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'Biased' Biology Book Controversy Not Over

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By Nathan Black, Christian Post Reporter
May 12, 2010|6:10 pm

A Knoxville, Tenn., parent who recently lost a six-month battle to remove a "biased" biology textbook from schools has no plans of raising the white flag.

"I'm going right back into the well," Kurt Zimmermann told The Christian Post Wednesday. "I'm not letting them off the hook that easy."

Last week, the Knox County Board of Education voted 6-3 to keep the controversial book, Asking About Life, which describes creationism as "the biblical myth that the universe was created by the Judeo-Christian God in 7 days," in the classrooms.

"People are very upset," said Zimmermann, who has received dozens of calls from parents around the country.

In an effort to address some of the parents' concerns, the board also passed a motion on May 5 to direct Superintendent Jim McIntyre to send a letter to the publisher "suggesting that they consider less provocative wording in future editions." In the motion, the board further urges the superintendent to purchase the previously adopted honors biology textbook "as soon as fiscally possible."

But Zimmermann isn't satisfied.

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He already sent a letter to the publisher and did not receive a response. Moreover, the board's motion merely suggests and does not mandate the use of "less provocative" wording. And with the recent layoffs in Knoxville schools, they are not likely to buy a new book any time soon, he noted.

The board has simply "given it lip service" and hasn't done anything concrete at all, Zimmermann charged.

The issue was brought before the board in April after Zimmermann appealed the findings of a review committee that recommended the continued use of the biology textbook in question. Though the committee said an explanation of the word "myth" and why it was used in that context would be helpful, it concluded that the book was "appropriate" for an honors level biology course.

Zimmermann made clear to the board last week that "this has never been about avoiding various points of view or shielding students from other opinions," such as evolution. He, in fact, welcomes other points of view on the origin of life, he said.

Responding to accusations from teachers and the media in recent months that he had a hidden agenda, he stressed, "Nothing can be further from the truth than to insinuate that concerned parents acting at the request of students are attempting to stifle speech or are attempting to infiltrate educational institutions with religious dogma."

The textbook was brought to his attention by his Sunday school students who weren't happy with the language.

"Insulting an alternative point of view ... is bigotry ... and inexcusable when done with ... impressionable youth and no balanced counter response," he contended.

Zimmermann believes the school board played a "parliamentary game" by not considering the suggestions he made to resolve the issue – such as addenda or additional discussion material – because they were not listed in the original submission. The submission only contained a request to ban the book, which the board voted against.

The board also refused to discuss its policies because they were not included in the submission. Some of the policies with regard to religion state: "No religious belief or nonbelief shall be promoted by the school system or its employees, and none shall be belittled;" and "The Board affirms that it is essential that the teaching about religion – and not of a religion be conducted in a factual, objective and respectful manner."

Zimmermann plans to reissue an appeal, this time including all the relevant policies and detailing all the recommendations and options the board can consider.

"We're not going to exclude anything in the appeal," he said. "We're going to load that appeal so much that there's no possible way they can reject it."

Since the controversy, parents have also discovered other phrases in the biology textbook – such as "anti-evolutionists are fighters against science" – that they feel are biased.

"There's a pattern here with the two authors (Allan J. Tobin and Jennie Dusheck) with what their intent was – to demean Christianity," Zimmermann charged.

The Knoxville parents are hoping to at least get the board to recognize that the material in question is demeaning and to agree with the need to cover "both sides" on the origin of life.

Christian Post reporter Lillian Kwon in Washington, D.C., contributed to this article.

 

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