Zack Kopplin, a student at Rice University and a science education advocate, learned about the Independent Lens film The Revisionaries and contacted us. Kopplin, a winner of the Hugh M. Hefner First Amendment Award in Education, has done some intensive research with MSNBC that reveals the extent of public school money going to fund education at private schools that teach creationism in science classes.
Because the The Revisionaries will be available online for several days after last night’s broadcast, we thought we’d continue the conversation by asking him to do a guest post about the findings.
After reading his piece, let us know what you think — whether you’re happy about this form of dissemination of creationist beliefs, or appalled by it, or somewhere in between.
Guest Post by Zack Kopplin
School voucher programs allow parents to choose to send their children to private and parochial schools, rather than public schools. The state uses the money that would have funded their public schools to pay student’s tuition. Some parents make their choices between schools based on the sports teams or the quality of school facilities and quality of education. Others choose based on religion, and some of these religious schools teach creationism.
School voucher programs are set up in different ways to allow several different groups of students to have school choice. Some programs give vouchers to students in schools considered failing, others to students with disabilities, and others to students from low-income families.
Working with MSNBC’s Melissa Harris Perry show, I researched the curriculum of hundreds of voucher schools. We documented over 300 voucher schools, in nine states and the District of Columbia, which are receiving public money, and are teaching creationism in their science classes. The program where we discovered the most creationist voucher schools was in Florida, where we discovered 164 schools.
This is a list of some of the schools in these programs:
• Champion Preparatory Academy, in Apopka, Florida, uses the creationist Apologia curriculum. I own a copy of Apologia’s Exploring Creation with Biology, 2nd Edition, which says “There are two big problems with the idea that dinosaurs lived long before human beings. First, there is no reason to believe in the idea that the Earth is really ancient… Second, archaeologists have found examples of ancient artwork that contain incredibly accurate drawings of dinosaurs” (Wile and Durnell 506, 507).
• Cornerstone Preparatory Academy, in Acworth, Georgia, says in its school catalog that Life Science, “will begin by discussing the relationship of science to the Word of God and by examining the attributes of life, the classification systems, cells, and biblical creation.”
• The student handbook of Faith Academy, in Gonzalez, Louisiana, says students must “defend creationism through evidence presented by the Bible verses [sic] traditional scientific theory.”
• Harrison Christian School, in Harrison, Ohio, says, “We believe all things in the universe were created by God in six literal days of the creation week (Genesis 1:1-2:3, Exodus 20:8-11) and that the biblical record of primeval earth history in Genesis 1-11 is fully historical.”
• Carter Christian, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, “abides by the A Beka curriculum” which is a creationist curriculum.
• Dupont Park Adventist School, in the District of Columbia, and has two schools receiving voucher students, says that in science classes, students will “explore and interpret evidences for the Genesis Flood and the Ice Age,” and “distinguish between the basic ideas of and evidence for naturalistic evolution and special creation.”
• Rocky Bayou Christian School, in Niceville, Florida, says in its section on educational philosophy, “Man is presumed to be an evolutionary being shaped by matter, energy, and chance…God commands His people not to teach their children the way of the heathen.”
While we already discovered 300 voucher schools teaching creationism, likely hundreds more creationist voucher schools exist. Many schools in these voucher programs either don’t have websites or don’t advertise teaching creationism, but are very similar to the schools we’ve already discovered teaching creationism. Also two states, Arizona and Mississippi, have voucher programs, but don’t release lists of participating schools. We do know that every school in Arizona is eligible for Arizona’s program, and we documented creationist schools in Arizona who could be part of this program.
These voucher programs are very controversial and some have been challenged. Louisiana’s school voucher program was declared unconstitutional, but is still continuing during an appeal to the Louisiana Supreme Court. The program in Colorado is currently under an injunction. On the other side, the US Supreme Court upheld a voucher program in Ohio during Zelman v. Simmons-Harris.