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Mar 21 2014

How to Expose Creationist Science Teachers

Hemant has the story of a 500 page book that a public school science teacher gave to his students to teach them creationism instead of evolution. That was about a decade ago, but the book itself just became available. It’s every bit as bad as you might imagine. This went on for 15 years before someone finally exposed it, anonymously. If no one blows the whistle on it, this kind of thing can go on forever. And we know from surveys that an astonishing percentage of science teachers are really teaching creationism.

So how can you stop this? By filing open records requests. You can go to your local public school and file a Freedom of Information Act request (or the state equivalent of one) and in most states, the teachers have to give you all of the material they are using to teach their classes. If you discover that one is handing out creationist material, go to the ACLU, Americans United, the Freedom From Religion Foundation, or just send it to me and I’ll make sure it gets into the right hands.

6 comments

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  1. 1
    eric

    Not sure what value this has, and I see a potential downside.

    Value: the John Freshwater case shows that some (if not all) of these creationist teachers know that what they are doing would not be approved by outsiders and they intentionally set out to hide their acts. Freshwater explicitly told his kids to return all handouts. He did not even admit to using them until he was forced to by a student smuggling one out of the class. Now, if someone had FOIA’d him, what would it have shown? Nothing. Because he would have excluded the creationist material in his “all the material.” I think we can assume the same is true of other creationists: a FOIA request will only reveal the materials the teacher is comfortable saying they teach. It has no magic power to reveal the materials the teacher would generally not admit to teaching in the first place.

    Downside: FOIA requests put work on the school (and the teacher). Do you really want to start this ams race? Because I can easily see fundie conservatives adopting such a tactic too, and FOIAing every mainstream teacher they don’t like, every semester, maybe many times per semester (via different people requesting), just to harass them.

    I’m not saying we should never do it. But I would say that a FOIA request should only be pursued in a pretty narrow set of cases. I.e., when there’s good evidence not just that the teacher is teaching creationist material, but that they see nothing wrong with it/don’t see any reason to hide it.

  2. 2
    Crimson Clupeidae

    I think to be effective, one really needs to do what Matthew LaClair did: record the class, and then be dogged enough to continue in the face of opposition from the teacher, school administration, etc.

  3. 3
    chilidog99

    Don’t you need a child in the class?

  4. 4
    chilidog99

    Actually, Wylann, to be truly effective, you need to run for, and get elected to the school board.

    Granted, there is a lot of extra work involved.

  5. 5
    raven

    Don’t you need a child in the class?

    Not necessarily.

    If you are a taxpayer in the school district, you would have standing. I once calculated how much of my property tax and state tax went to the schools. It was a lot.

    If you are outside the school district but in the state, maybe. You are still paying taxes and some of that goes to that school. Outside the state, who knows? Looks a bit dicey but federal funds also go to local schools.

    But the publicity is worth a lot. The vast majority of people anywhere will have no idea what is being taught in the schools. I have no idea what is being taught in my local schools any more.

  6. 6
    matty1

    2

    I think to be effective, one really needs to do what Matthew LaClair did: record the class, and then be dogged enough to continue in the face of opposition from the teacher, school administration, etc.

    3

    Don’t you need a child in the class?

    Yes, schools can get very tetchy when random adults try and film classes and the public sympathy just isn’t there.

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