The Role of Religion in Textbooks
I graduated from West- Forsyth high school in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. West is ranked the second best high school in the entire state of North Carolina and 365th in Newsweek’s top 1000 high schools in the nation. Known for high standardized test scores and high achievement awards its easy to say that I am proud to be a graduate. However, there is one major flaw I noticed once I started college. In my freshman Biology class and my other Science classes, I never learned about evolution. In fact, my teachers didn’t even mention evolution. What is even more outstanding is in my textbooks evolution wasn’t even mentioned. I am a rising junior in college and I had to google what evolution meant in order to even begin to understand what I am talking about. This presents a problem across our nation, school officials choose the curriculum and textbooks their students use to learn in their districts. This meaning, that what they believe and their opinions influence what the students learn. The choice of textbooks should not influence the views of its students.
In 2014, The Texas State Board of Education approved 100 textbooks despite the criticism that the books “exaggerated the influence biblical figures had in forming the U.S. system of government” (Reuters) . Legally, the school boards and school officials can decide and choose what textbooks they use to teach their curriculum. The textbooks were approved to teach all ages (K-12th) in the nation’s second most populous state with five million children in their public school system. One of the largest public school systems and one of the most populous states is teaching their students off of their own beliefs. This meaning, that just like me, these students could not have any idea what evolution entails. They can not make their own decisions and choices because they have only been taught one certain way. What is even scarier is they can’t do anything about it because what the school board is doing is legal. What is even more alarming is in the last paragraph there is a quote from the board chairwoman, Barbara Cargill, that states “opposition from liberals failed to erase the role Christianity has played in the founding of this nation” (Reuters). I am not saying whether the chairwoman is right or wrong but I don’t believe it is her choice to make these decisions for the students. Cargill has a strong opinion and that opinion influences what textbooks she believes the students should use. However, without information from both evolution and creation, students can not make their own opinions. What they learn is influenced by these textbooks and they are not even introduced to something they might agree and believe in. They haven't even had the opportunity to make these choices and develop these opinions because their textbooks are so one sided.
Another example of this is in the book, Does God Belong in Public Schools? In 1968, in Epperson v. Arkansas, the Supreme Court invalidated the law that prohibited the teaching of evolution in the public schools. The Supreme Court voted that the law violated the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. The Establishment Clause prohibits the government from establishing a religion, preferring one religion over another or preferring religion over non religion and vice versa. Justice Fortas stated that “a state cannot tailor teaching to the principles of any religious dogma; the Arkansas law was based solely on a particular interpretation of the Book of Genesis” (Greenawalt 94). If it was voted unconstitutional once before, shouldnt we follow this now? Having school districts and officials choose the textbooks students read is not allowing them to choose what they agree with and what they don't agree with. In 1999, The Kansas Board of Education removed evolution from its seventy-one page science curriculum (Greenawalt 94). This meaning they took evolution out of their textbooks and curriculum entirely. However, they revoked it less than two years later. This showing that there must have been some issues that rose with the removal of evolution from textbooks. It has been proven, from both of these court cases, that choosing textbooks based on the school officials opinions is not the correct way for students to be taught. Removing either subject of creation and evolution does not allow the students to chose what they believe on their own. By the school officials choosing these textbooks, they are influenced and not allowed to build their own beliefs and opinions. After all, the whole point of going to school and learning is to develop beliefs and learn about different theories. Without the chance to learn about both sides, they are losing the chance to develop these opinions on their own. If it was not okay in 1968, then it is still not okay in 2016.
US News. U.S.News & World Report. Web. 02 June 2016.
“Texas School Board Approves Textbooks Criticized for Religious Bent.” Reuters. Thomson Reuters, 2014. Web. 02 June 2016.
“Establishment Clause.” LII / Legal Information Institute. Web. 02 June 2016.
Greenawalt, Kent. Does God Belong in Public Schools? Princeton, NJ: Princeton UP, 2005. Print.