The Creationists’ Persistence

http://www.salon.com/2013/10/25/christian_textbooks_darwin_inspired_hitler/?source=newsletter

 

In the article posted above, Salon.com’s Jonny Scaramanga describes the curriculum of a Texas charter school called iSchool High, which is partially funded by taxpayer dollars. The curriculum, called ResponsiveEd, teaches, among other things, that Hitler’s genocidal schemes were highly influenced by Darwin’s idea of “survival of the fittest.” Apparently, the founder of ResponsiveEd is Donald R. Howard, the same man who used to own Accelerated Christian Education, a group whose recent textbook claimed that the Loch Ness Monster was legitimate evidence against the theory of evolution. The difference between ResponsiveEd and Accelerated Christian Education is that the former is not explicitly religious; it attempts to teach Biblical values cloaked in everyday language. A quick scan of its website, which I’ve linked to here (http://responsiveed.com/about/who-we-are/today/), doesn’t reveal any religious language. Instead, the website talks of “options for the student and options for the community.” This harmless language is a clever disguise for the curriculum’s goal of promoting deviant scientific theories. One must also consider one of ResponsiveEd’s charter proposals (http://www.in.gov/icsb/files/premierfullapplication082312.pdf) and note that it mentions teaching students to “describe controversies regarding evolution.” Ironically, the controversies mentioned here don’t exist in the scientific realm and could be put to rest if not for politicians and groups like ResponsiveEd attempting to give them credibility. Another former employee of Accelerated Christian Education has created something called Paradigm Accelerated Curriculum, which also teaches that Hitler was influenced by Darwin. One of the PAC textbooks even dedicates a section to pointing out various instances throughout history when science has been inaccurate and tries to use these examples to question evolution. A science textbook that attempts to undermine science as a whole seems somewhat suspect.  

Because creationism has been soundly rejected in schools and American society as a whole has become increasingly secular, proponents of religious science education have been forced to become more subtle in their methods. The new wave of creationists, discouraged by the defeat of intelligent design in recent cases like Kitzmiller v Dover, must hide behind seemingly innocuous language in order to push their ideas. It remains to be seen how much success they will have, but groups like ResponsiveEd and PAC display the persistence of creationists in their attempts to influence the education of America’s youth. No matter how many times they are defeated, they will always return in a different form with a different name but still pushing the same ideas. 

 

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16 Responses to The Creationists’ Persistence

  1. roberly2 says:

    What Phillykid888 brings up here that resonated with me was the idea that creationists will persistently and unfailingly combat evolutionary theory with every tool they have- in the face of mounting evidence against them- to a bitter end. Additionally the though that subterfuge is used so readily discomforts me; what good does this serve in their teaching methods and their states missions if they are willing to hide their religious affiliations behind superimposed but shallow attempts at lessons in morality?

    I did some more specific investigating of PAC and ResponsiveEd and that PAC states their mission as “The mission of Paradigm Accelerated Curriculum (PAC) is to train educational entrepreneurs and parents to provide for students an individualized learning system and principle-based curriculum specifically designed to address the character, academics and emotional needs of students who have been under-served or have underperformed in conventional classrooms.” ResponsiveEd, similarly, states that their mission is “To provide hope for students through an encouraging, innovative learning environment where they are academically successful and develop into lifetime learners.”

    As a comparison, I looked at my own high school’s mission (a large suburban public school in Greenwood Village, Colorado) and their statement is this: “As members of the Cherry Creek High School community, we value scholarship, leadership, and citizenship. We respect the dignity of all cultures and honor every individual’s passion and chosen path toward success.”

    Note the different in language; both PAC and responsiveEd emphasize hope, emotional needs, encouragement and “development into lifelong learners.” These are appeals to emotion, and empty words. There is not meaning here; what does emotional needs of students have to do with teaching them? Why do students need hope more than they need knowledge, self- awareness, or strong character? On the other end of the spectrum the public school’s mission (probably similar to schools like that all over the country) is to create citizens, leaders, scholars. Not to give students hope but to give them tools.

