A teacher's view of Dover decision

From: Anne Swaim <aswaim@communitybiblechurch.org>
Date: Thu Dec 22 2005 - 22:27:27 EST

I just finished reading the full text of the decision in the Dover case.
I thought to offer observations here just from a teacher's perspective.

By way of brief introduction, I teach environmental education
in local school districts for an environmental nonprofit. I also work
at a small evangelical church in children & youth ministry.

One of the most distressing aspects of the Dover case, to me,
was the difficult position of the science teachers.

I found this brief quote (below) from the Dover teachers particularly
poignant. This quote was from a memo that the teachers sent when they
were ordered to read the Intelligent Design statement
before teaching evolution:

"...reading the statement violates our responsibilities as professional
educators as set forth in the Code of Professional Practice
and Conduct for Educators..."

[pg 127 in Dover decision]

This courageous stand by the teachers came after months
of political pressure from the school board. This pressure included
an appalling incident in which a hall mural about evolution was
torn down and burned with the approval of one or more board members.

But, with my "other hat" as a church youth worker, I also know that
evolution is not always taught in a "religiously neutral" fashion
in our local public schools.

I know of at least one area school district where teaching about
evolution is accompanied with negative statements
from teachers about faith traditions.

This is highly regrettable and quite unnecessary. It is also illegal.
(Teachers are individuals with individual biases.)

With our country's current conflicts between faith
and governance and with America's rich tradition of
religious pluralism, how should our public school teachers
talk about subjects, like origins of life, that are interwoven with
traditions of faith?

Some say that even "religiously neutral"
teaching can carry the subtext that faith that irrelevant.

Judge Jones quoted from a 1985 decision involving
the Grand Rapids School District [pg 36]:

"Families entrust public schools with the education of
their children, but condition their trust on the
understanding that the classroom will not purposely be
used to advance religious views that may conflict with
the private beliefs of the student and his or her family.
Students in such institutions are impressionable and their
attendance is involuntary."

Do our students and teachers need to check
their spirituality at the public school door?

I could see these questions brushed against in the Dover
decision but mostly overlooked. This was not
the "presenting complaint" but it was the underlying issue.

The Dover school board members even found
themselves lying under oath trying to say
that their stance on ID was NOT a religious issue.

Of course it was.

Significantly, Judge Jones included the following
statement in his decision: [pg 44]

"... by directing students to their families to learn about
the “Origins of Life,” the [Dover statement on ID]....
'reminds school children that they can rightly maintain beliefs
taught by their parents on the subject of the origin of life,'
thereby stifling the critical thinking that the class’s study of
evolutionary theory might otherwise prompt, to protect
a religious view from what the Board considers to be a threat."

This fear of "secular indoctrination" was
driving the bully tactics of the Dover school board.

It doesn't justify them however. As a Christian,
I'm embarassed by the actions of the Dover school

Perhaps those of us who identify as members
of the Body of Christ, the Church, might join
in repentent prayer about how poorly this case
has reflected on the name of Christ.
Received on Thu Dec 22 22:31:09 2005

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