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From Vice, the Usual Baloney on Academic Freedom Laws

academic freedom

An article in the online rag Vice is full of the usual baloney about how academic freedom legislation pushes “religion” or “creationism” or “intelligent design” into public schools. It’s a holiday weekend so out of mercy I will spare you a point-by-point response.

There are a few novelties. The author, Emmalina Glinskis, takes the commendable step of quoting a bit of the language in these bills. Many articles like hers don’t bother. She writes:

Along with a favorable conservative political climate, the Discovery Institute’s carefully worded tactics are a key factor in the recent adoption of its mock bill. For example, the bill makes no mention of the words “creationism” and “intelligent design” and only permits, rather than requires, disparagement of evolution and global warming. Section D also makes it clear that the law “shall not be construed to promote any religious or nonreligious doctrine.” [Emphasis added.]

Teaching about evidence for and against an idea is not to “disparage” the idea. Doing so takes it seriously, as being worthy of and perhaps even able to stand up to critical examination. Protecting it from objective consideration amounts, by contrast, to a vote of no confidence.

More importantly, teaching about creationism, a religious doctrine, is ruled out by the language she quotes. For a different reason, teaching about ID is also not protected as it is not “already part of the required science curriculum” in any state and the model legislation she cites unambiguously excludes protecting discussion of “new topics.” Here is that language:

This Act only protects discussion of the scientific strengths and weaknesses of topics that are already part of the required science curriculum and is not intended to authorize a teacher to discuss the strengths and weaknesses of new topics that are not already part of the required science curriculum.

Why legislation intended to push religion would explicitly exclude religion from its protection is a question that critics of these laws can never answer. And why would a law intended to sanction teaching about a “new topic” like ID expressly exclude “new topics” from its sanction? It doesn’t make any sense.

She credits us with “carefully worded tactics,” a strange formulation. It’s even stranger that our purported secret goals should be excluded by the “carefully worded” language we advocate.

These are all standard misrepresentations. You won’t be surprised to learn that Miss Glinskis consulted Glenn Branch of the Darwin-lobbying National Center for Science Education. Did Branch help her with her understanding of the U.S. Constitution? She writes:

In most states, teaching religion in public schools violates the separation of church and state.

“Most states”? In what states, exactly, is it constitutional to indoctrinate students with religion in public school?

The reporter’s credibility further dissolves when she turns, inevitably, to the Dover case. We read:

Since their adoption, none of the academic freedom laws have faced a direct legal challenge. In fact, the Discovery Institute was caught pushing a religious agenda only once — in Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District, one of the most high-profile legal cases ever about teaching evolution in 2005. According to the case, the Discovery Institute had advised a Pennsylvania school board that required teaching intelligent design as an alternative to evolution.

Discovery Institute “advised a Pennsylvania school board”? She leaves out that we advised strongly and publicly against the Dover policy.

See “Discovery Calls Dover Evolution Policy Misguided, Calls For its Withdrawal,” a statement dated December 14, 2004. More helpful public resources on Dover are here. Miss Glinskis would have been well advised to spend more time reading up on her subject there, and less time corresponding with Glenn Branch.

Photo: A baloney sandwich © Mybona —