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Wednesday, August 13, 2008

UC Can Deny Credit to Christian School Classes

When students apply to attend a University of California school, the courses they've taken in high school are evaluated to make sure they'll prepare the students for the college curriculum. Now—in a win for the scientific community—a federal judge has ruled that UC doesn't have to give college-prep credit to Christian high school classes that favor biblical creationism and divine providence over scientific explanations and historical data.
The problem started when UC decided to reject certain English, history, government, and science classes at two Southern California Christian high schools, saying these courses did not fulfill entrance requirements or prepare students for classes at UC. The Christian schools accused the university system of religious discrimination, claiming that it disqualifies courses that include "any instance of God's guidance of history, or any alternative ... to evolution." According to Judge James Otero, however, the university proved that it rejected the courses not because of their religious perspective but because they weren't academically up to snuff, failing to teach critical thinking and leaving out key concepts and ideas.
Among the courses the university rejected was a biology class that uses the textbook Biology: God's Living Creation. According to the National Center for Science Education, Barbara Sawrey, associate vice chancellor for undergraduate education at the University of California, San Diego and a lecturer in the chemistry and biochemistry department, evaluated the book and found it takes an "overall unscientific approach to the subject matter." Biologists Donald Kennedy (the former editor-in-chief of Science) and Francisco Ayala (a former Dominican priest), both expert witnesses for the defense, agreed. On the other side, biochemist and "intelligent design" promoter Michael Behe served as a witness for the plaintiff, but failed to prove that evolution and critical thinking are taught adequately in the science class.
For his part, UC Provost Rory Hume reaffirmed in a press release that the university "welcomes students of all religious faiths and recognizes that a diversity of educational backgrounds among our students, including religious education, enriches the UC community and the academic experience. As we have said all along, the question the University addresses in reviewing courses is not whether they have religious content, but whether they provide adequate instruction in the subject matter."
The decision has already been appealed. —Heather Wax