Candidates: Teach creationism in science classes

Two candidates for the Fremont School District 79 board — including the panel’s current president — believe creationism should be taught alongside evolution in science classes.

The revelations were made Monday morning during candidate interviews at the Daily Herald’s Lake County office.

“I think from a scientific standpoint it can be given as a viewpoint,” board President Sandra Bickley said in the interview. “(It’s) another theory to consider.”

Fellow candidate Kim Hansen had a similar take on the controversial topic.

“It should be presented in a very broad type of curriculum or structure,” said Hansen, a first-time candidate.

Bickley and Hansen were the only candidates who sat with a reporter and a representative of the Daily Herald editorial board for in-person interviews Monday. Two additional candidates, incumbent Teri Herchenbach and challenger Edward Pieklo, were unavailable and did not attend the session.

The four candidates are running for three seats with 4-year terms. District 79 includes much of Mundelein and some surrounding communities.

Creationism is the theory that God created the universe and humankind, typically as described in the biblical book of Genesis. Evolution is the scientific theory that man and other life-forms evolved over the millennia.

Opponents of the public-school teaching of creationism say the Supreme Court has ruled the theory doesn’t belong in science classes.

“The courts have dealt with these issues and found that teaching one’s religious beliefs as science is not permissible,” said Ed Yohnka, spokesman for the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois.

Other groups disagree.

“We believe in parity,” said David Smith, executive director of the Carol Stream-based Illinois Family Institute. “Don’t just select one side of an argument. Present both sides.”

Bickley and Hansen were asked about creationism’s potential role in the school district’s curriculum toward the end of Monday’s candidate interviews.

Bickley called creationism “one set of theory” and thought it should be taught in science classes as part of a unit, although not necessarily promoted.

“It’s something out there,” she said. “I don’t think it’s something that should be ignored.”

Hansen also thought creationism belonged on public-school curriculums.

“There is no right or wrong” when it comes to people’s beliefs, she said.

Hansen suggested the topic be discussed at a community forum. Bickley said she intends to bring the topic to the full board and thought it could be the subject of a survey.

“I think it’s a great topic,” Bickley said.

Reached by telephone afterward, Herchenbach said she did not believe creationism should be taught alongside evolution in school science classes.

She suggested creationism could be mentioned as “a side note” in classes as a way to reflect that some people have a different view of how life came to exist.

Herchenbach called the subject “a huge topic” and said she likely would defer to administrators and teachers if the debate reached the school board.

Pieklo could not be reached for comment.