Contentious Curricula: Afrocentrism and Creationism in American Public Schools

By Amy J. Binder | Go to book overview

Five
History of the Four Creationist Cases:
Louisiana State, California State, Vista,
California, and Kansas State

IN CHAPTERS 3 and 4, we saw the role that culture, politics, and organization played in the Afrocentric cases. We found that school systems proved resistant to lasting reforms in all three cases, with insurgent achievements ranging on a scale of practically zero (New York) to modest and largely symbolic (Atlanta and Washington, D.C.). Sensitized to these processes, we should now wonder if the same sort of factors figured into the creationist battles with school systems. If Afrocentrists used similar rhetoric across their three battles, but achieved varying rates of at least temporary success along the way, would the same be true of those fighting for creationism? How similar were the claims that each set of creationists advanced in these different school systems? How similar were their outcomes? In this chapter, I describe the four creationist challenges in detail, chronicling the process of struggle that took place in Louisiana state, California state, Vista, California, and Kansas state. As I did in chapter 3 for the Afrocentric cases, I will give a chronological history of these events and also draw attention to the major claims that the challengers made in them, as well as to the counter claims made by their adversaries.

What I have discovered in these cases is fascinating. First, studying the cases chronologically, I found that, over just the past twenty years, creationists have shifted their rhetoric to adapt to an educational and social environment that clearly perceives their central claims to be illegitimate. We know from chapter 2 that creationism has changed significantly from the 1920s to the 1980s. But the degree of change that has occurred in its rhetoric over the past two decades is equally astonishing. The three challenges that I studied which took place earlier in this twenty-year time period—those in Louisiana, Vista, and the state of California—all fit within the “literalist” tradition of the creationist movement, meaning that, at some level (although by different means), challengers in these locations sought to “balance” science curricula by adding the theory of divine creation to them. And in each of these cases, though by quite different processes, education professionals meted out to their creationist challengers ultimately similar fates. Although professional educators, as we

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