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Education Reporter
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Favorable Climate Evolving for
Teaching Creationism?

ROCHESTER, NY - A new charter school slated to open next fall will include creationism - the theory that there is scientific evidence of intelligent design in the universe - along with evolution in its curriculum. Dr. John R. Walker, sponsor of the Rochester Leadership Academy's charter application, points out that the theory of evolution is unproven and that the school will present contrasting theories, including creationism.

The academy has a potential enrollment of 436 students K through 8th grade, and will be managed by National Heritage Academies of Grand Rapids, Michigan, which operates 22 charter schools in Michigan and North Carolina. The State University of New York's (SUNY) trustees granted the new charter in January.

In a related development, the Oklahoma state textbook committee, which screens textbooks for the state's 540 public school districts, is challenging the teaching of evolution. The committee voted in November to require that biology textbooks admit evolution is a "controversial theory." Last October, Ken-tucky's education department replaced the word "evolution" in its state standards with the phrase, "change over time."

These actions come on the heels of the Kansas Board of Education's decision last summer to minimize evolution in its new state testing standards. The move did not forbid the teaching of evolution in Kansas schools, but was designed to curtail teaching it as indisputable scientific fact. (See Education Reporter, October 1999.) The resulting uproar has shown no signs of abating.

According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch (3-12-00), an initiative called Save our Science (S.O.S.) has been started for the purpose of "raising awareness on campuses nationwide" of the "efforts of fundamentalist Christians to stifle scientific education in public schools and replace it with the study of religious creationism." Organizers claim they found it "frightening" that "religious belief" could be so easily introduced into public school curricula in Kansas.

The S.O.S. campaign was developed by the Campus Freethought Alliance and the Young Freethinkers' Alliance, "an outgrowth of the Council for Secular Humanism." The group has also expressed concern about efforts by state legislatures and the U.S. House to allow the posting of the Ten Commandments in schools, courts and other public buildings.

Last month, Indiana legislators approved a bill, signed into law by the Governor, allowing schools to display the Ten Commandments along with other historical documents. Similar bills are pending in at least eight states, including Colorado, Georgia, Florida, Illinois, Missouri, Mississippi, Oklahoma and South Dakota.

These bills were sparked by parents and legislators concerned with the recent rash of school shootings, who blame the violence in part on the lack of moral teaching in the schools. Posting the Ten Commandments, they say, would be a symbolic step in the right direction.

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