Each controversy over the teaching of evolution is unique. However, these basic principles have proven to be valuable for opposing anti-evolutionism whether it occurs at a local school or in national discussions.
Basic Principles for Taking Action
- Don't go it alone; coalitions are powerful, especially if parents, clergy, scientists, and teachers work together.
- Local people acting locally have the most impact.
- Work behind the scenes whenever possible. Conflicts are more easily resolved when people are not publicly cornered. (This is especially true for school administrators.) You can always escalate by going public if necessary.
- Know your stuff before speaking out to the public or the media. Become familiar with the common anti-evolution arguments and find out what kind of situation you are facing.
- Recognize that some members of the public fear that evolutionary theory leads to atheism. Treat this concern with respect, while pointing out the broad range of religious viewpoints on evolution.
- Resist the temptation to debate creationists on their terms. Evolution education supporters almost always lose these debates in terms of effect and public perception. Participating in debates often causes more harm than good. Never debate the validity of evolution as science.
- Keep all notes and records of public meetings and events in case there is a lawsuit; tape record public meetings whenever possible.
Flashpoints for Anti-Evolutionism
Anti-evolution activity often arises in connection with these situations:
- Local school board elections
- Science textbook adoptions at the local or state levels
- Review of state science standards
Sometimes you can head-off anti-evolution activity completely by taking action in advance. The web site of the local school board can reveal agenda items that attract the attention of creationists, such as curriculum review or textbook adoption. Look for polices on "origins" or "controversial topics," which often indicate that anti-evolution activity is underway. Other common indicators of anti-evolutionism are:
- A student comes home and tells his parents that a teacher is asking students to compare "different theories of origin"
- A teacher explains that he or she doesn't "believe in evolution," and that they are teaching creationism in their class, or skipping mandatory parts of the curriculum that deal with evolution.
- A teacher learns that another teacher is teaching creationism or skipping evolution, or expressing support for intelligent design
- A letter to the editor in a local paper reveals creationist sympathies of a teacher, school board member, or administrator