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Editorials

State sends mixed message through support for creationism

Is Indiana a good place to create jobs in science, technology, engineering and math-related disciplines? The state’s investment in training and recruiting teachers in the so-called STEM fields tells prospective employers it is; spending millions in taxpayer dollars to teach creationism as science tells them it is not.

Without the standards or accountability required of public schools attached to its voucher program, Indiana’s reputation as a state where scholarship, scientific inquiry and innovation are celebrated is threatened. Its ability to attract and retain jobs in the very fields it has targeted for expansion is compromised.

The Journal Gazette’s Julie Crothers reported Sunday that at least five northeast Indiana-area Christian schools are teaching creationism or intelligent design. Combined, they’ve collected $3.9 million in taxpayer-funded vouchers. That’s a small percentage of the $81 million in state funds supporting vouchers this academic year. The third year of Indiana’s massive school-choice experiment saw an explosion of Christian schools accepting vouchers for the first time, including Aboite Christian School, Fishers Christian Academy, Legacy Christian School and about a dozen more.

Indiana policymakers have placed virtually no requirements on voucher schools regarding instructional content. Liberty Christian School in Anderson, which has collected more than $2 million from taxpayers for its elementary and high school programs over the past three years, offers a description of a high school earth science course on its website: “Students have opportunities to gain a Biblical worldview of the creation and history of the earth and universe as contrasted with a flawed evolutionary worldview.”

Eric Meikle, education project director for the National Center for Science Education, noted that Indiana places its well-regarded science standards at risk.

“Indiana has been recognized as having one of the best sets of standards regarding the teaching of evolution,” he said. “It would be unfortunate if that was to be questioned or tarnished by this activity. Having good standards is not a guarantee by itself, but at least the standards give you an idea of what the state’s direction or intent is.”

Theory in science is not mere speculation. The theory of biological evolution is the framework guiding scientific research, building upon nearly 150 years of widely accepted and applied practice.

What biotech CEO is interested in locating his or her company in a state where a growing percentage of the state’s education dollars is invested in schools that proudly defy scientific fact? Why would a CEO want to start a science-based endeavor in a state where an increasing number of students receive instruction not only counter to accepted scientific thought but also contrary to the law? The courts have repeatedly rejected the teaching of creationism and related lessons, rightly finding that “creation science” is religion in disguise and therefore illegal to teach in publicly funded classrooms.

Indiana policymakers invite lawsuits in silently sanctioning religious instruction as science. They also threaten an academic reputation bolstered by well-respected institutions of higher learning. The state draws thousands of students from across the country and the globe to study at Indiana and Purdue universities, Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology, the University of Notre Dame and more. Will they continue to come if Indiana proudly supports K-12 instruction contrary to law and to the advancement of biomedical, life, and earth sciences?

The General Assembly should restrict voucher eligibility to schools teaching evolution science.

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