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Is One Texas Charter Network Teaching Creationism?

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This post, written by Liana Heiten, originally appeared on Curriculum Matters

An investigative piece in Slate claims that a Texas charter school network with 65 campuses is teaching creationism and other unconstitutional, religiously driven lessons.

The Responsive Education Solutions charter system, based in Lewisville, Texas, serves 17,0000 students and, like all charters, is publicly funded. Zack Kopplin, a 20-year-old activist and writer, argues that despite its "secular veneer," the system "has been connected from its inception to the creationist movement and to far-right fundamentalists who seek to undermine the separation of church and state."

He cites a curriculum that states there is "uncertainty" in the fossil record and that evolution is an "unproved theory" disputed by scientists. A biology workbook used there, he notes, opens with the phrase, "In the beginning, God created the Heavens and the Earth."

A vice president of academic affairs for the charters told Kopplin the curriculum "teaches evolution, noting, but not exploring, the existence of competing theories."

Education Week Teacher opinion blogger Anthony Cody interviewed Kopplin last year on his efforts to fight public funds, including vouchers, going to schools that teach creationism. In that Q&A, Kopplin told Cody, "Creationism is not science, and doesn't belong in a public school science classroom. Evolution is supported by overwhelming evidence."

Texas has long been a battleground for arguments concerning the limits of church and state. The state board of education approves textbooks for adoption—a contentious process—but current law says districts can also choose outside of those that have been approved. The Texas science standards indicate students need to know "evolutionary theory is a scientific explanation for the unity and diversity of life."

For Kopplin, the curriculum at Responsive Ed is not just a problem for students, it's "an internal threat to the charter movement." He reasons that if Responsive Ed is allowed to continue with its religious agenda, the entire charter sector will be tainted. 

I'll be interested to see whether the piece, which had 1,500 comments within a half-day of being published, prompts more than short-lived online dialogue. 

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