Yes, this is America in 2013, where high school science teachers can and do instruct their students in the religious doctrines of late antiquity.
First, a graphic:
That is from a new story out today in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:
Yes, according to that newspaper’s survey, roughly one third (a little over 32%) of PA science teachers believe in creationism. (Note that the total adds up to over 100%, meaning some teachers marked more than one answer.)
Now on to parts of the story:
“Sometimes students honestly look me in the eye and ask what do I think? I tell them that I personally hold the Bible as the source of truth,” said Joe Sohmer, who teaches chemistry at the Altoona Area High School. The topic arises, he said, when he teaches radiocarbon dating, with that method often concluding archeological finds to be older than 10,000 years, which he says is the Bible-based age of Earth. “I tell them that I don’t think [radiocarbon dating] is as valid as the textbook says it is, noting other scientific problems with the dating method.
“Kids ask all kinds of personal questions and that’s one I don’t shy away from,” he said. “It doesn’t in any way disrupt the educational process. I’m entitled to my beliefs as much as the evolutionist is.”
Mr. Sohmer responded to a Pittsburgh Post-Gazette questionnaire distributed this spring to school teachers statewide, and he agreed to discuss his teaching philosophy. He said school officials are comfortable with his methods.
In this case the teacher is intentionally casting doubts over what nearly all physical scientists agree is solid science, that has been tested and retested time and again, for the purpose of preparing the students to accept what is known to be false: a Young Earth.
An Indiana County science teacher responded to the questionnaire more adamantly.
“Most parents and officials do not want evolution ‘crammed’ into their children. They have serious philosophical/religious issues with public schools dictating to their students how to interpret the origin of life,” stated the teacher, who did not respond to a request for an interview. His questionnaire says he teaches creationism for the equivalent of a class period, with five classes devoted to evolution.
“I have been questioned in the past about how I teach evolution principles, and [school officials] are satisfied with my approach,” he said. “My approach is to teach the textbook content of Darwinian evolution but modified to explain that data can be interpreted differently dependent upon one’s world view.”
Yet another teacher accused the Post-Gazette of conducting a witch hunt to identify and punish teachers who believe in creationism.
This gets to the heart of the problem. The creationists don’t want evolution “crammed” into their children. What is happening is clear - the parents are projecting onto their childrens’ school instruction their own fears that what they hold dear is indeed quite false. The creationists call the burden of knowledge that science gives a “cram”, a sense of being forced to accept something, which they refuse to do no matter how much evidence exists for the truth of an old earth and changing (evolving) life.
Recommend reading the entire Post-Gazette story as it discusses this issue of creationism with more detail than often found in media stories.
Finally, it should be noted that the teaching of creationism in schools is not limited to Pennsylvania and there is no reason to suggest that PA is any worse at this than many other states. In Texas some lawmakers even want to legally protect creationism in colleges. We all know about Bobby Jindal’s explicit endorsement of teaching creationism. Creationists also find creative ways of sneaking into public schools, under the guise of being expert speakers on fossils.
This is America, 2013.