Bill Nye is taken to task for implying that Common Core opponents are evolution deniers in disguise.
The debate over Common Core State Standards (CCSS) has been loud and long and is far from over. The same can be said of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), which some have nicknamed the “Common Core Science Standards.” (As we explain below, CCSS and NGSS are not the same thing.)
Bill Nye favors Common Core standards, expanded to include science, especially evolutionary science. And, according to Reason.com journalist Robby Soave, Nye “thinks those who disagree with him are—almost by definition—anti-science.” Nye indicates in his BigThink online video “Bill Nye: Could Common Core be the antidote for Creationist teachers” that most “opponents are just evolution deniers in disguise”:
If I were king of the forest, we would have math in the core curriculum. Science would be in the core curriculum. . . .
My perception of what people don’t like about Core curricula, is it forces them to learn standard stuff when they could be teaching their kids things that are inconsistent with what we know about science. I’m talking about people that want to teach Creationism instead of biology and that’s just bad. . . .
We all have to learn the alphabet. . . . I’m sorry, but if we’re going to have a successful society, it’s not an arbitrary arrangement of letters. You’ve gotta learn it. Sorry. In the same way, if you’re asking me, everybody’s got to learn a little bit of physics, chemistry, mathematics, and you’ve got to learn some evolution. You’ve got to learn some biology.
I mean the idea is obvious, right? You have certain minima that everybody’s gotta meet. What? Everybody’s gotta learn the alphabet; everybody’s got to learn to read. . . .
Everybody’s got to learn to read English. Everybody’s got to learn math. Everybody’s got to learn some algebra. Everybody’s got to learn some biology including evolution. What’s not to love? But I know there are people opposed to that.1
While the Common Core State Standards have been highly controversial, they technically apply only to the teaching of English language arts and mathematics, neither mandating the teaching of evolution nor even prohibiting teachers from mentioning creation science, unless modified by the individual state legislatures considering them. Therefore, we at Answers in Genesis have refrained from taking sides in that debate. This fact is ironic in light of Bill Nye’s remarks accusing Common Core opponents of being closet creationists.2
Nye’s suggestion that CCSS is largely a creationist issue is naïve.
That the Common Core State Standards are in many cases fellow travelers with the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS)—on which we have definitely commented quite critically—has been apparent. They were designed by many of the same people. Various educational associations and state governments have developed materials to help integrate the two and implement them together. The NGSS—which are heavily weighed down with evolutionary dogma—are written with sections demonstrating how they are fully integrated with the Common Core State Standards. But CCSS and NGSS are not the same thing. Since people from all walks of life in every state have expressed very strong opinions both favoring and opposing Common Core State Standards for a variety of generally well-articulated reasons, Nye’s suggestion that CCSS is largely a creationist issue is naïve.3
Equally naïve is Nye’s view that being educated to believe in evolution is equivalent to math and literacy and learning the alphabet. In fact, Nye equates “evolution” with biology. Nye as usual fails to distinguish between observational and historical origins science.
Biology is the study of living things, and it involves application of the scientific method to make observations and conduct controlled experiments. Though we never suggest that public school teachers should be required to teach creation science, they should be encouraged to teach students critical thinking skills and have the academic freedom to explore controversial positions—like evolution—with their students. Nothing in experimental, observational biology is inconsistent with biblical creation scientists’ beliefs. In fact, as we discussed in “Can Bible-Based Predictions Lead to Scientific Discoveries?,” “Does the Creation Model Make Predictions? Absolutely!,” and “Evolution and Medicine,” a biblical worldview can lead scientists to make helpful predictions, to draw valid conclusions, and to avoid various dangerously incorrect ones.
Creation science is completely consistent with what we know about science.
Evolutionary claims go beyond that which can be observed and make claims that the laws of nature once operated differently, resulting in the evolution of life from inanimate matter through natural processes and the acquisition of the information to evolve into new and more complex organisms. To teach students to believe in evolution and to teach them, as Nye claims, that creationism is “inconsistent with what we know about science” is simply wrong. Creation science is completely consistent with what we know about science, just not with what evolutionists choose to believe about our unobservable, untestable past.
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Many fear that teachers, faced with federally mandated guidelines and achievement standards on which their jobs depend, may just “teach for the tests” and cease to inspire or to teach that which is creative and artistic. Some say that holding students to a different set of standards does nothing to help them learn, pointing out that no studies have shown that imposing a high bar is an effective remedy for the public school system’s woes. Some believe that the money spent on testing and standardization technology would be better spent to improve education in more individualized ways. On the flip side, however, others believe that the standards will be used to equip teachers with the tools to teach better and that high standards will motivate teachers to motivate their students to achieve.
The United States has a long tradition of local control over education. The local school board, chosen by the parents of the children to be educated, has historically been the vehicle by which education could, in the view of many citizens of our democratic republic, best be individualized to meet the needs of the students and families in each district. While far from perfect and subject to many guidelines and strings-attached-money restricting its ability to individualize to meet those educational needs, this local control has historically been the heart of the American education system. Indeed, so long as implementation of high standards—wherever they come from—can be individualized at the local level to meet the needs of students, and so long as teachers are ensured the academic freedom to truly teach and not just indoctrinate, it would seem foolish to argue against high educational standards.
History has shown that today’s federal suggestions and incentives—such as those linked to Common Core State Standards in the Obama administration’s Race to the Top program—are often tomorrow’s guidelines and mandates. Many question the wisdom of “tomorrow’s” federally mandated national curriculum that “today’s” voluntary standards presage. Others consider this a constitutional issue and believe that under the 10th Amendment states and local government should retain control of what is taught in schools, noting that if the voluntary state standards of today become tomorrow’s federal laws, local control of schools will disappear forever. This concern, for many well-informed people, is at the heart of this controversy.