A recent story by Richard Monastersky in the Chronicle of Higher Education presents a decidedly biased take on the growing scientific controversy surrounding neo-Darwinian theory and the chemical origin of life. But the article goes beyond editorializing to clear misrepresentation in describing the evolution policy adopted by the Grantsburg (WI) School Board in late 2004.
According to the Chronicle’s alternate reality, one Michael Zimmerman (a Dean at the University of Wisconsin at Oshkosh) was drawn into the “fight” surrounding the teaching evolution “when he learned that the town of Grantsburg, Wis., passed a law in 2004 restricting the teaching of evolution.”
In reality, the town of Grantsburg NEVER passed any kind of city ordinance, regulation or law on the subject of evolution. And the town of Grantsburg certainly NEVER passed any law “restricting the teaching of evolution.”
The true story is that the Grantsburg School Board deliberated on how to best teach evolution in science class. (Side-note: local school boards don’t have the power to pass “laws.”) In late 2004, the School Board passed a curricular evolution policy, calling on students to learn even MORE about evolution. The Grantsburg School Board policy reads:
“Students are expected to analyze, review, and critique scientific explanations, including hypotheses and theories, as to their strengths and weaknesses using scientific evidence and information. Students shall be able to explain the scientific strengths and weaknesses of evolutionary theory. This policy does not call for the teaching of Creationism or Intelligent Design.”
We previously spotlighted the Grantsburg policy in a 2004 press release (here).
Why didn’t the Chronicle’s writer engage in basic fact-checking or why did he choose to editorialize what happened in Grantsburg? Is accuracy and objectivity too much to ask for the Chronicle of HIGHER EDUCATION?
Had the Chronicle’s writer accurately read the policy’s words in their ordinary sense–the truth of Grantsburg’s policy should have been clear. Grantsburg’s policy nicely embodies the idea of “teach the controversy”: simply teach the scientific strengths of scientific theories, such as neo-Darwinism or theories of chemical evolution, but also teach the scientific weaknesses of such theories (without mandating any alternative scientific theories).