One community stops with the foolishness, another one picks up where they left off:
A group of parents in the small Tehachapi mountain community of Lebec on Tuesday filed the first lawsuit challenging the teaching of “intelligent design” in a California public school.
The suit targets what appears to be the latest wrinkle in the continuing national fight between supporters and opponents of teaching evolution in public schools — a course that says it examines the debate as an issue of “philosophy.”
Supporters of intelligent design lost a court fight in Pennsylvania last month that both sides had seen as a test case. U.S. District Judge John E. Jones III rejected the Dover, Pa., school board’s decision to teach intelligent design as part of a science course, ruling that design was “an interesting theological argument, but … not science.”
In this case, the parents say in their suit that school officials in Lebec — a town of about 1,300 just west of Interstate 5 in Kern County and about 63 miles north of Los Angeles — designed their course as a way of getting around that decision.
At a special meeting of the El Tejon Unified School District on Jan. 1, at which the board approved the new course, “Philosophy of Design,” school Supt. John W. Wight said that he had consulted the school district’s attorneys and that they “had told him that as long as the course was called ‘philosophy,’ ” it could pass legal muster, according to the lawsuit.
This story is exceptionally vague, and this updated story still does not answer the key question- is this course being taught as a science course?
School trustees approved the new course, “Philosophy of Design,” at a special meeting on New Year’s Day. Attorneys for the district suggested the course could survive a legal challenge if it was called “philosophy,” the lawsuit said, and the board approved it on a 3-2 vote.
Hedlund’s newspaper opened up five full pages to letters on both sides of the issue.
In one letter, Nicole Francus of Frazier Park called the course “an academic and legal disaster” that threatens to “take us all down a slippery slope.”
“I’m not a biologist,” countered Bob Anderson, another letter writer, “but the last time I looked, evolution was and is still an unproven scientific theory.”
Intelligent design holds that some biological systems are so complex they could not have evolved through random mutations, as Darwin theorized, but must have sprung from the work of a larger master plan.
The course, which began Jan. 3, is scheduled to run for one month. The teacher is Sharon Lemburg, a special education instructor and the wife of a minister for the local Assembly of God Church, which supports fundamentalist Christian tenets about creationism.
An initial course description, which was distributed to students and their families last month, said “the class will take a close look at evolution as a theory and will discuss the scientific, biological and biblical aspects that suggest why Darwin’s philosophy is not rock solid.”
“Did God guide me to do this?” Lemburg asked, during an interview on the porch of her log house. “I would hope so.”
Again, while I am generally opposed to any discussion of intelligent design, I find it much less troubling if it were to be taught in a ‘philosophy’ course rather than a science course, but I don’t think there has been enough info released yet to determine how exactly this course is being taught. That the board rushed to create the course on New Years Day tells me that this is more about politics than a real concern about student’s learning, but we shall see how this all unfolds.
PZ Meyers has a run-down of the course, and here is a look at the syllabus and the videos that will be used.
My concern is that they seem to be planning to teach it as a science to the students while telling everyone else that it’s just philosophy. I’d also be interested in seeing what other philosophy classes they offer their students.
As long as they call it philosophy or comparative religion or whatever, just NOT science. And as long as it’s not required for graduation.
25 years ago, when I was in high school, we had a course called Bible Lit. It was a fabulous class where we discussed the literary impact as well as religious/cultural impact of the Bible. It was a humanities course that counted towards our general ed requirements for graduation but was not, in and of itself, a requirement.
I have absolutely no problem with ID if they teach the class on a similar basis. Give the students a choice. If they want to take it, they can. My one stipulation would be to make it a Junior/Senior level elective course. The first two years of high school are generally slammed full of academically required courses. I wouldn’t throw something this controversial and thought provoking into that mix.
A one month class in philosophy of science might spend five minutes on ID. A one month class in comparative epistemology might spend five seconds on ID. A one month class that spends one month on ID vs evolution is a class in ID; that is, it’s a class in religion, and its proponents are lying when they say their motive is anything but religion. Why are nearly all ID supporters so dishonest about their motives?
I understand why you’d be concerned about teaching ID in public schools’ science departments, and I share your criticism about this article’s failure to answer the key question about how this particular course is taught. I have to wonder, though, why you’d have any problem with this topic being discussed in a philosophy class. Philosophy is an excellent subject for teaching student how to discuss various issues (I may not always use what I learned, but I learned more about logic in one semester of philosophy than in the other sixteen and a half years of schooling thatI had), and especially given its prominence in the national media right now, I think the argument between random evolution and a divinely guided evolution is a wonderful topic for such a class.
First, a true philosophy course would do more than just shill for creationism. Calling it “philosophy” does not shield it from reality. If the school taught “The Philosophy of Aryan Supremacy”, would the fact that it was taught as a “philosophy” make it okay for the school to shill for white supremacy?
Second, how does a special ed teacher have the credentials for teaching a philosophy class?
Seeing as how ID is just anti-Darwinian garbage, there’s no way a class solely about ID, regardless of whether it is considered “philosophy” or not, could be anything other than an anti-Darwinian polemic. So really, this isn’t a philosophy class. What they’ve done is create a new academic category: Anti-Science. Now if we can just create an Anti-Math category, we can lead the world in Anti-Science and Anti-Math scores and forget about being behind in science and math.
Viva la Conservative Revolution!
Per the entry on Kevin Drum’s blog, the class is also going to teach this: “Physical and chemical evidence will be presented suggesting the Earth is thousands of years old, not billions.”
This class isn’t ID, it’s just young earth creationism dressed up as a “philosophy class”.
“There are more things, Horatio…” or something along those lines. I’ve taken a lot of really esoteric classes in my lifetime and enjoyed them for the most part. They’ve taught me to open my intellectual capacities even if I didn’t agree with the philosophies being taught.
