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Addressing a "Misunderstanding" About Academic Freedom with Discovering Intelligent Design


It’s a policy here to deal charitably and give critics the benefit of the doubt, as far as we can do so. Notably, when opponents repeatedly say things they should know by now to be untrue, having been corrected on them multiple times, we prefer to call that a “misunderstanding,” a “failure to grasp the truth of the matter,” an “error,” “goof,” or “blunder,” not a lie. We like to say it’s a result of their being na�ve, deluded, uninformed, not dishonest.

This morning finds me receiving tweets from one such critic, who writes and speaks widely and in prominent venues against the proposition that public school science teachers should have the freedom to let students know that mainstream science does not universally support Darwinian theory. It follows from his position that teachers who do share that information with students should be vulnerable to administrative discipline, or worse.

This critic fatigues me. Like others, he persists in the misunderstanding that academic freedom legislation is about pushing intelligent design into public schools.

When he’s pestered me before, I’ve sent him our Science Education Policy, which could not be clearer:

As a matter of public policy, Discovery Institute opposes any effort to require the teaching of intelligent design by school districts or state boards of education. Attempts to mandate teaching about intelligent design only politicize the theory and will hinder fair and open discussion of the merits of the theory among scholars and within the scientific community. Furthermore, most teachers at the present time do not know enough about intelligent design to teach about it accurately and objectively.

But this person just does not seem to be able to shake his failure to grasp the truth of the matter, poor fellow. Well this could be his lucky week, and a boon for opponents of academic freedom in general. Why? Because we have just released the new online component of the Discovering Intelligent Design curriculum, co-authored by our ENV colleague Casey Luskin.

Now anyone can see exactly how we think intelligent design may form an important part of a student’s science education, or an adult’s — in private schools and homeschooling contexts. It’s right here and it’s free. DID online includes video discussions by Casey Luskin introducing sections of the Discovering Intelligent Design textbook, and automatically scored quizzes to keep track of whether the student is grasping the material.

Why not just publish the textbook and accompanying workbook and leave it at that, as we did when Discovery Institute first published DID in 2013? I can tell you as a parent that, for better or worse, students today simply expect to be able to do some part of their work online and by watching videos. It motivates them with the written component, and let’s not be Luddites: It’s just the way things are done now. It also associates a voice and a face — Casey’s — with the published books, which is a personal touch that helps.

Beyond that, the teacher has the quizzes ready-made and they’re self-scoring, so that’s a major time-saver. I recommend taking a look.

But here’s the part I wanted to share with you now. As we say clearly, explicitly, unambiguously at the DID website:

The Discovering Intelligent Design curriculum is designed for educational use by home schools and private schools rather than public schools. When this subject of intelligent design is forced into public schools, it tends to generate polarization, transforming the topic from a scientific investigation into an emotional, politicized debate. However, the use of this curriculum should not be restricted to formal educational environments. It is perfect for anyone interested in learning more about the world around them and discovering the scientific evidence for intelligent design.

So again, there should be no misunderstanding. Now you can see exactly how we think ID may legitimately and usefully be taught — in “home schools and private schools rather than public schools.” Got that? Is your hearing aid switched on? Not public schools! It’s also great for thoughtful adults, including ID critics, seeking to educate themselves independently. Anyone can go online and see precisely what we picture when we envision intelligent design as a subject of instruction. There should now be no more errors, blunders, or goofs by opponents on this point.

Note that I say there should not be, rather than there will not be. We may be charitable, but we’re not na�ve.