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Darwinists in Ohio Show True Colors: They Don’t Like Open Debate on ANY Topic

John G. West

This week the Ohio State Board of Education may consider the adoption of a proposed “Framework for Teaching Controversial Issues.” Darwinists are complaining—predictably—that the framework represents another nefarious plot “to orchestrate a religiously motivated attack on the theory of evolution.”
But the Darwinists’ shrill rhetoric has a lot more to do with their own hypocrisy and paranoia than it does with any legitimate fears.

When the Ohio Board of Education adopted its critical analysis of evolution benchmark in 2002, and again when it adopted a model lesson plan to support the benchmark in 2004, many Darwinists complained that evolution was being unfairly singled out. Critical analysis was OK, they said, but it should apply to every issue, not just evolution.

Of course, the reason evolution was singled out was that it happens to be one of the controversial issues that is taught the most dogmatically.

Be that as it may, after Darwinists succeeded in getting the Ohio Board to repeal its critical analysis benchmark and model lesson plan last February, some board members decided to call the Darwinists’ bluff and develop a framework for teaching controversial issues across the curriculum. The result was the development of the new “Framework.”

It’s important to understand that the “Framework” does not compel teachers to do anything. It does not tell them to teach any particular issue, and it does not require them to use any particular curriculum. It does try to offer suggestions for how teachers can constructively deal with polarizing issues in the classroom.

For example, teachers are encouraged to:

Create a classroom climate that is conducive to discussion and disagreement, which means that the rules of discourse need to be established early and followed by everyone, especially the instructor.

Wow, that really sounds like a sinister strategy for imposing theocracy, doesn’t it? Urging teachers to “create a classroom climate that is conducive to discussion and disagreement” is one step away from the Inquisition!

But it gets worse. The framework also encourages students to

  • Always listen carefully, with an open mind, to the contributions of others.
  • Ask for clarification when you don’t understand a point someone has made.
  • If you challenge others’ idea, do so with factual evidence and appropriate logic.
  • Always critique ideas or positions, not people.

I encourage you to read the entire “Framework.” See for yourself whether you agree with “Ohio Citizens for Science” that its contents constitute “denigrating debate tools based on political propaganda and ill-informed by evidence.”

After you read the “Framework,” you might ask yourself the following question: Who is the real danger here to democracy and the First Amendment? The Ohio Board of Education… or Darwinian fundamentalists who won’t be happy until they stamp out any public expression of criticism of Darwinian dogma, no matter how mild?

John G. West

Senior Fellow, Managing Director, and Vice President of Discovery Institute
Dr. John G. West is Vice President of the Seattle-based Discovery Institute and Managing Director of the Institute’s Center for Science and Culture. Formerly the Chair of the Department of Political Science and Geography at Seattle Pacific University, West is an award-winning author and documentary filmmaker who has written or edited 12 books, including Darwin Day in America: How Our Politics and Culture Have Been Dehumanized in the Name of Science, The Magician’s Twin: C. S. Lewis on Science, Scientism, and Society, and Walt Disney and Live Action: The Disney Studio’s Live-Action Features of the 1950s and 60s. His documentary films include Fire-Maker, Revolutionary, The War on Humans, and (most recently) Human Zoos. West holds a PhD in Government from Claremont Graduate University, and he has been interviewed by media outlets such as CNN, Fox News, Reuters, Time magazine, The New York Times, USA Today, and The Washington Post.