Dist. 116 candidates talk creationism's role in science classes
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For decades, school officials, lawmakers and activists across the country have argued about whether creationism should be taught in public-school classrooms.
The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled against the practice, saying teaching creationism as science favors one religion over others and violates the First Amendment.
The issue has surfaced in Lake County. Last week, a Libertyville High School teacher was told to stop referencing creationism in his lessons after a student's concerns were made public. All science teachers in Libertyville-Vernon Hills Area High School District 128 were given a similar warning.
The Daily Herald has asked suburban school-board candidates about the issue. In some cases, the answers have generated controversy.
Most recently, four of the candidates running for the Round Lake Unit District 116 board were asked to share their stances on the issue during a discussion at the Daily Herald's Lake County office.
Three of the candidates favored teaching creationism in science class. A fourth candidate questioned if a science classroom was the appropriate location for a discussion about creationism.
Five candidates are seeking four, 4-year terms on the board. In a separate race, one candidate is running for a 2-year term.
The candidates who participated in the discussion — Lori Weiss Berdenis, Nanci Radford, Annette Negrete McGinley, and Tammie Hanna — are all incumbents running for the 4-year terms.
A challenger, Mellody Gomez, did not participate in the discussion. When asked via e-mail about creationism's role in science class, she avoided the question.
The creationism vs. evolution debate has not been an issue for the District 116 school board. Because the issue has been raised elsewhere in the area, the candidates were asked about the topic.
Hanna was among those who said creationism should be taught in science class. She acknowledged her answer would be controversial.
"I've been a churchgoer my whole life, I grew up Catholic and I attend a Baptist church now. I'd be hypocritical if I said no," she said.
Weiss Berdenis said she hasn't spent much time thinking about the issue. She said it's important to expose the children "to as much information as possible."
"And then let the student make their own choice, once they have as much information as they've gathered," Weiss Berdenis said.
As a parent, Radford said she wouldn't object to creationism being taught as a theory "some people believe" but not as a religion.
But instruction about that theory doesn't necessarily belong in a science class, she said.
"Leave it up to the experts as to where that should fit into the curriculum," she said, referring to teachers and administrators.
Negrete McGinley said she didn't have a problem with creationism being taught alongside evolution in science class.
"They're all theories of how man came to be," she said.
If creationism is added to the curriculum, parents should be made aware of how the subject will be taught, Negrete McGinley said.
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