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Opponents of evolution teaching policy could use its help

You would think that the sky is falling, from some of the overblown, world-is-ending rhetoric regarding Louisiana’s Board of Elementary and Secondary Education’s promulgation of standards regarding the teaching of evolution, which basically proffer the radical idea that if teachers want to point out holes in the theory of evolution, they can without fear of censure but whose materials used to do so can be reviewed by policy-makers. The consensus was the new rules would allow within the confines of the enabling legislation for critical investigation of evolution, yet had safeguards to stop religious views from being introduced

Yet this exercise in encouraging critical thinking is seen by many as a threat, driving some to the point they abandon critical thinking. They wail about how even the smallest leakage of religion would cause disaster, or make Orwellian comments about how not only should material illuminating evolution’s fault must be vetted, but the thoughts behind their authors as well. Some Chicken Littles, however, try to couch the argument against in economic terms, arguing that having law that does not shield the teaching of evolution from criticism, which they without factual basis always equate to an automatic teaching of creationism, will discourage “excellence in science and math,” or “dilute standards.”

Such simplistic thinking ignores that this development does precisely the opposite. The law encourages that classrooms not be a place where sheep are being herded without thought of where they are going, but as incubators for the introduction of genuine inquiry. The law and policy promote students not to swallow whatever some teacher wishes to pour into them, but to think for themselves about the merits and demerits of any theory. A student population trained in this fashion is precisely the kind that will excel in math, science, or in any subject area with tasks demanding higher order reasoning, and that is exactly what will improve educational quality in the state and ultimately attract economic development.

On this issue, the hostility to religious belief that many opponents have had, which has led to the constant blowing out of proportion of the meaning and relevance of the law and now the Board’s action, it is regrettable that they have let these feelings so overwhelm their reasoning that they cannot even see this simple truth. Perhaps they could have benefited themselves in their schooling from the attitude of free inquiry that the law and policy promotes.

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