This doesn't surprise me in the least. These are my colleagues, and I work with them every day, after all. Today, I asked another colleague to circulate a position statement for my fellow science teachers this morning during state testing (my colleague is a 'rover' who doesn't have a class of his own to cover).
Here is the statement:
FROM: Bullard Science Teachers
TO: The Community
On three successive evenings, beginning at 7:00 PM, (Wednesday through Friday), the Bullard Cafeteria will host a series of presentations by Don Patton, a Young Earth Creationist who will attempt to present ‘evidence’ for a young* Earth, and against the fossil record, the geological time scale, radioactive dating and other items which are an accepted part of the California State Science Standards.
We want to make sure that members of the Bullard community know the following:
- The Science Department was not consulted, nor do the undersigned approve of this event, which runs contrary to what we are supposed to teach and which could lead to the false impression that science teachers who teach the state standards are engaged in deception.
- The content of Patton’s presentation would violate the Establishment Clause if it was presented in a classroom to students during normal school hours, or if it was advertised to students on campus. For this reason alone, no faculty member within a classroom setting can endorse the presentation, or recommend that students attend.
- Without regard for that, however, the group in question has followed district policy in arranging to use our facilities, and they have every right under the law to do so. We encourage those who attend to exercise their right to free speech, and to respect the rights of others. Civility in public debate is a core value that complements the critical thinking skills needed to evaluate claims.
* = typically, 10,000 years or less
Every member of the science faculty signed. A copy of this signed statement will be made available to those who attend Don Patton's talks at Bullard. This says nothing one way or another about the merit of his claims, but it says volumes about the circumstances under which these presentations take place. Our department is united. I am grateful to have such colleagues.
I read a paraphrase of the above statement during the first Q and A of Don Patton's first talk at Bullard. To my astonishment, an obviously-aroused Patton vigorously objected to the idea that his presentations violated the Establishment Clause. I'm afraid I was so startled by this turn that I even raised my voice to object. I was concerned that Patton might even attempt to argue that I or my other colleagues at Bullard could do the same thing and what litigation-inviting impression that might leave in the minds of the local civil libertarian.Anyway, Patton launched into a Power Point-aided defense of his interpretation of the law, which hung its hat heavily on minority opinions by Justices Scalia and Renquist in the 1987 Louisiana case (Edwards vs. Aguilard) that ruled that a state law proscribing 'equal time' for evolution and 'creation science' was a violation of the Establishment Clause. Apparently, in addition to being an alternative geologist, Patton is also an alternative legal theorist. I would describe Patton's take on the law to be earnest, but not particularly sound. In conversations after the talk, he averred he had given similar talks in public school classrooms without complaint and I responded ironically that he was braver man than I was.
Why? Because he advertised his lecture series as providing evidence for a Creator, and describes what he is presenting as 'creation science', but then (so far) plays coy about the Creator's identity within the actual presentation. He may think he's on the right side of the law, but the fact is, he's not. Playing 'bait-and-switch' at the school site doesn't eliminate the religious nature of his speech, as the discovery phase of the recent Kitzmiller vs. Dover decision shows. I wouldn't touch his arguments in an actual public school classroom with a fishing pole, even if I was a young-earther, because I'm pretty sure some savvy Bullard kid would tell their parents that teacher ain't teachin'....he's preachin' !