Tuesday, December 27, 2005

A UC Controversy

The University of California has offended some folks again. This time it's college applicants from religious high schools-- namely schools that don't teach evolution. Students from the Calvary Chapel Christian School near LA are not getting credit for their biology class in part because their text book, "Biology for Christian Schools" (published by Bob Jones University Press), says this:

"The people who have prepared this book have tried consistently to put the Word of God first and science second. To the best of the author's knowledge, the conclusions drawn from observable facts that are presented in this book agree with the Scriptures. If a mistake has been made (which is probable since this book was prepared by humans) and at any point God's Word is not put first, the author apologises."
UC argues that schools using this textbook as the primary teaching tool do not meet the admission standards to receive biology credit. The textbook does not "reflect knowledge generally accepted in the scientific and educational communities and with which a student at the university level should be conversant." As a result, the Association of Christian Schools Internation (ACSI), the Calvary Chapel Schools and six Calvary Chapel students are suing UC for "viewpoint discrimination." UC denies discrimination and says that if the textbooks were supplementary, rather than primary, then the classes would likely meet admission standards. UC argues that it has a right to set its own academic requirements. For more, see the recent article in The Economist.

It's not just Christian schools that don't teach evolution. Shockingly, there was a biology teacher at my public high school in Orange County who refused to teach evolution. Coincidentally, that teacher was also the advisor for the Bible Study club. He still teaches biology class and, yes, he still skips the evolution chapter. A friend whose brother just graduated from my high school says that the teacher's explanation for not teaching evolution is that he doesn't want to offend those who don't believe in it.

The recent intelligent design case in Pennsylvania has overshadowed the UC case, but I have a feeling that this case will get press soon enough. Religious issues aside, shouldn't universities (public, not just private) be able to determine what it believes are the appropriate academic standards for admission?


mhelbing said...

How about making a course on the scientific method mandatory for all middle and high schools, regardless of whether or not the school is a public or private institution. (Correct me if I am wrong, but aren't private schools in some way accountable to the state?) Science isn't so much a body of knowledge as it is a means of acquiring knowledge, and perhaps more importantly, of refining knowledge over time. One of many troublesome aspects of the current "debate" (if it even deserves such a label) is the complete ignorance that many of the Ma and Pa school board creationists seem to have regarding the scientific method.

chanchow said...

That's not a bad idea. I suppose these days the scientific method is folded into chemistry classes. I think the crux of this evolution issue is the fear creationists have that if you teach kids evolution, then they are very likely to believe in it (i.e., take theory as fact) and that's a risk that creationists are willing to take. From what I know, private schools are generally not accountable to the State, although there are some exceptions (e.g., private schools aren't allowed to discrimate on grounds of race and ethnicity).

Anonymous said...

Don't private schools still need some accreditation?

The comical thing about all this is that, at worst, the theory of evolution undermines a literal belief in Genesis and the creation of man in god's image but leaves the rest of Christian theology untouched. Most major branches of the Christian faith have in one way or another stated that the Old Testament should not be taken literally. The scary aspect is that the creationists belong to the same brand of theologically unsubstantiated born-again evangelism that seems to forget that the Bible also includes the (more important) New Testament (without which it wouldn't be Christianity). It's hard to even label these guys protestants when there is nothing modern about their version of Christianity. Catholicism and Orthodoxy seem more progressive in comparison.