    Finally one must look at this language in the context of teaching evolutionary theory in schools; I was never denied this opportunity, no was I forced to believe it. I was simply given a tool. The children attending these charter schools don’t have that choice. Instead what they get is a school system that says the loch ness monster was proof against Darwin’s theory (how anyone could believe that’s true is baffling) and texts that suggest Darwin’s theory was the platform for the systematic killing of six million people. If that’s not religious zealousness then I don’t know what is.

    But hey, at least they’ll graduate with hope.

    • Sl1017 says:

      roberly2, I found it so interesting how you compared mission statements.However, after doing some research and watching their educational video it is important to point out that these charter schools are for mostly elementary school children only. I think this makes all the difference. Their mission statement “The mission of Paradigm Accelerated Curriculum (PAC) is to train educational entrepreneurs and parents to provide for students an individualized learning system and principle-based curriculum specifically designed to address the character, academics and emotional needs of students who have been under-served or have under performed in conventional classrooms.” is very similar to my charter elementary school. These foundations are perfectly acceptable for teaching elementary school children. While the teaching of evolution may be controversial, these schools seem to be doing more harm than good. On the original blog post, the author included this link http://www.in.gov/icsb/files/premierfullapplication082312.pdf and on the first page it mentioned that these schools are permorming 10% above the state average and they are also the only non-public schools that are fitted to address children with autism.

  2. secondcitytocapitalcity says:

    I think an interesting point that roberly2 brings up is the mission statement of the PAC. By trying to teach students based on “the character, academics and emotional needs of students who have been under-served or have underperformed in conventional classrooms”, they are basically telling people that they are giving an education that is catered to the individual student. Obviously high schools cannot actually do this because they have hundreds if not thousands of students, and it is impossible to cater an education to each of these students. Looking deeper into the PAC, I believe that what they are actually telling people in their mission statement is that they will teach what the parents want them to teach. Since they are teaching evolution influenced Hitler, one can conclude that by “conventional classrooms”, they are alluding to schools that teach evolution, and “character, academics, and emotional needs” they mean catering to a students religious views.
    Another interesting point to bring up is the way that they talk about Hitler being influenced by Darwin. The significant point about this to me is that it is similar to many modern antievolution arguments in that it does not debate the validity of the science, and instead is concerned with the cultural impacts of evolution.

    • thomgc says:

      If you think they just teaching them what the parents want them to teach then I think you’re missing some crucial things, its a charter school and if its catered to teaching what parents just happen to want from their students then what you are missing is that many parents would want their students to know about evolution which in turn would lead to problems. It is a state funded school and it has to teach its students what is necessary to pass exams, which is exactly what parents would want. Now I am not sure about Texas state law but there also is nothing to suggest that this school doesn’t teach evolution simply that it also teaches that darwin’s theories inspired Nazi racial theory, which they did, indirectly.

  3. freddie1994 says:

    I agree with roberly2 that creationists will keep coming back with different arguments and different party lines in futile attempts to get what they want. I also find secondcitytocapitalcity’s point about how anti-evolutionists focus on the cultural impacts of evolution humorous, yes I said humorous. Let me say firstly that I completely agree with him; what I find humorous is that creationists (or at least the more religious of them) try to take the moral high ground by saying that Darwin’s theory led to the Holocaust, yet their own religious texts, such as the Bible, or the Koran, preach intolerance and even violence against those who are non-religious, or even just follow a different religion, with the obvious example being the Crusades. Hello, millions died here on both sides all in the name of the God, surely this cannot possibly be the moral high ground.

    In relation to Phillykid888’s post, I found an article from September this year that explains how Texas Governor Rick Perry has appointed his 28 member panel of experts who will select textbooks for the state, for the next decade. Six of these people are known to reject evolution (http://www.nytimes.com/2013/09/29/education/creationists-on-texas-panel-for-biology-textbooks.html?_r=0). If this panel allows the use of any pro-creation or intelligent design textbook, I, personally, would think that the state will be taking a step backwards in the education of the younger generation.

    In relation to Donald R Howard, I find this quote at the end of the article very odd: “Take the Ten Commandments ­– you can rework those as a success principle by rewording them. We will call it truth, we will call it principles, we will call it values. We will not call it religion.” Does this mean that if I reword a law I’m allowed to murder people? No it most certainly does not. The reworded Ten Commandments are still the Ten Commandments, and it is still religion. Stop teaching it.

