“This textbook contains material on evolution. Evolution is a theory, not a fact, regarding the origin of living things. This material should be approached with an open mind, studied carefully and critically considered.”
This statement, printed on a sticker and placed in Cobb County, Ga. biology textbooks, reflects a basic desire for students to engage in scientific inquiry.
But, according to the Associated Press, the school district was ordered by a federal judge to remove the stickers after a lawsuit was mounted by the American Civil Liberties Union and Americans United for the Separation of Church and State. Further appeal of the judge’s decision was impractical, according to Teresa Plenge of the Cobb County school board.
What was it about the sticker that was offensive to residents of Cobb County?
According to official teaching standards published by the National Science Teachers Association, nothing. For example:
Scientific inquiry is a powerful way of understanding science content. Students learn how to ask questions and use evidence to answer them. In the process of learning the strategies of scientific inquiry, students learn to conduct an investigation and collect evidence from a variety of sources, develop an explanation from the data, and communicate and defend their conclusions.
In the statement, NSTA encourages teachers to “[i]mplement approaches to teaching science that cause students to question and explore and to use those experiences to raise and answer questions about the natural world.”
And this is what the Cobb County school board wanted to implement through its sticker, encouraging students to approach the biology textbook with an open mind so that they can 1) inquire and see the potential for other possibilities, 2) carefully study the material for scientific accuracy rather than simply taking the information presented as fact, and 3) critically examine (i.e. research, investigate, explore, verify, etc.) the evidence that is being presented.
Evidently, this spirit of inquiry is only allowed if it does not question evolution, which amounts to censorship of genuine inquiry, the very thing NSTA is officially trying to promote. In fact, the "NSTA recommends that teachers help students understand...the importance of being skeptical when they assess their own work and the work of others."
If students inquire about evidences they observe that are outside the evolution box or even if they ask about evidence that is not valid, is misinterpreted, or is just incorrect, the teacher is to gently yet firmly explain that the students’ inquiries are not “appropriate questions that can be answered through scientific investigations.” (See also “An NSTA Q&A on the Teaching of Evolution” by Gerald Skoog.).
In another official position statement titled The Freedom to Teach and the Freedom to Learn, the NTSA states that “the freedom to teach and to learn will exist only if a continuing effort is made to educate all Americans about these freedoms.”
To ensure this “freedom,” they affirm that:
As professionals, teachers must be free to examine controversial issues openly in the classroom. The right to examine controversial issues is based on the democratic commitment to open inquiry and on the importance of decision-making involving opposing points of view and the free examination of ideas. The teacher is professionally obligated to maintain a spirit of free inquiry, open-mindedness and impartiality in the classroom. Informed diversity is a hallmark of democracy to be protected, defended, and valued.
The statement concludes: “We, as professional educators, must show our faith in the freedom to teach and learn that honors opposing viewpoints.”
Honoring “opposing viewpoints” should include genuine scientific inquiry that exposes flaws in theories or in systems of study or thought, such as evolution. But it doesn’t because the rights of certain American citizens to exercise their freedom of inquiry and freedoms to teach and learn are squelched by organizations like the ACLU that are, coincidentally, supported by educational associations like the NSTA. NSTA’s policies and practices reflect a double-minded approach; freedom is only for those who believe in evolutionary science.
In fact, Federal court documents are much more broad in their demands of the school district, stating that "any stickers, labels, stamps, inscriptions, or other statements relating to creationism, creation science, intelligent design, or any other religious view concerning the origins of life or the origins of human beings" are prohibited.
For those with alternative worldviews or who question the validity of evolutionary dogma, academic freedom is becoming, for all practical purposes, unconstitutional.
Comments or suggestions for other news of interest? Contact our Newsroom.