Sunday, November 06, 2005

God And Man In Pennsylvania: Part V

The battle over whether or not "intelligent design" should be taught in the public schools of Dover, Pennsylvania, is approaching its climax as closing arguments were given Friday and the case will soon be in the hands of the judge:
Friday marked the closing arguments in a landmark case pitting proponents of "intelligent design" (ID) against parents who have challenged a policy implemented by the Dover, PA school district (6-3 vote) in October 2004. This is the first legal challenge to a public school mandate to teach ID. However, Indiana is one of as many as 30 states (11 legislatures) where ID initiatives are in the works.

In Kitzmiller et al. v. Dover Area School District, plaintiff attorney Eric Rothschild contended the policy was creationism in disguise, an attempt to circumvent a 1987 Supreme Court decision. Plaintiffs are represented by the American Civil Liberties Union and Americans United for Separation of Church and State.

The school board contends that "intelligent design" fills in gaps left by evolution, asserting that the world is, instead, the product of an intelligent cause or designer.

Richard Thompson -- founder, president and chief council of the Thomas More Law Center, which is representing the school board -- says that "ID is seeking a place in the classroom because of its merits. But it's being kept out because it is harmonious with the Christian faith." The Center was founded in 1999 by Thompson and Thomas Monaghan, the former chief executive of Domino's pizza; the organization slogan: "The Sword and Shield for People of Faith."

The challenge facing US District Judge John E. Jones III (appointed by President George W. Bush) is to decide if "telling Dover's ninth-graders about I.D. is exposing them to an 'underdog science,' as Thompson calls it, or is promoting a particular religion." He has heard six weeks of testimony from scientists (on both sides of the argument) as well as philosophers, theologians and historians of science. He expects to rule in January 2006; both sides have stated that they will appeal.
The fact that the judge's decision will be appealed means that the litigation will continue for years, just like it has with the Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag. As a classroom teacher, I don't need all this uncertainty over what is legal to teach and what is not.

With all likelyhood, this is headed to the United States Supreme Court. I just wish that those nine unelected arbiters of what is and is not permissible in this country would hurry-up and decide, one way or the other, once and for all.

Those of us who are in the actual classrooms doing the actual work of teaching need our political masters to decide these issues with much more expedience than has been the case in the past few decades. Repeated delays and endless litigation have now become the rule, rather than the exception, in our society.

Our students deserve better.

Here's The Latest Dispatch From The Front: (11/09) In the most recent development of this strange case, all eight members of Dover's school board who were up for re-election lost their bids for another term. The new board members have some ideas of their own:
The eight new school board members ran on a pledge to "discuss intelligent design in the proper forum." They define that as philosophy or religion classes.

Patricia Dapp, 56, a health services administrator elected to the board, says her slate won some votes from people who consider the subject inappropriate for science class and from others unhappy that the board adopted the policy even though it was told it would trigger a potentially expensive lawsuit.
Whenever elected officials are held accountable by their constituencies, I believe that it is the most sublime expression of democracy. And isn't that what America is all about?

Archive: God And Man In Pennsylvania, part I, part II, part III, part IV
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