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?