A committee of science teachers in Kanawha County, West Virginia has now withdrawn its support for the evolution-doubting textbook Of Pandas and People. Last month, the science teachers had unanimously recommended that the school board purchase copies of the book for its science teachers to use merely as a reference tool. Since then, the committee came under heavy fire from public school officials, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), and a hostile press.
Most of the intense pressure on the science teachers to drop their recommendation came from state education officials. Karl Priest, a math instructor in the county who originally proposed that the teachers’ committee examine the book, declared that “somebody obviously got to the science teachers in the textbook committee to change their minds.”
Some members of the science committee said that their flip flop was motivated by the possibility of a lawsuit being filed against the county over the book. They declared that a court ruling has supposedly found that teaching “intelligent design”—which is advanced by the authors of Of Pandas and People—is the same as teaching creation science. Superintendent Ron Duerring told the Charleston Gazette that purchasing copies of the text put the school system in “legal jeopardy.”
After multiple requests, school officials finally provided Mr. Priest with legal citations. AiG is reviewing these citations, and will report on them soon.
School board member Betty Jarvis criticized the State Department of Education, telling the Charleston Gazette that its officials “threatened and intimidated” county science teachers and told them the book was supposedly “illegal.” She continued: “This is the ultimate form of censorship. When you can’t put a resource tool in the hands of adult teachers, something is wrong. Terribly wrong.” In a previous newspaper interview, Jarvis said that: “I wish for all things [i.e., evidence for and against evolution] to be presented. Then you are educated, not indoctrinated.”
Mr. Priest called the ACLU’s attempt to ban the book “shameful and shocking. It’s a devious display of religious bigotry.”
The flip flop over the book has occurred just in the past three to four weeks—on March 15, the science teachers, along with the science curriculum director of the county, Mr. Bob Seymour, declared that the book was scientifically sound.
Mr. Priest found it hypocritical that the ACLU, self-proclaimed defenders of free speech, is preventing teachers from even reviewing the book for themselves. The ACLU’s state chapter head, Hilary Chiz, declared with a straight face that the ACLU was not participating in the banning of the book!
Meanwhile, the Charleston newspaper The Daily Mail reported on April 3 that 63% of those in a telephone poll favored creation being taught in school alongside evolution, with 34% against. There were 1124 total votes.
The shrill opposition to the Pandas and People book is absolutely amazing when one realizes that no one is even being required to read it! The choice is left up to the teachers whether to refer to the book or not—and isn’t that word “choice” a favorite buzzword of the tolerance-preaching, “open-minded” ACLU?
This controversy has generated many letters to the editor and mocking editorials/cartoons in the local press, especially in the Charleston Gazette, where one political cartoonist called creationists “pinheads.”
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