A "Living Word driven" district

So it wasn’t just biology that the Dover board had in their sights. Social studies was Public Enemy Number Two!

This morning’s proceedings at CR2 (courtroom 2) featured two Dover Area School District employees. Assistant Superintendent Michael Baksa continued his testimony, and later the defense called biology teacher Robert Linker to the stand.

Baksa talked about his involvement in the curriculum change. After the board passed the curriculum change in October 2004, Baksa received an e-mail from social studies teacher Brad Neal in which Mr. Neal sarcastically asked if the school was changing from a “standards-driven district” to a “Living Word driven” district and went on to speculate that his teaching of judicial history might be in jeopardy. Baksa responded, “Be careful what you wish for,” and referred to a book called The Myth of Separation by David Barton that Baksa had received from Superintendent Richard Nilsen, which Nilsen had received from board member Alan Bonsell. The book argues against separation of church and state and calls separation “absurd”.

Baksa also discussed the drafting of the statement. In the first paragraph, the teachers had requested to include, “Darwin’s theory of evolution continues to be the dominant scientific explanation of the origin of species.” This portion was eliminated by the board. The teachers also recommended the following in the second paragraph: “Because Darwin’s theory is a theory, there is a significant amount of evidence that supports the theory, although it is still being tested as new evidence is discovered.” Baksa eliminated the “significant amount of evidence” portion of the above because he felt that the board would not want it in the statement.

Mr. Linker testified about his involvement in the curriculum change. He noted that after he and other teachers started meeting with administrators on the topic in the fall of 2003, both he and bio teacher Jen Miller stopped using certain tools to teach evolution, including Discovery Channel videos and an interactive timeline on the development of species.

Proceedings continue this afternoon.

Submitted by Andy Hoover, community education organizer, ACLU of PA

8 thoughts on “A "Living Word driven" district

  1. Was Baksa testimony about the Neal e-mail direct or cross? (I’d think cross, but it’d be nice to know for sure…)

  2. Basra’s reply to Neal’s comment revealed his intent pretty clearly. “The Myth of Separation of Church and State” is another Wedge Document in itself. What is discouraging is that Democracy works – the ignorant masses have succeeded.

    “Democracy is a pathetic belief in the collective wisdom of individual ignorance.”
    H. L. Mencken

    Op Cit: http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/authors/h/h_l_mencken.html

  3. I very much agree with the “intent” issue. It’s a real smoking gun and not at all surprising that it originated with Bonsell. I suspect that finding the books is a bit more of an intellectual exercise than would occur to Buckingham (he really doesn’t come across as the sharpest knife in the drawer).

    I just can’t imagine the defense using that exchange as part of the testimony they’d elicit. Not unless they figure the judge to be either a blithering idiot (and his remarks show that he isn’t) or a “fellow traveller” on these topics–and that’s a tougher call.

    It’s pretty clear that Bonsell and Buckingham have an agenda and Bonsell is the brains part of it.

    While on these subjects… What happens if there is a major turnover in the board next week and the new board promptly (December, it’d have to be) rescinds the ID policy? Does the case become moot, or does it still get decided even if only to determine who pays the plaintif’s lawyers? Obviosuly, those of us who want the plaintifs to win decisively would want the case to nail this particular coffin firmly shut…

    In line with that, assuming no policy change, would the defense appeal if they think they can? The Discovery Institute probably wouldn’t want that as disctict courts only rarely create precendents and they wouldn’t want to be frozen out of trying again. It is far less clear that Thomas More wouldn’t want an appeal. Completely aside from attempting to develop a successful record in their cases, they appear to have a more personal stake in this. They might also be hoping that if it got to the US Supreme Court, recent (and pending) changes in the make-up of the court would work in their favor.

    Equally obviosuly, Judge Jones will do his level best to make sure that there are no grounds to appeal whatever deciscion he crafts.

  4. I am an ACLU member and have read all the trial transcripts and related documents. We have fought the good fight and there is no doubt we will prevail. When this is over however, I wish all of us would take the time to reflect on the motives and motivations of people like Alan Bonsell and Bill Buckingham. Having witnessed their testimonies, we would like to believe they are hyppocrites. But to me this characterization is unsatisfactory. I would rather think that these are individuals posessed of chronic, human failings, yet also of strong and abiding faith. To me they are victems, first of their own delusion of infallibility. This is an infliction from which we all suffer. But more importantly they are victems of a machine which starts with merely odd eccentrics like Michael Behe and ends with cynical manipulators like Jack Abramoff and Ralph Reid. I honestly think we of the ACLU need to reach out to the Alan Bonsells and Bill Buckinghams of this world. We need to make a better effort to understand and include them. They need to know we are fighting for THEIR religious freedoms. How we go about this is an open question. But the answer will not ever come from creating a divide between them and us.

  5. I’m the one that made the long analysis… I have no doubt of Bonsell’s and Buckingham’s sincerity and belief. I think they’re wrong and misguided–but they are certainly sincere. (They aren’t terribly good at conspiring, fortunately, as you can see in the way that Pandas was donated.)

    Many years ago, I used to read and post on talk.origins. What becomes very quickly apparent is that very dedicated and sincere people become convinced that, if any even minor part of the Bible–which they believe very firmly to be revelaed word of God–is shown to be anything other than literal truth, then the entire book is falsified.

    It’s clear that this just isn’t so. Even the most ardent “literalist” interprets the Bible in various ways, even if all they do is use translations from the original languages. The key element is how much interpretation is done and how far it extends. This is why, generally speaking, mainstream Christians and especially mainstream theologians have no problem with deep time and evolution.

    The Bonsells and Buckinghams of the world feel threatened, and are reacting to what they see as a threat to their beliefs in understandable ways.

  6. What’s the fuss? New opportunities loom for this BRAVE NEW WORLD:

    If teachers teach Intelligent Design, they can now be reclassified as clergy, right?

    Schools and teachers now become members of the clergy and are therefore able to avoid taxes, no? (I’m not American, just wondering)

    Or, you can go the opposite route and start taxing churches and clergy for teaching science and taking jobs away from accredited teachers.

    Let’s level all playing fields–and let’s all play the same game at least.

    Let all the intelligent designers defend their creations on equal terms.

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