Ga. county to give creation equal weight

Policy calls for `balancing' evolution, other thoughts in teaching life's origin

August 23, 2002|By NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE

Amid angry debate among parents, Georgia's second largest school district adopted a policy last night that would require teachers to give a "balanced education" about the origin of life, giving equal weight to evolution and biblical interpretations.

The district, Cobb County, came under attack this summer for attaching disclaimers to all science textbooks, saying that evolution "is a theory, not a fact" and should be "approached with an open mind, studied carefully and critically considered."

On Wednesday, a parent and the Georgia chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union filed suit, demanding that the disclaimers be removed, and yesterday they vowed to amend the suit to ask the court to reverse the policy adopted last night.

Members of the Cobb County Board of Education said they were not restricting the teaching of evolution or encouraging the teaching of creationism, but the policy was simply a reflection of the district's philosophy of teaching a wide and objective range of ideas, particularly in discussing "disputed views of academic subjects, including the origin of species."

After the vote, board member Gordon O'Neill led his colleagues in prayer: "Heavenly father, we ask that you provide to all of us a clear understanding of our fellow man and an acceptance of a diversity of thinking, amen."

Many parents speaking before a standing-room-only crowd at the school board's meeting said the policy was a back door to allow teaching religion in classrooms.

They asked board members not to adopt the policy, saying it would dilute the quality of science education and make Cobb County graduates the laughingstock of college admissions offices.

"The loud voices of the extremist few have drowned out the voice of the moderate majority," said Adele Marticke, who has a child in middle school and another in elementary school.

But Rick Burgess, another parent, said: "Evolution is strictly a theory, and we don't think it should be taught as fact.

"It's fine if you don't teach creationism but you ought to be able to open up discussion of it."

The policy must be approved again by the Cobb County Board of Education on Sept. 26 before it can go into effect.

The state school board in Kansas reinstated the teaching of evolution last year, after striking it from the science curriculum two years earlier.

In Ohio, the state board of education is considering a science curriculum that would teach "intelligent design," which accepts some evolutionary notions about how species develop, but which has as a premise that God or a God-like creator must have been in charge of the grand plan.

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