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COLUMN

The Cobb County Decision

Jyoti R. Tibrewala

The Cobb County school district in Georgia recently adopted a policy requiring biblical interpretations of the origins of life to be stressed in schools as much as the theory of evolution. This policy passed amid uproar from many that this was a backdoor route to having public schools endorse religion.

All the separation-of-church-and-state fanatics can calm down. Religion is already taught in schools in social studies classes. In world history, the basic tenets of the major religions in the world areas studied are introduced to students. The unit on Southeast Asia includes some basic information about Buddhism and Hinduism, for example. Likewise, I can recall learning about Catholicism and other western religions to a degree in my tenth grade European history class. Some basic understanding is needed to effectively understand the cultures of various peoples.

Teaching creationism will not necessarily ingrain it in students’ minds. It will merely expose them to the existence of another theory on life’s beginnings. The more theories students are exposed to, and the more each theory is taught, the more well-informed students will be when comparing theories and deciding which makes the most sense to them.

On that note, a study in 2000 conducted by Lawrence Lerner of the California State University at Long Beach found that one third of schools in the United States do not teach evolution. Exposing students to only creationism and not evolution is no better than teaching evolution and banning creationism.

There are many critics of creationism in the scientific community. One major qualm they have with teaching creationism in science classes is based on the nature of scientific observation and theory. Science tends to be characterized by the questions “Why?” and “How?” and also by the ability to provide answers to these questions with laboratory data or field evidence. Creationism doesn’t really have laboratory data to offer up in support of itself. The best it can do is to discredit the evidence of evolutionists.

Furthermore, some evolutionists point out the fact that each religion’s story of creation differs. Therefore, to do justice to creationism, all the stories would need to be taught, each with equal weight. Then, the argument goes, one is dealing with comparative religion, not science.

On both fronts, the evolutionists have a point. Science classes can’t very well teach material that can not be backed up scientifically. Likewise, science class is not the appropriate place to contrast the many religions of the world. It also wouldn’t be fair to stress one creation story as being more important than another, simply because the two represent the beliefs of different religions.

So then teach the various creationist theories in a social studies class. Who said that science was the only type of class taught in school? Students can be just as exposed -- if not more so -- to creationist theories in a social studies class. After all, social studies is the subject in which one studies different peoples and their beliefs and values.

There is no harm in teaching creationism in schools. Perhaps the appropriate subject area (in which it should be taught) needs to be decided upon, but the properness of even teaching the subject matter should not be a concern. Students will be better off for learning creationist theories in school. They will emerge as more well-rounded individuals, with richer educational experiences and more ideas from which to choose a belief system. Since when is a more complete education a bad thing?