The California Board of Education last month approved public-school curriculum standards that would establish evolution as the “central organizing theory” in natural science. Though the identification of evolution as “theory” represents a change from earlier versions of the guidelines, which labeled it as “scientific fact,” opponents said the revised wording was nothing more than “crumbs from the table.”

“The most offensive language was deleted from the document,” said Samuel Casey, attorney representing the Coalition for the Prevention of Dogmatism in Public Education, which lobbied against the standards. “But there is no question that the intention is to teach evolution exclusively as a fact in the public schools of California, and to sanction, intimidate, and discriminate against anyone who disagrees with that posture.”

The standards came in the form of a 285-page “framework” used as a guideline for selecting state-approved textbooks. As the nation’s largest market for textbooks, California heavily influences the content of texts published and used across the country. Several years ago, the state board adopted a social-studies framework that included the discussion of religious ideas and purposes, reversing a trend to exclude all mention of religion in texts.

Publishers previously had tried to avoid any creation/evolution controversy in science texts. But the California science framework was rewritten first in 1984 to direct more references to evolution. Educators and officials pushed for further revision to improve the quality of science education in the state.

The impact of the framework on textbook publishers will not be seen until new science texts are released in several years. But Casey fears that in the meantime the framework will be used as a “battering ram” to restrict any views other than evolution.

Degree Program Threatened

In a separate dispute involving the teaching of creation, a Department of Education review committee told officials at the Institute for Creation Research (ICR) that it intends to deny approval for the school to continue to grant science degrees. The 19-year-old school, located near San Diego, has had state approval since 1981, and awards master’s degrees in astrogeophysics, biology, geology, and science education. About 20 to 25 students per year attend classes. Most graduates go into teaching, many at Christian schools.

ICR has received no word from the department since the review committee’s visit four months ago, said Kenneth Cumming, dean of the graduate school, ICR has remained fully approved and operative, pending a decision by the state superintendent.

A similar committee last year recommended approval, but later reversed itself. ICR appealed, and a new committee was appointed.

The action by the department represents “a deliberate, well-orchestrated, highly funded attack on creationism,” Cumming said. “The end of all of it is to get Christianity out of public thinking.”

Christian educators have expressed concern over the ICR case, fearing state intrusion into science classes in Christian schools and colleges.

By Ken Sidey.

Have something to add about this? See something we missed? Share your feedback here.

Our digital archives are a work in progress. Let us know if corrections need to be made.