Evolution vs. Creationism: East Texas educators respond

By Lakecia Shockley - bio - email

Posted by Ellen Krafve - email

LONGVIEW, TX (KLTV) - It is probably the most debated question of all time: Just who or what created life as we know it? The second most debated - How do we teach the different theories in our public schools?

Essentially, it boils down to the teaching of evolution and intelligent design in science class. The Texas State Board of Education, on Thursday, amended a twenty year old curriculum standard.

It was a requirement that critics say was used to undermine the teaching of the theory of evolution. So, the Texas State Board of Education decided to drop the mandate that science teachers must address both "strengths and weaknesses" of scientific theory.

"The reason that teachers didn't like the strengths and weaknesses clause is because it leaves that open for a lot of personal opinion," said Susan Merrill, the Science Department Chair at Longview High School. "We want our kids to be able to make informed decisions so when you say teach strengths and weaknesses its very hard to keep teacher bias out of that situation."

While many teachers wanted the phrase dropped, many conservatives wanted to keep it.

"By allowing strengths and weaknesses you allow a discussion that's open and vigorous within the classroom," said Cynthia Dunbar who is a member of the State Board of Education.

One LeTourneau professor was at the education board meeting in Austin. He agrees that teachers should address both strengths and weakness of scientific theory in the classroom.

"We believe as educators that critical thinking - critical evaluation - includes strength and weaknesses of any view and any theory or hypothesis put out there," said Dr. Amiel Jarstfer, Dean of the School of Arts and Sciences at LETU. "To take language out that is encouraging students to learn to critique weakens their college readiness."

In the end, science teachers like Susan say her goal is to get students to think on their own.

"They need to start thinking about things that are going on around them global warming, cloning, evolution all of those things. They need to be able to make up their own minds," said Merrill.

A final vote on whether to officially drop the rule is expected in March.