EDITORIAL: Intelligent Design shows flaws in education

The Dover Area School District in Harrisburg Pa. has made a hard stand on education that now places them in a legal battle over the right to teach intelligent design theory next to Evolution in science classrooms. Dover’s stand is commendable and is necessary for saving education from some of its pitfalls.

The core of the issue is not a church and state debate, nor a science and religion debate, but an education debate. An expert witness who has criticized the teaching of intelligent design recently stated under oath that faith and reason were not only compatible, but complimentary. If true, then he makes an implied a case for teaching faith and reason together as being complimentary disciplines.

The real problem behind this debate isn’t whether separation of church and state is being infringed upon, but defining what is necessary for a good education. Proponents of intelligent design would hold that its existence, if nothing else, challenges the incorrect notion that evolution is a settled theory and challenges students in their own critical thinking.

This debate results as a natural ramification of a stunted educational practice. If students are to only be taught palpable skills – sewing, woodworking, math, grammar – in schools, then the teaching of intelligent design is meaningless. However, if students are to learn critical thinking and gain some understanding as to the history of ideas that has lead us to a place where evolution and intelligent design is debated, then students need to be taught both. Currently our school systems suffer from a severe lack of philosophical training, which is necessary to understand the interconnectedness of the different educational discourses in school.

It is very important to remember the way a high school is set up is not the way reality is set up. In high school, one may have a room for “science” and a room for “English” and a room for “history,” but the fact is there exists a history of language and of science. The fact is, linguistics is a form of scientific study of language, including the understanding of how the mouth and throat form words. The fact is, science is just as dependent upon language as literature – the two just use language to different ends.

Because we’ve created a school where disciplines do not overlap, we’ve created our current debate. The opponents of intelligent design claim that it is not a purely scientific theory, because they see how its philosophical (and maybe theological) foundations influence it. However, two things must be done by these opponents: First they must understand their science is based upon a few philosophical assumptions (such as the assumption that when we observe something, we observe it as it really is). Second, because education has been segregated into different classrooms, thoughts such as intelligent design do not have a natural place to fit in. Science makes sense, as intelligent design is, at its core, a counterbalance to evolution, which already is taught in the science classroom (and probably unjustly so).

The best step is for a restructuring of education. However, in lieu of this drastic change, the incorporation of intelligent design is a small, but good, first step. The fight for quality education is not over, but the courts should not shut down Dover’s first, meager and important attempt.

The above editorial is the consensus opinion of the Daily Kent Stater editorial board.