Creationism is a religious belief, not a scientific theory. It posits that a supernatural entity created the world and the organisms that inhabit it. Despite the fact that it is not based on science, proponents of creationism continually try to have it taught in science classes in public schools around the country. Although the battle to keep creationism out of the classroom goes back decades, it is still being fiercely fought today. Proponents of creationism, sometimes rebranded as “intelligent design”, are trying new tactics in order to get this idea into biology classes across the nation. They have even claimed that a ban on teaching intelligent design in Science classrooms is a violation of their First Amendment rights. See, Evolving Education by NCAC executive director Joan Bertin for a reaction to these claims.
There has been explosion of legislation on the topic of creationism vs evolution in Science classrooms. Many of these bills, although not explicitly excluding the teaching of evolution, allow teachers the option of leaving it out or teaching creationism instead.
These laws are particularly troubling when used to bully teachers. According to one source, 3 in 10 teachers already report pressure to present creationism or conversely downplay evolution. This form of compelled speech is unconstitutional and unsuitable for the educational environment. Not only would teaching creationism misinform students about evolution and its standing within the scientific community, but it would also undermine the scientific method itself. Students who are taught creationism as science may find themselves struggling with post-secondary scientific study.
Attempts to shoehorn intelligent design into a scientific context goes beyond classrooms. See: California Science Center is sued for canceling a film promoting intelligent design.
Undermining the theory of evolution in textbooks
The Texas State Board of Education is contemplating whether to have its science books include the “weaknesses” of evolution and similar attacks on the established science. These plans along with other potential ways to discredit evolution have been debated extensively within the Board. The debate is particularly important because of its potential impact outside of Texas. Science standards approved by the Texas Board of Education affect textbooks nationwide because publishers often write their textbooks to Texas standards. This is due to the enormous purchasing power of Texas, which buys more high school science books than any other state.
See also, 'Texas Conservatives Win Curriculum Change' for discussion of the Texas State Board of Education standards in other subject areas.
School board members and some parents from Dover, PA have been quoted in The New York Times as saying that "teaching intelligent design is a free speech issue."
For an interesting twist on the other side of the issue, see the articles below. They detail incidents in different states in which teachers have been punished for allegedly teaching Christian beliefs in science class and elsewhere in school.