Science

Fighting Words

By Sean Cavanagh — January 10, 2006 1 min read

When you think about it, what topic offers as much prime debate material as “intelligent design”?

The concept has fueled angry squabbles among scholars, school leaders, and pretty much everybody—not to mention prompting an internationally watched federal court case.

And yet last month, the North Dakota High School Activities Association removed intelligent design as a potential topic for its state debate tournament, scheduled to begin next month in Fargo. The association heard concerns from school debate coaches and administrators, who had fielded objections from parents about the combustible subject, said Bob Hetler, an assistant executive secretary for the association.

He said a survey he sent to North Dakota school districts indicated that several would not take part in a tournament that included debate on intelligent design. While he did not know the exact nature of the objections, he believed they were rooted in concerns over how both intelligent design and the theory of evolution would be presented. “I know, growing up in the Midwest,” Mr. Hetler said, “it was volatile stuff.”

Intelligent design was recommended as a topic by the National Forensic League, in Ripon, Wis., which stages its own national debate tournament, independent of North Dakota’s event. It is using intelligent design as one of its topics, which vary by month, said J. Scott Wunn, the executive secretary of the league.

Proponents of intelligent design believe that the complexity of humans and other living things points to the role of an unnamed master architect in shaping life. The vast majority of scientists dismiss that idea. They say that the evidence overwhelmingly supports the theory of evolution, which holds that human and other life has developed over time through natural selection and random mutation.

Many scientists believe it is improper to debate design, which they say is a religious view, in the realm of science.

Last month, a federal judge issued a landmark ruling declaring intelligent design to be religiously based and thus not a valid topic for public school science classes. (“Possible Road Map Seen in Dover Case,” Jan. 4, 2006.)

Just how problem-plagued a subject is intelligent design? Consider what North Dakota chose as a substitute topic for its upcoming debate tournament: the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Related Tags:

Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Student Well-Being Webinar
A Safe Return to Schools is Possible with Testing
We are edging closer to a nationwide return to in-person learning in the fall. However, vaccinations alone will not get us through this. Young children not being able to vaccinate, the spread of new and
Content provided by BD
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Teaching Webinar
Meeting the Moment: Accelerating Equitable Recovery and Transformative Change
Educators are deciding how best to re-establish routines such as everyday attendance, rebuild the relationships for resilient school communities, and center teaching and learning to consciously prioritize protecting the health and overall well-being of students
Content provided by Campaign for Grade-Level Reading
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Reading & Literacy Webinar
Addressing Learning Loss: What Schools Need to Accelerate Reading Instruction in K-3
When K-3 students return to classrooms this fall, there will be huge gaps in foundational reading skills. Does your school or district need a plan to address learning loss and accelerate student growth? In this
Content provided by PDX Reading

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Science Opinion The Three Most Effective Instructional Strategies for Science—According to Teachers
Three science educators share their favorite instructional strategies, including incorporating a sense of play in their classes.
9 min read
Images shows colorful speech bubbles that say "Q," "&," and "A."
iStock/Getty
Science Make Science Education Better, More Equitable, Says National Panel
States must take steps to ensure that all students get a fair shot at learning science, says the National Academies of Science report.
3 min read
Illustration of father and child working on computer.
Getty
Science Q&A Many Schools Don't Teach About the Science of Vaccines. Here's Why They Should
Schools play an important role in confronting misinformation and mistrust in vaccines by helping students understand how they work.
7 min read
Ainslee Bolejack, freshman at Shawnee Heights High School in Tecumseh, Kansas, prepares to receive her first COVID-19 vaccine on May 17, 2021, at Topeka High. Unified School District 501 held a clinic at all their high schools welcoming students now 12-years-old and up to receive their vaccination.
Freshman Ainslee Bolejack prepares to receive her first COVID-19 vaccine on May 17, 2021, at Topeka High School in Kansas. Unified School District 501 held a clinic at all its high schools for students 12 and older to receive their vaccinations.
Evert Nelson/The Topeka Capital-Journal via AP
Science Letter to the Editor Science-Score Declines Have Impact Well Beyond the Classroom
Science understanding is valuable not only for careers in STEM but also for students' critical thinking and analytical skills.
1 min read