Yes,14 states spend “nearly $1 billion” of taxpayer tuition on “hundreds of religious schools” that teach kids the Earth is less than 10,000 years old. This would be more troubling if we didn’t spend hundreds of billions every year not teaching millions of kids how to read. Voucher programs offer a wide variety of choices for parents, unlike the closed, failing districts schools that so many kids are trapped in. As of now, public schools spend around $638 billion on around 55 million students but only 250,000 students – almost all of them poor — are free to use vouchers and tax-credit scholarships. Of those kids, the vast majority do not attend schools with curriculums that feature intelligent design. Yet, judging from all the “special investigations” of creationism in schools, you might be under the impression it was the most pressing problem faced by educators. I suspect that untold numbers of parents would sacrifice their children to the Gods of Creationism if [it] meant they could attend safe and high-achieving schools. A lot of these schools score well. But that’s not the choice, either.It is absolutely no secret that the vast majority of these schools are better than their public school counterparts and, yes, these parents are very grateful for the opportunity to put their kids in schools that are safe and good. I support school vouchers, generally, but I see a philosophical problem here. In the process of supporting the notion of school choice for parents, what is being lost is what is being taught. We run the risk of becoming so enamored of our ability to pick and choose where we want our kids to go to school that we forget that there are quite a few schools out there that do teach young earth creationism.
Young Earth Creationism is bad science.
It puts our kids at a disadvantage by setting them back in all areas of science and fills their heads with wrong-headed ideas. As a scientist, I have a moral obligation not just to teach my kids good science, but to advocate the teaching of it in the schools. Having the ability to put your kids in the school of your choice is of no value if the science they are being taught is wrong.
As a family, we are insulated from this directly but are part of a similar tug-of-war. Because I want my kids to have a better education, we have them enrolled in a home school curriculum. For the most part, it is exceptional, with plenty of challenges and intellectual rigor. But, while the science curriculum is at peace with old earth creationism, it leans toward intelligent design as a world-view. I have already corrected some of the wrong notions that my kids have come home with and my oldest daughter, who is leaning heavily toward botany or biology, and I have had candid conversations about evolution. The teachers at the school (the ones that teach science, anyway) are familiar with my views on evolution and don't push my kids in class to reject them. By the same token, I don't have my kids questioning their teachers or the view points of other kids in the class. That is not their place. So far, we have managed a Mexican Stand-off. Soon, however, my daughter will outgrow the current curriculum and begin to discover why, as Theodosius Dobzhansky stated: “Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution.”1 I will be ready for that time.
1Dobzhansky, T (1973) Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution. American Biology Teacher, v. 35: 125-129