 2012, both antievolution bills in the House of Representatives died in committee. House Bill 1276 would have permitted teachers "to help students understand, analyze, critique, and review in an objective manner the scientific strengths and scientific weaknesses of the theory of biological and hypotheses of chemical evolution." House Bill 1227 would have required "the equal treatment of science instruction regarding evolution and intelligent design," both in public elementary and secondary schools and in "any introductory science course taught at any public institution of higher education" in the state. Both bills were referred to the House Committee on Elementary and Secondary Education but never received a hearing. For the text of Missouri's HB 1276 and 1227, visit: http://www.house.mo.gov/billtracking/bills121/biltxt/intro/HB1276I.htm http://www.house.mo.gov/billtracking/bills121/biltxt/intro/HB1227I.htm And for NCSE's previous coverage of events in Missouri, visit: http://ncse.com/news/missouri Thanks for reading. And don't forget to visit NCSE's website -- http://ncse.com -- where you can always find the latest news on evolution and climate education and threats to them. -- Sincerely, Glenn Branch Deputy Director National Center for Science Education, Inc. 420 40th Street, Suite 2 Oakland, CA 94609-2509 510-601-7203 x305 fax: 510-601-7204 800-290-6006 firstname.lastname@example.org http://ncse.com Read Reports of the NCSE on-line: http://reports.ncse.com Subscribe to NCSE's free weekly e-newsletter: http://groups.google.com/group/ncse-news NCSE is on Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter: http://www.facebook.com/evolution.ncse http://www.youtube.com/NatCen4ScienceEd http://twitter.com/ncse NCSE's work is supported by its members. Join today! http://ncse.com/join