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Critics charge amendment will open door to the teaching of creationism

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By Matthew Stolle

mstolle@postbulletin.com

ST. PAUL -- The state House passed an amendment to the science and social studies standards Thursday that critics said would open the door to the teaching of creationism in the state's public classrooms.

"This is religion masquerading as science," said Rep. Ron Latz, a DFLer from Minneapolis. "That is why this teaching belongs not in the classroom, but in our homes, our churches and synagogue and, perhaps, in comparative religions or philosophy class.

But advocates to the amendment said its purpose was to foster a spirit of inquiry. Rep. Jeff Anderson, a Republican from Austin and a social studies teacher, defended the amendment as sound teaching practice.

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"As a teacher, one of the things that I take as most important in the classroom is that you do show flaws in theories and that you do let students have the opportunity to voice their personal feelings on a theory," Anderson said.

The amendment agreed to by the House said students will be able to explain how new technology and evidence "can challenge portions or entire accepted theories and models, including, but not limited to, cell theory, theory of evolution and germ theory of disease."

But Latz said that the cell theory and germ theory mentions were "red herrings," and that the real intent of the amendment was to create a wedge for the introduction of creationism in the classroom. He said that when proponents are pressed on the issue, they eventually admit that a discussion of God as the origin of species must be made in the public schools.

"I think you're seeing black helicopters here or something," said Rep. Barb Sykora, a Republican from Excelsior, in response. She also said that she accepted the theory of evolution, as did her church, and disavowed any intention to insinuate creationism in the public schools.

The amendment was introduced by Rep. Mary Ellen Otremba, a DFLer from Long Prairie. Similar language existed in the history of science portion of the standards. The amendment placed it in the life science section. The amendment passed 86-45, with Republicans providing most of the support.

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