In a move likely to have an impact on the teaching in science classes across America, voters came down hard Nov. 8 on school board members in Dover, Pa., who backed a statement on intelligent design being read in biology class. Dover voters defeated eight Republicans and replaced them with Democrats who want the concept of intelligent design stripped from the science curriculum.
The election unfolded amid a landmark federal trial involving the Dover public schools and the question of whether intelligent design promotes the Bible’s view of creation. Eight Dover families sued, saying it violates the constitutional separation of church and state.
Dover’s school board adopted a policy in October 2004 that requires ninth-graders to hear a prepared statement about intelligent design before learning about evolution in biology class.
Eight of the nine school board members were up for election Tuesday. They were challenged by a slate of Democrats who argued that science class was not the appropriate forum for teaching intelligent design.
“My kids believe in God. I believe in God. But I don’t think it belongs in the science curriculum the way the school district is presenting it,” said Jill Reiter, 41, a bank teller who joined a group of high school students waving signs supporting the challengers Tuesday.
A spokesman for the winning slate of candidates has said they wouldn’t act hastily and would consider the outcome of the court case. The judge expects to rule by January; the new school board members will be sworn in Dec. 5.
School board member David Napierskie, who lost Tuesday, said the vote wasn’t just about ideology.
“Some people felt intelligent design shouldn’t be taught and others were concerned about having tax money spent on the lawsuit,” he said.
Intelligent design holds that the universe is so complex that it must have been created by some kind of higher force. The statement read to students says Charles Darwin’s theory is “not a fact” and has inexplicable “gaps.”
A similar controversy has erupted in Kansas, where the state Board of Education on Nov. 7 approved science standards for public schools that cast doubt on the theory of evolution. The 6-4 vote there was a victory for intelligent design advocates who helped draft the standards.
Dover school board