The debate over Intelligent Design is the latest in a long-running battle over what public-school children should be taught about the origins of life. In the first half of the 20th century, students often were taught that life sprang from Divine creation. In more recent times, they have been taught that man progressed through an evolutionary process.
No one knows the truth, because no one was there at the beginning, so don’t expect this battle to find a quick resolution.
Foes of evolution in the past have advocated teaching the biblical creation story, then Creation Science, which was a variant of that story, and now they are pushing Intelligent Design, which argues, simply enough, that some creator, or designer, was responsible for life. Evolution supporters deride this theory, arguing that it is religion gussied up as science and that only science should be taught in public schools.
That’s essentially what U.S. District Judge John Jones III ruled last week in Pennsylvania when he forbade the teaching of Intelligent Design in Pennsylvania science classes. “We find that the secular purposes claimed by the (Dover, Pa., school) board amount to a pretext for the board’s real purpose, which was to promote religion in the public school classroom.”
That sounds fine, except that the theory of evolution isn’t purely scientific, either. It’s one thing to argue that species evolved, quite another to argue that the world started with a big bang.
Which leads us to the obvious solution to such debates. In the current public school system, where curriculum is dictated by states and the federal government, it’s a one-size-fits-all affair. That’s why people battle about what is taught. Whoever has the political power gets to decide which theory of life is incorporated into science class.
In a system of private schools, parents choose those schools that reflect their values and worldview. Without a public-school monopoly, some schools no doubt would teach evolution, others Intelligent Design, others the biblical creation story, and still others some combination of the above, or something different.
In fact, many religious schools teach a combination of theories. Science classes focus on aspects of evolution, while religion and social studies center on creationism.
If all K-12 schools operated privately, there would be no reason to fight in legislatures and the courts over such long-running debates. Individuals would decide what was best for their child, and there would be far more social peace. That’s a far better alternative than the current one.