Putting Scientific Creationism in Curricula Would Be Difficult and Costly, Officials Say
While preparations continue for the American Civil Liberties Union's suits against Arkansas and Louisiana for requiring "balanced treatment" of creationism, education officials in those states are faced with the prospect of implementing those laws should they stand in court.
So far, laws requiring balanced treatment for "evolution-science" and "creation-science" have passed in only those two states, but similar laws are likely to be proposed in other states and, if passed, will present similar problems of implementation.
The Arkansas law, which goes into effect during the 1982-83 school year and permits schools to give "balanced treatment" now, will come to trial Oct. 26., and education officials are waiting for the outcome before taking any action to implement it.
Sherman Peterson, associate director for instruction in Arkansas, says, "We are waiting to see how the suit is resolved. Until then we are not going to take any action to implement the decision. No cost-estimate has been made because local school districts are going to have most of the responsibility for implementation."
Dan V.L. Pinkleton, Assistant Superintendent of the Arkansas Department of Education, says that certain implications of the legislation--for example, just what the term "balanced treatment" will mean in practice--have not yet been examined.
The Louisiana law is fundamentally the same, except for a few details. Its author, Representative Bill Keith worked from the Arkansas law, and during the legislative process discrimination clauses were added, the definition of creation-science was streamlined, a section on "legislative finding of fact" was added, and provisions for implementation, left out of the Arkansas law, were made.
The Louisiana law provides for a seven-man committee of creation-scientists who shall provide resource services in the development of curriculum guides requested by any city or parish school board.
The governor will appoint the committee, which may or may not be solely responsible for implementation, but state department of education officials expect to be called upon for advice in any case, and are preparing well in advance.
Don W. McGehee, science supervisor of the Louisiana State Department of Education, is currently reviewing textbooks, lesson plans, "curriculum models," and a full proposal from one organization "interested in advising us on putting creationism into the classrooms."
Mr. McGehee, who is quite frankly opposed to Louisiana's new creationism law, says local districts in his state traditionally depend heavily on the state department of education for leadership.
"We could divorce ourselves from any involvement, but because we are in a leadership position, it is our responsibility, although some of us don't have our heart in the program, so to speak," he said.
The state board is going to put together interpretations of the law, which Mr. McGehee is assured local districts will find confusing. All of this activity is strictly voluntary. The state department not only does not have to be involved, but the bill's sponsor, Mr. Keith, did not want it involved.
"He wanted to make this a complete local concern, funded locally," Mr. McGehee said. The legislature did not want to fund the program at the state level, and Mr. Keith reportedly had to assure legislators that the cost would be picked up at the local level, Mr. McGehee said.
"That was done," he said, "without any particular research in terms of what other programs would be affected." For the first year at least, unless additional funding is legislated, money for implementation expenses will have to be diverted from existing local programs.
"We're going to have problems dealing with this stuff," Mr. McGehee said. He said statewide costs could range from $1.8 million to $7 million, depending on "how intensive implementation will be."
A committee set up by the state superintendent will determine where evolution concepts are being taught that will subsequently have to be balanced. That committee has not begun its work, but Mr. McGehee says, for example, that evolution is taught as early as the fifth grade, and reference is made to it in many other disciplines.
Thus the wide-ranging cost estimate. The $1.8-million estimate covers the cost of curriculum development, library materials, and in-service workshops for teachers.
"That can go as high as $7 million when you're dealing with purchasing materials for student use," Mr. McGehee said.
The law will also affect Louisiana Act 750, passed in 1979, which established a Competency-Based Education Program. Also in its implementation stage, the act requires that minimum standards be developed in all required subjects.
"When we develop minimum standards, teachers will have to be instructed in them," Mr. McGehee explained. "Now, will there be minimum standards of creation science? If so, teachers will have to be instructed in them, too."
"Imagine what it will be like in the classroom," Mr. McGehee added. ''I'm teaching, and one minute I'm talking about dinosaurs and fossils and so forth. Then the next minute I have to put on another hat and say, 'You know that stuff about dinosaurs I was just telling you? Wellllllll ... ah ... that's not really true’."
Mr. McGehee is also finding unsatisfactory the texts submitted to him for review. "I've got the Creation Life Publishers Catalogue and I've got some copies of their textbooks from them. They sent me the 'public school editions.' I've compared them to the biblical editions, which a friend of mine got by writing to them separately. They're identical except that in the public school editions the scripture has been lifted out," he explained.
"They're all unsatisfactory," Mr. McGehee said, "but the worst is The Creation Explanation (published by Harold Shaw Publishers in Wheaton, Ill.) and The Handy Dandy Evolution Refuter (published by Beta Books in San Diego.)"
Vol. 01, Issue 00, Pages 12-13