Wednesday, June 4, 2008

School CAN teach creationism

Some nutjobs insist on harming the United States by keeping our children ignorant of science, as the New York Times reports.

The reporter writes that courts "prohibited the outright teaching of creationism and intelligent design".* He is wrong (or should be). Schools can teach pretty much any topic they want. They can teach reading, writing, mathematics. They can teach band. They can teach arts and crafts. They can teach gym. They can teach civics. They can teach religion. They can teach history. They can teach politics. They can teach creative writing.

Let's compare history and creative writing. A history class teaches what happened in the past. It might begin with a section on the tools and methods of history and discuss some criticisms of mainstream history. And then it will move on to present history. A creative writing class might teach methods of writing and the characteristics of a good story. It might also involve reading a lot of pieces of creative writing and discussing them, or even writing a number of creative pieces and discussing those.

Creationism and science can be analogized to lots of different things. But I'll compare science to history and creationism to creative writing. Schools teach the science we have, not that science we wish we had. Schools can teach the creationism we wish we had, just like they can teach the creative writing we wish we had. Schools can't teach creationism as true, or as science, because it's not. But they can teach it as an example of propaganda, or creative writing, or politics. It can be studied and critiqued. It can even be taught as a historical phenomenon, as could, for example, the publication of 1984. But the contents of 1984 are not historical truth, and the substance of creationism is not science.

Schools can teach just about anything. In the right context.

* I like to put the punctuation outside the quotes because I'm not quoting that punctuation. It's my own.

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