  4. sm1414 says:

    The point that freddy1994 brings up about Governor Perry appointing six people to the panel that will decide the next biology textbook for the state of Texas is particularly dangerous, not just for Texas which is the second largest state in the union population wise, but for the nation as a whole. Since Texas is such a large state, many textbook companies adapt their general textbooks that are sold in neighboring states and the rest of the country to meet the Texas state requirements instead of smaller states like New Jersey or Rhode Island. This way, they only have to sell one textbook instead of making a different one just for Texas. This is logical for the textbook makers because there is a larger demand for their books in Texas. They can afford to lose the business of a small state, but losing the business of the second largest state in the country could potentially put them out of business. The implications of Perry’s appointees could have an even greater impact on the education of all Americans that many of us realize.

    Furthermore, I agree with roberly2 about the ridiculousness of this school’s teachings related to evolution. I also agree with freddy about the hypocrisy of the fundamentally religious when it comes to the point that evolution caused the Holocaust, but religion has never harmed anyone. Every day, people are killed in the name of religion or in the name of a God. Religion is just as much at fault for the death of people every day as anything else. To insinuate that evolution caused the Holocaust is not only a huge stretch, but historically inaccurate. Hitler killed the millions of people that he killed because he believed they were an inferior race, not because he believed that they evolved differently from his preferred Aryan race. It is ridiculous to make that claim. But like the original poster writes and other commenters here have stated, religious zealots rarely stop trying to ram their message down people’s throats. It is just unfortunate that the zealots generally give religious people a poor reputation. Most religious people are not zealots who only ask that you respect their beliefs. The zealots are the minority, but they ruin religion for the majority.

    This brings me to my last point which comes from our papers. One of the social contexts for my paper was the rise of the religious right in the 1980s. Toward the end of the 80s, the religious right began to lose its political sway and had to rebrand itself. One of the things that it did was adapt its rhetoric to be more mainstream so that it would appeal to a greater number of people. I think this strategy has actually worked because many people hold political positions based on religious ideas without even realizing it. I think this illustrates the importance of rhetoric and how rebranding a discredited message can still convince people.

  5. benjaminc says:

    secondcitytocapitalcity brings up an interesting point in the end of his post about how many arguments against evolution are in fact culturally based instead of scientifically. I decided to research some more cultural claims against evolution that resemble this article and I found this article:
    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/06/06/ew-jackson-evolution-false-monkeys_n_3398022.html.

    EW Jackson, the lieutenant governor of Virginia, believes that evolution is not true because monkeys cannot talk. Jackson says that God blessed humans with this certain gift of being able to hold conversations and understand language. Jackson feels that if monkeys were our direct ancestors, they should also be able to have a language capacity, past the ability of just doing sign language.

    Both articles use cultural occurrences to downplay evolution. It would seem logical that someone would want to use a scientific fact to undermine a science, but it seems that the author’s are using their evidence to appeal to the pathos of their readers. Some claims, like Jackson’s, are very unique, making the easiest way to believe them is to find how it relates to them or if they have a close experience with. This tactic is not a bad way to get people to join a cause, but it is a bad way to try to disprove a scientific point in favor of another.

  6. thomgc says:

    philiykid I think you’re being somewhat counter productive here. There is not some battle against people who are creationists and those who are certainly aren’t some monolithic being that can never be slain. Its just an idea, the proposed school is based very much on the idea of creationism, i don’t agree with creationism at all but its not like I ever expect it to simply expire go away and die, its an idea and ideas live on.

    For example in the mid 1800s there was a Chinese Christian militant movement called Taipingism that believed its founder Hong Xiuquan was the second son of God and the younger brother of Jesus Christ. Most people would disagree with him and almost everyone today would say thats crazy, but their are still some people who do sincerely believe that he was the son of God. Just because I don’t think he was doesn’t mean i ever expect that idea to ever die because its an idea and somebody somewhere is bound to read the works of Hong Xiuquan and agree with them. Because that is how ideas work they don’t die. If they did we wouldn’t have Neo Nazi’s.

