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Wednesday, 25 January 2006 00:00

Where did we come from? Student perspectives vary

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As judges and lawyers, politicians and lobbyists, and parents and school officials debate the place of evolution and creationism in the classroom, what do students think?

At Franklin High School, students in Lee Berger’s journalism class — an arena where students are used to tackling controversial issues — engaged in a discussion last week on the subject. The question at hand was whether creation, evolution and intelligent design should all be taught, and if so, in what subject they belonged and in what manner they should be taught.

Students shared a spectrum of views on the issue in a lively but respectful discourse. One of the more striking revelations in the class was that both sides — those who wanted creationism taught alongside evolution and those who thought teaching creation was an infringement on religious freedom — felt they were being discriminated against.

Devout Christian students who don’t believe in evolution feel they are in the minority, while those who believe in evolution feel they are in the minority. Rachel Welch said she would feel excluded if a teacher did not include creation as an alternative to evolution.

“I don’t believe in evolution,” said Welch. “Don’t tell me one is a fact. Creation is based on a faith, there’s not that much science to it. But don’t push evolution as a hard fact.”

Other students disagreed.

“I think religion should stay out of school,” said Keela Fountain. “I think it causes problems. It’s a science classroom. If people want to learn about religion they can go to church.

Daniel Bottoms agreed.

“I think it should stay out of the science class,” Bottoms said. “It shouldn’t be left to the public schools to teach religious theories.”

Casey Rhodes disagreed.

“If they are going to cut creation out, they should cut evolution out, too,” Rhodes said.

“Should you be exempt from learning a widely accepted theory just because of your personal beliefs?” Courtney Hall countered.

“Evolution is not a law. Evolution is a theory,” Rhodes responded.

Many students straddled the line and said the only solution is to teach all three: creation, evolution and intelligent design.

“Each one of them is a theory,” said Robyn Winter. “No three of them can be exactly scientifically proven as to how we came into existence. All three go against someone’s beliefs. If you cover all three of them nobody gets offended.”

Robert Duelfer agreed.

“If one comes up, all three should be integrated into the lesson,” Duelfer said. “If you have a belief and someone challenges your belief, it makes you think — you strengthen your own beliefs or change your belief.”

Lauren McCauley said not everyone has the chance to go to church, and school is the only place they have a chance to be exposed to religion.

“They are in homes that don’t go to church,” McCauley said. “If evolution is the only thing being taught in the classroom, that’s the only idea they are ever going to know.”

It got a little trickier when deciding which religions should be included in a course of study, since different religions have different ideas of creation. McCauley said there wouldn’t be enough time to touch on every religion.

“I have mixed feelings,” McCauley said. “You don’t want to leave anybody out. The problem is you can’t always cater to everybody.”

McCauley said teachers would have to stick to the majority — Christianity.

Courtney Hall objected.

“The majority takes care of itself,” Hall said. “Think about that one kid in the back that doesn’t really believe in it.”

“There’s a lot of diversity these days,” Keela Fountain added.

One challenge for the students was defining the three terms.

“Scientists have one idea and regular people and students have another idea,” Casey Rhodes said of evolution. Rhodes said the common understanding is that evolution means people came from monkeys and creation means people came from God. But Rhodes said in science, evolution is more than that. It refers to changes in life and the planet over time.

So where does intelligent design fit in?

“I think creation is a literal interpretation of the Bible. Intelligent design, whether it be God or another supreme being that created us, it means it wasn’t by chance,” said Rachel Welch. “It’s a mix.”

Amy Tallent suggested having an elective that allowed students to learn about different religions.

“I think all three should be taught, but they should be in a class that is not mandatory, like philosophy,” Tallent said. “People have to take science and hear about it even if they don’t want to.”

Keshia Sequoyah agreed.

“I go along with the philosophy stand point,” Sequoyah said. “You also have to think who is qualified enough to actually teach you about creationism.”

Robert Duelfer said evolution would still have to be included in biology, though.

“If you take all of that out of science, the big bang and all that, you need background to understand the rest of biology,” Duelfer said.

Lauren McCauley agreed.

“Personally I would like for creationism to be taught, but evolution is necessary to be taught, too. There are so many things other than people coming from apes that deal with evolution, like animals adapting to the environment,” McCauley said.

“Without any of these theories there would be no science. You would have no clue how anything got here, yourself, the lakes, the ocean, or how anything worked,” said Robyn Winter.

When Daniel Bottoms said there is not a lot of scientific evidence for creation that can be backed up, two students then pulled out Bibles and pointed to them as evidence for creation. Others challenged that claim.

“I think if you are in a science classroom — keyword being science — evolution is a scientific theory. I never looked at the Bible as scientific evidence,” said Keela Fountain.

“Creationism is not science,” agreed Brittany Green. “The belief in God is not scientific. I believe in God, but I believe in evolution. There’s proof for evolution.”

But Green said both should be included.

“If a teacher says evolution is real, they should say there are other ideas how we got here, like creationism,” Green said.

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