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School Board Won't Require Teaching "Arguments Against Evolution"

The Board of Trustees of the Roseville Joint Union High School District decided at its meeting on September 2, 2003, not to enact any district-wide policy on teaching evolution, according to the Sacramento Bee (September 7, 2003). The decision follows months of discussion on the part of the school board and activism on the part of creationists and supporters of evolution education alike.

In the meeting, Assistant Superintendent Steven Lawrence told the board that the district's teachers expressed concern at the idea of teaching "arguments against evolution," which are not part of the state curriculum. Additionally, several students told the board that evolution was not taught dogmatically in the classroom.

But antievolutionists in attendance, including several members of the board, were not satisfied: "[s]cience is its own religion," said Board President Jan Pinney: "Since we’re already teaching one religion that's agnostic or atheist, we need the alternative, too."

The discussion culminated with a speech by trustee Jim Joiner, whom the Bee described as impassioned in his opposition to what he called "a blind rush to a moral agenda": "I prefer to have biologists define biology and religious people define religion," he said. "The last people I want to define either one are politicians like us." Decrying a "top-down" approach to curriculum development, Joiner "recommended that people who want to change the teaching of evolution follow the same process used for making other decisions related to classroom instruction -- a process that starts with teachers, administrators and parents at each school."

Larry Caldwell, a local parent who had proposed a draft policy that would require teachers to help students to "analyze the scientific strengths and weaknesses" of evolution, indicated after the meeting that he would pursue his efforts in the individual high schools in the district. Added 9/22/03: Mr. Caldwell requested that we make it clear that he is not advocating the teaching of the Biblical creation story in public science classrooms.