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Intelligent Design 2 Backers of religious viewpoint shouldn't use schools as soapbox Published: Wednesday, September 18, 2002 EDITORIAL & COMMENT 18A

Advocates of intelligent design, the religion-based idea that life is too complex to have evolved through natural processes, apparently recognize that they cannot pressure the State Board of Education to make this nonscientific idea part of the science curriculum in Ohio's public schools.

But they still hope to have such speculations included in the social-studies curriculum, perhaps as part of a comparative-religion requirement.

While this is a legitimate place for discussion of such ideas, specifically mandating the teaching of intelligent design is a bad idea.

The point of teaching comparative religion is to expose students to the broad sweep of religious thought, history and practice from around the world. It might be appropriate for the state to mandate that religiously based ideas about the origin of life be included in this discussion, as long as the range of ideas was truly broad.

But the state board would be stacking the sectarian deck to include intelligent design, by name, as part of the mandate.

To do so would be to give this single approach prominence over the other origin ideas derived from Christianity, not to mention over those springing from the many non-Christian belief systems around the world.

Of course, this sort of ecumenism is not likely to appeal to intelligent-design advocates. Their interest is not in exposing students to the broad sweep of religious thought regarding the origins of life, but to promote a single viewpoint, their own.

This is why the State Board of Education should continue to resist the pressure intelligent design promoters are bringing to bear in the hopes of gaining a privileged position for their viewpoint somewhere in the public-school curriculum.

In a meeting of the state board's Standards Committee last week, board member Michael Cochran of Blacklick noted that of 17,000 public comments received about state science standards, 12,000 favored inclusion of intelligent design.

"How are we to react to that beside what we are doing -- ignoring it?'' Cochran asked other members of the committee.

No one answered Cochran, but here is the answer he should have gotten:

Choosing public-school curriculum should not be a popularity contest, based on the ever-changing currents of public opinion. No doubt 12,000 people could be found who despised algebra or geometry in school and see no use for it in their lives. Should algebra or geometry be dropped?

Probably 12,000 people could be found who think astrology has some validity and who would like to see it incorporated into the school curriculum. Should they be obliged?

While the views of parents and voters should be considered in the making of public-school curriculum, those views should not trump common sense or the U.S. Constitution.

Common sense dictates that public-school students should have the broadest education possible. The Constitution prohibits public schools from engaging in religious indoctrination, even if 12,000 people favor it.

The State Board of Education should ignore the continuing pressure. Requiring the teaching of intelligent design would be a mistake.

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