Creationism and Evolution in the Classroom
It was not until my junior year of college in a philosophy class where I learned about the theory of evolution in depth. Before then, Charles Darwin was about the only thing I knew about it because growing up, my teachers just kind of blew over it or did not talk about it at all. Creationism was talked about a little bit but it was solely dependent on the subject of the class or the particular teacher who wished to add it to their every day curriculum. However, there was just one thing missing. Not one of them was talked about more than the other; rather they were both hardly talked about at all. Based off of talking to some of my peers in high school and college, they had the same experience, but some peers had the opposite experience.
Educators should teach both creationism and evolution in a public school setting without endorsing their own perspective. Thus, this will encourage students to form their own belief, or opinion without the persuasion of someone they look up to or learn from daily. Unfortunately, the reality of this results in the violation of the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause of the United States Constitution. If you were to ask Vashti McCollum, an atheist, who won a case in 1948 (McCollum v. Board of Education Dist. 71, 333 U.S. 203), she would agree that religious instruction a violation of the Establishment Clause. The Establishment Clause and the Free Exercise Clause reads, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…”(p.1). Likewise, Kent Greenawalt (2005), a University Professor at Columbia Law School believes, “If a teacher’s only possible basis for a claim is religious belief, her making the claim amounts to a teaching of religion, even though the claim does not involve explicit religious proposition”(p. 95).
Creationism and evolution should be treated equally in the public school system. If educators are talking about evolution in science, then why not talk about religion as well? How each is presented matters more than their existence in the curriculum. Are the educators saying,“this is the absolute truth”? Or “here is the research and the points about it and here is how I want you to think about it”?
According to John D. Morris, Ph.D. (1991), “The claim that belief in creation is religious, is, of course, true, but no more religious than belief in evolution. Both are based on similar, but opposite religious assumptions. The two concepts are on equal religious footing, and to mandate the teaching of only one (i.e., evolution), while censoring the other, “establishes” a state religion, and certainly prohibits the “free exercise” of the religious practice held by creationists. To make matters worse, “free speech” is frequently abridged in such onesided forums”(p.1).
Yes, the state must “remain neutral about religion (p. 117), but if that is the case, then educators should remain neutral about evolution as well. Greenawalt claims,” texts and teachers in natural science courses typically do not refer to religion. This may seem less than neutral toward religion, because certain scientific claims conflict directly with widespread religious beliefs”(p.89). This is why it is appropriate to discuss both so that students do not grow up like me and learn about evolution in greater depth until their junior year of college.
Establishment Clause. (2016, May 16). Retrieved June 03, 2016, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Establishment_Clause
Greenawalt, K. (2005). Does God belong in public schools? Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
John D. Morris, Ph.D. 1991. Should the Public Schools Teach Creation?. Acts & Facts. 20 (4).