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The “Teach the Controversy” Controversy

This article appears in the legal journal University of St. Thomas Journal of Law & Public Policy Vol. IV(1):326-353 (Fall, 2009), published by University of St. Thomas School of Law.

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In 2000, my coauthors and I published an article proposing that public schools would violate no constitutional prohibition (and would improve science education) by permitting biology teachers to “teach the controversy” concerning biological evolution. This proposal generated substantial academic commentary. As this article details, members of the United States Congress and education officials in a few states have expressed some support for the idea. However, most academic commentators have accused the authors of substituting a renamed but substantially equivalent form of ―creationism‖ in an attempt to circumvent existing law. Others have accused the proponents of hijacking perfectly respectable concepts—like academic freedom or viewpoint neutrality—for disreputable purposes, such as advancing religion. This article will recount the reaction to the proposal to “teach the controversy” and will respond to the primary arguments raised against it.

Full PDF available here.

David K. DeWolf

Senior Fellow, Center for Science and Culture
David K. DeWolf is a Professor of Law at Gonzaga School of Law in Spokane, Washington and a Senior Fellow at Discovery Institute's Center for Science and Culture. A graduate of Stanford University and Yale Law School, Professor DeWolf has clerked for the Honorable Stephen Bistline of the Idaho Supreme Court. He has written a briefing book for public school administrators, Teaching the Controversy: Darwinism, Design and the Public School Curriculum.