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A couple of bad ideas: Legislature shouldn’t design curriculum

Original Article
It’s only November, but a couple of bad legislative proposals are already knocking around the Statehouse.

Take, for instance, an idea floating among Republican members of the House to require the teaching of intelligent design alongside evolution in public schools.

Now, Hoosiers could no doubt argue the merits and demerits of both ID and evolution for hours, if not days, on end. It’s a passionate subject that has as much to do with philosophy, faith and worldviews as it does science.

But let’s not get distracted by that debate for the moment. A broader question, one raised by Gov. Mitch Daniels on Thursday, has to be answered first: Should the state legislature dictate specific topics to be discussed in schools across Indiana? Or is that authority better left to professional educators and school boards?

We would vote to leave the decision-making in the hands of local boards and administrators as often as possible. Edicts from the General Assembly concerning what to teach in classrooms — whether they have to do with intelligent design or algebra — should be rare.

It’s also worth noting that the Discovery Institute, a leading proponent of intelligent design, does not advocate the required teaching of ID in schools. The institute’s leaders, in contrast, argue that evolution should be taught as “a scientific theory that is open to critical scrutiny.” It should be OK, in other words, for students and teachers to ask questions about whether evolutionary theory can explain everything concerning the origin and development of life on Earth.

That’s a reasonable approach, but it’s not one the General Assembly needs to spend time debating.