  7. phishmonkees says:

    Creationists have craftily devised new methods to insinuate their views into the public school system. I agree with the opinion of phillykid888 that, “proponents of religious science education have been forced to become more subtle in their methods”. However, I want to clarify comments made about Hitler who did use the pseudo-science of “Social Darwinism” to legitimize his genocidal practices. Social Darwinism as described by the Merriam-Webster dictionary is, “theory that persons, groups, and “races” are subject to the same laws of natural selection as Charles Darwin had proposed for plants and animals in nature” (http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/social%20darwinism). This theory is obviously scientifically flawed when it is applied to humans. Creationists may use the theory of Social Darwinism as a way to show that Darwin’s theory is not scientifically fool proof. However, Darwin never proposed Social Darwinism, instead economists and others used the theory to legitimize racial discrimination practices and exploitation of other nations.
    Science has been used inaccurately applied in the past, and this may be what the PAC textbook is exploiting. Regardless, evolution is a valid scientific theory and has only gained credibility with scientific advancements. Religious fundamentalists may never accept evolution as scientific fact. However, it seems that the U.S. judicial system has, and therefore, it is unlikely that creationist-like theories will be able to make their way back into the public school curriculum.

  8. djrosato says:

    I’ve said continuously in most of my blog posts that I simply don’t understand why non-scientists argue with scientists on science. However, as long as religion has a presence in our culture, however small, intelligent design will still be an issue. Belief in evolution, despite educators best efforts, has been stagnated since the 80’s. According to a Gallup Poll, in 2012 only 15% of the population believed that “humans evolved, but God had no part in the process,” up from 9% in 1982. Belief that “God created humans in their present form” has actually risen in the past 3 decades–from 44% in 1982 to 46% in 2012 (http://www.gallup.com/poll/155003/Hold-Creationist-View-Human-Origins.aspx\). I don’t really understand what thomgc was trying to say. There’s a huge canyon between tolerance towards religious beliefs and teaching them academically.

    I hate to be the Devil’s Advocate, but I’m kind of not surprised by the fact that Darwin influenced Hitler. Isn’t eugenics just a distorted version of evolution? It’s not a bad thing–it actually makes a lot of sense.

  9. greenDC says:

    Fighting an idea through associating immense stigma with it seems like an innovative, yet unfortunate approach. I find it appalling that these organizations exist on the principal that evolution is evil by comparing it to the actions of Hitler. While I do not subscribe to the views of creationists myself, ResponsiveEd and iSchool High have promoted the belief through these means precisely. However, as thomgc suggested, regardless of the way an idea or belief continues to exist, as long as it has followers or any activity, they are not able to simply vanish and die. While not contrasting the ethics or concepts of any of these groups, this is the reason Neo-Nazis (emphasizing eugenics here), creationists, and other groups continue to exist even in the face of scientific evidence.

  10. nicolina1215 says:

    I found it interesting when the author, Jonny Scaramanga, stated that, “Educators at the fundamentalist Bob Jones University also criticized ACE’s academics.” The fact that even educators don’t even fully agree that science should be neglected in the name of religion is both promising and concerning. Promising because at least they know enough to feel uncomfortable promoting religion in a publicly funded school. On the other hand, it’s concerning because these teachers clearly have not made a huge effort to change the curriculum in any way that is actually constitutional. While they are charter schools and do not have to adhere to state regulations on curriculum, they are still publicly funded and must adhere to constitutional law.

    As secondcitytocapitalcity said, I believe that the PAC mission statement implies that the school will teach what the parents want it to teach. If the school wasn’t catering to parents’ desires, it wouldn’t have gotten away with teaching religion in a publicly funded school for so long. I understand thomgc’s rebuttal to secondcitycapitalcity’s point, but I find it highly unlikely that parent’s are unaware their children aren’t properly being taught evolution. If they didn’t like the curriculum, at least one parent would have risen up against the school board.

    Lastly, I believe that it’s important to acknowledge how detrimental the ACE and PAC programs are not only to science education, but to their students’ perception on the world as a whole. It’s ironic that the PAC criticizes Darwin of inspiring Hitler, because they too are inspiring students to be prejudice against other races. Here I’ve posted another article (blog post) by the same author, stating that the PAC curriculum not only attacks science, but also islam: http://leavingfundamentalism.wordpress.com/tag/paradigm-accelerated-curriculum/. It’s concerning that students are being so manipulated and brain-washed into a curriculum that will hurt them in the future when they go to college or apply for jobs and don’t have fundamental skills of understanding of the world, how it operates, and who lives in it.

