IF PUBLIC schools bent on teaching biblical views about the origin of life under the disguise of "intelligent design" applied the same tenacity to ensuring that all students have solid math, reading, and science skills, maybe U.S. students wouldn't lag behind the academic performance of those in other developed nations.
The handwriting on the wall was pretty legible by the time the Ohio Board of Education voted this week to remove language in the science standards to let students search for evidence that denounces and that supports evolution.
A disclaimer in the standards didn't mandate teaching intelligent design. But because it was in the standards, that meant teachers could discuss it.
What was wrong with the standards is this: They were an attempt to slip religious instruction into public school science classes. ID, as it is called, says that biological life is so complex that its source had to have been an intelligent being of higher authority. No Big Bang theorists need apply. ID tried to disguise creationism in secular garb, as if to sneak God into biology class, where teachers would urge students to debate evolution and creationism.
While Ohio State biology professor Steve Rissing said high school students should stick to the basics, as the examples of scientific disagreements in the state's former lesson plan are graduate-level material, there are more reasons to favor the removal of ID from public schools: Other groups would want their theories about life's origin brought in, too. Competing views might confuse students and not compel them to pursue science careers.
That's not all that was wrong with the science curriculum. Schools could choose to teach students its lessons, which provide the basis for the Ohio Graduation Tests that students must pass to graduate. If a school didn't teach the curriculum, it simply doomed students to fail the OGT's science test.
Thanks to two other recent moves in the ID-evolution debate, it's good the board voted to reverse its decision. In one, Gov. Bob Taft had just recommended a legal review of the science standards. If the board ignored that move, it would effectively have thumbed its nose at the law, which may not have favored ID.
Second, there was the December ruling opposing teaching ID. Federal Judge John Jones III's decision would not apply in Ohio, but his ruling that it was unconstitutional for a Dover, Pa. school board to present ID as an alternative to evolution in biology classes would have had some influence.
Judge Jones wrote, "To be sure, Darwin's theory of evolution is imperfect. However, the fact that a scientific theory cannot yet render an explanation on every point should not be used as a pretext to thrust an untestable alternative hypothesis grounded in religion into the science classroom or to misrepresnt well established scientific propositions."
What many forget is that the theory of evolution is just that, a theory. And while Darwin's idea is imperfect, nobody witnessed creation. That includes Moses, traditionally credited with writing about it in Genesis.
However, the fact that no human being witnessed creation does not alter what Bible believers embrace as the origin of life. Even the first man, Adam, missed it all because he was not created until the sixth day. Not teaching students ID won't minimize Christians' belief in God and creation any more than using a lower case letter for the pronoun "he" in reference to God diminishes the authority Christians believe are his/His anyway.
Schools have enough mandates. The haggling about the theory of evolution and ID wasted precious time and energy that could have been poured into shoring up students' skills in basic subjects.
Besides, most public school students are oblivous to these hot debates anyway.