Saturday, June 24, 2017

30 years after Edwards v. Aguillard: Here’s why creationism still lingers in America’s public schools

30 years after Edwards v. Aguillard: Here’s why creationism still lingers in America’s public schools:

30 years after Edwards v. Aguillard: Here’s why creationism still lingers in America’s public schools



his month marks the 30th anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Edwards v. Aguillard, a groundbreaking case that ruled it unconstitutional to require creationism to be taught in public schools.
Though much has changed in 30 years, the broad questions raised by this case remain timely. Who gets to decide what knowledge will be transmitted to the next generation – parents? Elected officials? Academic experts? What role (if any) should the courts play in policing such decisions?
As a scholar of education law and First Amendment law, I’ve seen these very questions animate curricular controversies over climate change, American history, and more.
While recent debates seem to share a common structure with controversies about the teaching of evolution, there’s a key difference: Edwards v. Aguillard stands not for the broad idea that it’s unconstitutional for public schools to teach “bad science,” but for the narrower idea that it’s unconstitutional for them to teach religion as truth.

A century of science and religion


In 1883, illustrator Joseph Ferdinand Keppler envisioned a future where religion and science were one.
Puck, via Library of Congress

Some conservative religious believers – mainly fundamentalist or evangelical Protestants – have long viewed Darwin’s ideas as incompatible with their faith. Consequently, they’ve resisted the undiluted teaching of evolutionary theory in public schools.
Early resistance took the form of statutes criminalizing the teaching of evolution, most famously the Tennessee ban at the heart of the famous “Scopes Monkey Trial” of 1925.
In the next four decades, the legal playing field changed dramatically. The Supreme Court applied the Constitution’s Establishment Clause to the states in 1947, initially reading the clause to require the “separation of church and state.” In the early 1960s, 30 years after Edwards v. Aguillard: Here’s why creationism still lingers in America’s public schools:


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