  11. I think phillykid888 highlights an important point when he talked about how the school could proliferate anti-evolution ideas which could hinder science in the future. However, I have to agree with some of the logic that Howard has behind his school. I think the idea that evolution is just a theory should be highlighted in science class. If you think about it, evolution has a lot of evidence but is not a concrete, proven theory. There is evidence supports the theory that are being discovered every day, however, the establishment clause states that the government can make no law establishing a national religion and that there is freedom of religion. Doesn’t the federal government establish some sort of one-sided thinking by prohibiting all but one theory. Just to be clear, I believe that no religion should be preached in the classroom, and that evolution should be taught in science class, however, one solution I support is to stress the importance of the evolution as a theory and not fact. A quote that was related to the Kitzmiller v. Dover court case states “It is the job of science and science teachers to find answers to how, not why or who.”

  12. ojc31084 says:

    It amazes me that schools, that are publicly funded, are teaching such outrageously religious concepts like creationism. Too make matters worse, these schools are hiding this fact from the outside. Seeing as Mr. Joshua Bass was under the impression that his son would get a good education at this school, it is evident that the school is not making it publicly known that they are teaching against the theory of evolution and spreading religious though in a publicly funded school. Not only is the iSchool High teaching religious alternatives to the theory of evolution, but it is also attempting to disprove evolution as a viable theory. Additionally the claims they made against evolution were simply wrong and unfounded. Either the school needs to make their curriculum clearer and more public, or school boards need to do a better job of affirming that no school that is publicly funded is teaching religious beliefs.

  13. foldervral says:

    I agree with freddie1994 in that he finds secondcitytocapitalcity’s point about how anti-evolutionists humorous. It is funny, or sad depending on your perspective, when you look at the extremists and how foolish they sound. No matter what creationists and religious fanatics will attempt to find a way to spread their religion. The most effective way is by teaching it to young children thus their continued attempts to bring religious doctrine into public schools. They may be stripping away the overt religious phrasing, but instilling the same thought process and ideals of a religion into children will most likely make it easier to convert these children at any stage in life. I do disagree with dantesnuggles, when he says that evolution should be taught only as a theory. That is like saying that a specific mathematical equation is only a theory because there may be an exception to the equation. If proof is continually given that something exists then it should be taught as scientific fact till proven false. An interesting point on how these classes are created and sneaked into a curriculum is how obvious the classes are labeled and taught. If a teacher or politician really wants to teach religious views in a class, all they have to do is introduce a political course that examines conservative republicans and liberal democrats, and focus on the views of the republicans more than the democrats. A teacher can get away with teaching in a particular tone if they are not outright saying something is wrong. For example my history teacher in high school was clearly a republican and everything he did or talked about pointed to support that viewpoint. At the same time he was able to teach both points of view. Although this would be an interesting class to have it is probably also the most ideal to teach religious beliefs.

  14. Upon doing research into into some of the ResponsiveEd schools and I found that one of their schools, the Premier school was only a couple miles from my house and that id driven and walked passed it many times. The Premier school was a very odd place, It was directly behind a Blazer Lazer Tag and on the left end of a strip mall that contained an HEB (which is a Texas grocery store) and a nail salon, it was almost impossible to see from the street and on the inside looked more like a DMV than a high school, with plain white walls and some chairs and desks. The fact that it was always deserted and the fact that you could see all the way inside, evidently it used to bee some kind of store front and all of the front side was pane glass, intrigued me and my friends and I remember having multiple conversations about it with my friends throughout my middle school years. I finally learned that, as my friend Kel so eloquently put it, “It’s a religious school for weirdos. It’s basically one step up from home school.” Ignoring the fact that this a very biased statement made by a 12 year old, this statement offers interesting insight to the niche this school fits. It is widely know by Texas that in the last decade, many Texas Christian Fundamentalists have used home school to protect their children from the evils of evolution and teach them biblical truths instead. a core problem however is that many parents do not have time to home school, or their teaching does little to prepare their children for college and the real world. The school, while I admit using state money to sponsor a school so skeptical of science is wrong, represents a happy medium for parents who would probably home school their kids otherwise,

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