I don’t see why ID or Creationism or the philosophy of the Great Spaghetti Monster can’t be taught as elective Humanities courses if there is ‘genuine’ interest from the student body. If the kids request them and there are teachers and funds available then let them learn it.
My bitch about the entire mess is the blatant attempt by one faction to usurp and bastardize the definitions of science to include something that ISN’T science. If they label it what it truthfully is and then teach it accordingly, more power to them.
Yes, I’m avoiding the entire church-related issues because I’m not sure how they would set up such a course to meet the non-proseletyzing rules. That would be their problem, not mine.
Pharyngula’s got a post up about this, with links to the course syllabus and list of reading materials. It’s well worth checking out.
I wonder if the district’s going to add a “Philosophy of Astrology” class next semester to complement this one?
Heh…see, that one I’d take.
In order for it to pass the Lemon Test, the course would have to have a secular intent. Given that high schools tend to not have philosophy classes at all (although I obviously don’t know about this one specificially), it becomes rather suspicious that they would offer a class called “Philosophy of Design.” In my view, in order for the class to even have a chance, the ID philosophy would have to be taught alongside other philosophies.
The Other Steve
Hey, as long as it’s understood that the class can not apply to credits needed to graduate, nor will it be graded.
It’s probably more fun than Home Room class.
How about a philosophy course that’s described like this:
Maybe the two courses could be combined into a general course on the questioning of widely-held beliefs.
Yeah, that’s exactly what they’re up to. They’re trying to be sneaky and say, “OK, you ID opponents say it should be in philosophy class and not science class, then let’s just label our ‘science’ curriculum as philosophy and sneak in the back door.” It’s pretty pathetic. And I guaran-fucking-tee that as soon as this is pointed out to them, they will scream bloody murder. “You said it was OK to teach ID in philosophy class! Now you’re saying we can’t! You just hate Jebus, daddy, and the spook! Christian persecution!”
Because they have to be. Their true goal–to get religion taught as fact in public schools–isn’t allowed. So they have to try to find other ways in. ID is their latest Trojan horse.
And finally, I would freaking love it if somebody did make this course:
“My concern is that they seem to be planning to teach it as a science to the students while telling everyone else that it’s just philosophy.”
Yes, very much so – the syllabus and materials (with the potential exceptions, depending on how they’re taught, of the first two sections) aren’t philosophical in nature, they’re scientific.
“Again, while I am generally opposed to any discussion of intelligent design, I find it much less troubling if it were to be taught in a ‘philosophy’ course rather than a science course…”
John, philosophy isn’t just shorthand for a disagreement about the causes of natural phenomena. Just like the term “science,” it implies a structure and baseline evaluative critera that aren’t present in this description at all. Just because you call a class scientific or philosophical doesn’t make it so.
Looking at the syllabus, it doesn’t seem too terrible. Again, it all depends on how it is taught. If the teachings are along the line of “What is?” info, such as “what is evolution?”, “what is ID?”, “what is Thermodynamics?”, then I don’t think it should be too controversial. Maybe even “pro” and “con” info. What is the pro of letting schools teach ID or evolution, what is the con? The courts should try to get a more detailed info on the teachings and scour it for any information that claims to be actual science but is not and make sure both sides are represented. You know actually, if this class were actually taught by a skilled teacher in science and philosophy, this could be a really informative class.
By the way, I think the two most dangerous items come at the beginning. This is where I could see some sloppy treatment coming in as the teacher tries to debate the amount of science in ID. I think that is best not left to amateurs.
I’m a lifelong liberal, old enough to have recited the Lords Prayer in school. I have no problem with ID being taught in a philosophy class. Although I share the view of one poster that a one month ID class is really a religion class.
The only objection I would have is if the class is required for all students. And, I wonder if there are any other philosophy classes a student could take instead.
The sylabus isn’t the major problem. It’s the statements made by the promoters of it as well as the speakers and videos listed. Hell the Discovery Institute’s statements are schiozophrenic on it with one hand saying it is improper since it is young earth creationism presented as fact and the other hand saying Darwinists are being dogmatic.
All the materials used in the course so far are nothing but discredited anti-evolution bull crap. The teacher isn’t qualifed to teach a philosphy class. Hell listing guest speakers with misspelled names and that are dead should tell you the class is a very bad mistake.
Also I wonder why any one would be listened to seriosuly who states “I am not a biologist but evolution last time I looked was an unproven theory”. Yet time and time again crowds of dim-wits listen to such creationist dribblings.
A reporter should get a damn brain and ask these nitwits what a proven theory is. You wouldn’t be able to get one nitwit to provide one example that doesn’t show them to be morons when it comes to science.
Why should we allow people who have no understanding of a subject to determine what should be taught to people in order to prepare them for a possible carerer in the sciences? Shouldn’t it be the scientists who determine what should be taught?
Also why is it that time and time again teachers kowtow to religious bigots instead of telling them to back to their caves?
What teacher in their right mind would dare provide a true critical analysis of ID? That’s the danger in including it in a curriculum at the high school level or below.
All they can show for evolution is few bone fragments and a few fossels and absolutly no concreet evedence to supports the crack-pot theory of evolution
Tens of thousands is not a few. Hundreds of thousands of lab experiments verifying evolutionary predications is not concrete evidence? Finding hundreds of species matching evolutionary predications is also not concrete? How about genetic studies that found the gene sequences evolutionary biologists would exist that ID advocates state wouldn’t be found? Bother to verify things Bird you will find the only crack pots are those that deny evolution. 150 years of research and testing and study verifies evolution. It is has for more evidence confirming it then the Germ Theory of Disease does.