Legislating Creationism in Science Classrooms?

by Dan Quinn

As we prepare for the 2013 session of the Texas Legislature — a session that could be one of the most difficult ever for supporters of public schools — it appears that creationists are redoubling their efforts to promote creationism in our nation’s science classrooms. This month a Montana legislator officially requested the drafting of a bill that would require “intelligent design” — creationism dressed up in a lab coat — be taught alongside evolution in his state’s public schools. Our friends at the National Center for Science Education have more about this development here. And read how the creationists’ war on science education is playing out in Louisiana. Publicly funded private school vouchers are playing a big role in the Louisiana battle.

The U.S. Supreme Court has already ruled that teaching creationism or so-called “creation science” in public school science classrooms is unconstitutional. A federal judge in Pennsylvania ruled in 2005 (Kitzmiller v. Dover) that “intelligent design” is essentially the same thing as creationism, making instruction about that concept in public schools also unconstitutional. But creationists keep trying.

The Texas Freedom Network is currently monitoring the filing of legislation in Texas for the 2013 session. We haven’t seen a similar “intelligent design” bill filed here yet. But we are already seeing proposed legislation establishing private school voucher schemes in Texas. Moreover, the State Board of Education is scheduled to adopt new science textbooks for Texas public schools next year. Creationists on the state board are hoping flawed science curriculum standards they approved in 2009 will force publishers to include anti-evolution propaganda in their new textbooks. We will get our first look at the proposed new textbooks in April.