A Christian research institute is seeking approval from the state of Texas to train science teachers through its online graduate degree program.
The Institute for Creation Research, which teaches from a literal biblical worldview, in Dallas scored the recommendation of a state advisory committee last Friday. It is now waiting for the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board to make a final decision next month on whether to issue a certificate of authority, which would give the institute two years to obtain accreditation.
While the institute's degree programs in California are recognized by the Transnational Association of Christian Colleges and Schools, state approval would allow the nonprofit to seek accreditation from a regional recognized agency, most likely the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.
Most students who attend enroll in the master's degree program in science education are teachers or aspiring teachers, according to Patricia Nason, who chairs the science education department.
While most of the institute's students end up teaching at private Christian schools, Nason shared with the American Statesman, some may choose to teach in public schools – which their degrees would qualify them to do.
However, that possibility has some pro-evolution groups like the California-based National Center for Science Education concerned, especially as the institute's request comes amid a debate on how evolution should be taught in Texas public schools.
"The danger is the miseducation of Texas students should these teachers end up in public schools," Eugenie Scott, the group's executive director, told the American Statesman.
He said the institute teaches "distorted science," reported the Dallas Morning News, and believes any student graduating from the master's program "would not be competent" to teach in science classes.
The institute's stated mission is to "research, educate and communicate Truth involving the study and promotion of scientific creationism, Biblical creationism, and related fields."
Despite the name the school carries and the shared views of the faculty, the issue at hand is whether the curriculum meets state standards of science education, according to Nason.
She said that the faculty uses "current literature in the sciences and also in science education," as reported by the American Statesman.
"The bottom line is we're teaching science and we're teaching teachers how to teach science," added Nason.