As intelligent design (ID) propnents complain about censorship and freedom of speech, one thing is being ignored: They are getting their message out to the public, and any scientist who wishes to examine their data, should they care to provide some, can acquire the material should they desire to do so. In addition, high school students do not get all of their information in the classroom, nor should they. There are many other opportunities for us, as parents, to educate our children in things that are not part of the high school curriculum.
I think that claims that ID materials are being censored are particularly empty. In this time in which internet publication is incredibly easy, it is practically impossible to keep an idea quiet. Acceptance is another matter. What the ID proponents crave is the opportunity to say, “See, we’ve been published in a peer reviewed journal.” It is unlikely that if the reviewers for a particular journal determine that an article is not sound enough to be published, the readers of that journal are going to be interested in it. After all, the journal has its customers as well, and if they are not presented with material that interests them, they will read something else. Thus creationists of various stripes create their own “peer reviewed” journals, that are read by those who are interested in such things. But the information is available to any scientist who finds it interesting.
So it’s not that there is no way to make the information public that is the problem. The issue is really simply whether the high school students of the nation should be made a captive audience for ID. ID proponents are going to say, at this point, that right now these same students are a captive audience for Darwinism, but that is not accurate. They are a captive audience for science, whatever is the current consensus body of knowledge that represents. What every other new idea has had to do in order to get into the textbooks is to demonstrate through the scientific process that it is truly science, and to become the consensus view, it has to convince the key thinkers in the appropriate field that it (a proposed theory) represents the best explanation. ID propoents want to dodge this part of the process.
But then there are those who, for religious reasons, believe that evolutionary theory is wrong, and they want it replaced with something. For the moment they are kind of united on the plan of getting their collective foot in the door, but be assured that once that is accomplished, there will be plenty of differences of opinion over just what variety of creationism should be taught. But I believe that these parents have a right, to a certain extent, to raise their children as they see fit. The limits of that right, in my view, involve avoiding abuse, and failing to prepare their children to live in the real world. I’d even go very far in allowing parents to determine to educate their children in ways I might find very counterproductive, though I do see a state interest in setting some standard of education. Within those limits, however, parents have many options, including home schooling, private schools, and supplementary materials provided at home or at church.
The fact is that these ideas are not suppressed at all. They simply fall outside of certain boundaries for discussion at certain places and times. We don’t expect the psychology teacher to discuss horticulture in class (except, of course, as therapy!), and we don’t expect the science teacher to discuss religion. This is very similar to the frequent arguments about prayer in school. I hear parents complain regularly that their children can’t pray in school. But that’s not really the problem. The problem is that their children are not directed in prayer by teachers or staff, or that prayer is not officially mandated or provided for. The children can, and do pray. What the parents need to do is teach their own children how to pray, and how to lead prayers, and the young folks can meet as much as they want. I think that’s a much better idea than asking the school to teach children.
The same thing applies to things that are not taught in science class, but we think our children ought to hear. I have some suggestions:
- Turn the TV off one night and spend some time talking to your children about your faith and how it relates to science. If you think the earth was created in one literal week, tell them. Explain your reasons. If you don’t know much about the subject, get one of the many books on your particular view of creation and learn.
- Provide your child with books that support your viewpoint. (I recommend having someone read materials on all sides, and then critically examine them. That will probably require you to get involved again.)
- Ask your church education department, to offer a seminar, Sunday School series, Wednesday night program, or series of sermons on origins. It’s your church, and you and your fellow believers will get to decide what the content should be. As you might have guessed, I think such teaching should talk about all views that Christians hold on origins, but that’s just my view. (I offer just such a seminar for churches.) Now we’re talking about your church.
- Regularly communicate with your children about your faith and theirs, and let them express themselves on what they have heard at school and elsewhere. Get involved with their education, whether they are in public, private, or home school.
- Encourage your church to have a substantive Sunday School program for various ages, so that children can learn about their faith and how it relates to the world. There’s no reason for young people to be shocked when they get to college because they find out the world is so different from what they are used to at church. I have frequently encountered young adults who feel that their pastors and Sunday School teachers lied to them. (It is more likely that those individuals simply didn’t know, although I have heard pastors justify withholding facts from their congregation.)
- Make your home a place where learning is an expected part of life. Books, computers, and opportunities to learn about the physical world should be plentiful. Let them know that questions are good.
You will do much more to build your children’s faith by these means than by any amount of political activity to include religious materials in public school.