Date: Fri Aug 13 1993 19:45:50
From: Jeff Jones
Subj: Vista creationists update
"Vista OKs 'biblical creation' in schools"
by Lisa Petrillo, staff writer, San Diego Union-Tribune 8/13/93
VISTA--Yet again, public school business here took on the sound of a
revival meeting last night. But in the end, biblical creationism won entry
into the classroom of 22,000 schoolchildren here. More than 300 people
crammed into the Vista Unified School Board meeting to again debate how the
world began, and how much of that age-old religious debate over biblical
creationism can happen in the classrooms. Testimony covered such issues as
the power of God, whether Charles Darwin was a Bolshevik, and outraged
criticism by some teachers of the board's fundamentalist Christian majority.
A door allowing creationism came in the form of three new policies
promoted by the Christian members of the board, and overwhelmingly opposed by
teachers. "Make no mistake, teaching creationism is illegal; we are going to
get sued," warned Trustee Linda Rhoades, who was on the losing end of the 3-2
vote endorsing the new policies.
But Trustee John Tyndall disagreed with her interpretation of what the
new policies will allow. "I don't want to see creationism taught in science,"
Tyndall assured the partisan audience. "But I do want to see scientific
debate." Tyndall, who works at the Institute of Creation Research in East
County, maintains that evolution is flawed and that those flaws should be
discussed in science classrooms. But Tom Conry, president of the Vista
teachers union, thinks the Christian majority has an agenda. "Their intent is
to destroy evolution in the public schools," he said.
Voting in the majority with Tyndall were board President Deidre Holliday
and Trustee Joyce Lee. Joining Rhoades in opposition was Sandee Carter. The
three policies became so controversial that last spring the board agreed to
allow two committees of teachers to review them, although it gave them less
than two weeks to do so during summer vacation. That review by teachers
rejected the board's proposed policies and reworded them to follow what the
majority of teachers overwhelmingly supported as following broader state
policies regarding what can be taught in the classroom.
The controversy has raged at virtually every Vista school board public
meeting for the last 10 months, since the new fundamentalist Christian
majority came out swinging for its issues from the very first meeting.
Regarding one proposal, teachers bluntly stated that the board majority
manipulated the California state educational framework--something regarded as
gospel by the education establishment--to suit its own purposes. The board's
version declares that teaching biblical creationism "shall be included" in
history, social studies and English classes. As the teachers' committee
pointed out, the correct version of the state mandate instead allows creation
theories that "are appropriate" in those non-science classes. But as a sign
of how far the board-teacher relationship has deteriorated over the last few
months, the committee went so far as to rebuke the board, saying, "It is
suggested that the board make accurate references to this framework..."
The second board proposal is that to "enhance scientific exploration and
dialogue, scientific evidence that challenges any theory in science should be
presented." And the third proposal states that "no theory of science shall be
taught dogmatically, and no student shall be compelled to believe or accept
any theory presented in the curriculum."
Later last night, despite opposition from Holliday and Tyndall, a so-
called "peace" plan proposed by Superintendent Rene Townsend was approved.
That plan calls for formation of a blue-ribbon task force to develop common
ground on the teaching and observance of religion in this public school
district. The Common Ground Task Force, as it is being called, would work
from October to May to come up with guidelines.