Creationism does not have place in public classrooms

By Heather McGraw

Here’s a scenario: The U.S. Supreme Court acts under its appellate jurisdiction and makes a ruling against a certain act. If a person thereafter commits said act, that person would be doing something illegal.

So why has Beau Schaefer, biology teacher at Libertyville High School in Illinois, not been fired from his job?

Schaefer admitted to the Community High School District 128 School Board in March that he was teaching creationism as part of his curriculum in biology classes. There are even reports stating that he included questions about creationism on quizzes he gave to his class.

In the 1987 Edwards v. Aguillard case, the Supreme Court ruled against legislation in Louisiana that would mandate teachers to include a creationism segment in all biology classes in the state.

The court stated that the legislation was unconstitutional, further ruling that teaching creationism in a science class was unnecessary and unjustly favored one religion’s ideas as scientifically sound.

But those crafty creationists tried again by renaming their theory intelligent design. They went as far as changing the name in textbooks, like “Of Pandas and People,” which critically attacked evolutionary biology, in an attempt to get their books into the classroom.

Alas, they were not able to slide this past the courts. In 2005, a case was brought to the U.S. District Court in Kitzmiller v. Dover, which ruled creationism and intelligent design were religious teachings and not areas of legitimate scientific research. The case was not appealed by the school board in Pennsylvania and, thus, never made it to the Supreme Court.

The efforts of creationists are not new. In fact, there have been countless court cases involving the theory. Most, however, end badly for pro-creationists.

In 2007, Kris Helphinstine was fired for using his position as a part-time biology teacher at Central Oregon High School to promote his religious ideals. His lessons included a PowerPoint presentation linking evolution to Nazi Germany and Planned Parenthood.

The Ohio Board of Education voted to terminate John Freshwater, science teacher at Mount Vernon Middle School, in 2008 after it learned that he continued to teach creationism in his classes two years after he was initially told to stop. It took until 2011 for the board to officially terminate Freshwater’s contracts, but eventually it was done.

These cases provide a good example of what should be done when a school discovers that a teacher is basing some of his or her curriculum on what can only be described as religious doctrine.

The idea of creationism cannot, unfortunately, be disproven. As anyone who has ever taken a philosophy class knows, it is impossible to disprove a negative.

My argument is not to criticize religion or come down hard on those who have faith. But in a society constantly fighting to maintain a separation of church and state, the classroom is the last place the line should be blurred.

Many pro-creationists will argue that their theory deserves the same amount of time in a biology class as the theory of evolution. This is a flawed argument.

Creationists say there are still kinks to work out when it comes to evolution. But, evolution is the basis of biology and it is accepted by scientists to be as true as the fact that the Earth revolves around the sun.

When it comes down to it, Schaefer was doing something illegal.

It might not be a crime that requires jail time or any sort of legal reproach, but this man should not be able to continue exerting his influence

over students.

The Community High School District 128 should consider the impact Schaefer has already had. One father at the meeting on March 22 urged board members to remove Schaefer from the school because he had lost all effectiveness, and his ability to teach should be questioned. He also said his daughter was devastated by Schaefer’s teachings. I would bet she is not the only one.

The most disturbing part of this whole scenario is not that a lawbreaking teacher is allowed to keep his job. What upsets me the most is that these impressionable teenagers have been subjected to a lesson plan the U.S. Supreme Court ruled as having no place in the classroom.

But keep up the good fight, creationists. After all, what does science love more than a challenge?