Over The Line: Kentucky School Officials Are Wrong About Teaching Evolution

No one in the scientific community seriously questions the validity of evolution. Just like no one is clinging to the idea that the sun revolves around the Earth.

Just when it looks like a state public school system is making progress in the teaching of evolution, creationism rears its ugly head.

A new standardized biology test scheduled to be administered to Kentucky public school students starting in the spring of 2012 would require that teachers devote significant time to teaching evolution.

Unfortunately, not everyone is on board with that plan. Hart County Schools Superintendent Ricky D. Line is waging a one-man war against emphasizing evolution. According to the Lexington Herald-Leader, Line recently wrote to the Kentucky Board of Education and state education commissioner about the impending test.

"I have a deep concern about the increased emphasis on the evolution content required,” Line observed. "I have a very difficult time believing that we have come to a point...that we are teaching evolution...as a factual occurrence, while totally omitting the creation story by a God who is bigger than all of us."

To make matters worse, Education Commissioner Terry Holliday made remarks intended to assuage Line, suggesting that Kentucky has come up with some sort of compromise that allows teachers to present both evolution and creationism.

The Herald-Leader reports that Holliday insisted that Kentucky does not intend to present evolution as fact. Teachers, he suggested, are also allowed to discuss alternatives to evolution, such as creationism.

Oh, where to begin. First, evolution is a theory -- just like it’s a theory that the Earth revolves around the sun.

According to the U.S. National Academy of Sciences:

No new evidence will demonstrate that the Earth does not orbit around the sun (heliocentric theory), or that living things are not made of cells (cell theory). Like these other foundational scientific theories, the theory of evolution is supported by so many observations and confirming experiments that scientists are confident that the basic components of the theory will not be overturned by new evidence.”

No one in the scientific community seriously questions the validity of evolution. Just like no one is clinging to the idea that the sun revolves around the Earth.

Second, teaching evolution alongside creationism is not an acceptable compromise because it’s unconstitutional. Holliday wants to keep the peace in his state by appearing to embrace a middle ground, but all he’s doing is giving in to the Religious Right at the expense of the Constitution and sound academic instruction. Creationism is a religious belief and, as such, it cannot and should not be taught in public school science classes.

The U.S. Supreme Court said as much in 1987 in the case of Edwards v. Aguillard. The court held that a Louisiana law requiring that public schools could not teach evolution unless that instruction was accompanied by creationism was unconstitutional because the law’s intent was to promote something central to the teachings of certain religious denominations.

Many in the education community complain about schools that simply “teach to the test” but in Kentucky’s case, the test is right on, and teachers should be sticking to it very closely.