After watching from the sidelines as their schoolboard moved closer to adopting an Intelligent Design curriculum for their biology classes, the students of Darby, Montana’s only high school decided it was time for their voices to be heard. They would rather learn real science and they feel strongly about the matter. Approximately fifty students, one third of the student body, walked out of classes on Wednesday and held a protest in front of the school.
"Students really care what's going on in the school," said senior Aaron Lebowitz, who organized the protest. "(The school board) has been on their own track and haven't really listened to us."
Students were joined by one teacher and a handful of community members in their protest.
"The verbalization to the public has been from the school board but not the students and teachers," high school teacher Nathan Mentzer said.
Nearly 40 Darby High School students got permission from their parents to check out of school early and walked out expressing discontent of school board actions.
Trustees last month adopted a policy that calls for teachers to question evolution. The policy was brought to the board based on the idea to teach intelligent design theory - a biological origins theory that assumes there is a designer of the biological world but stops short of saying who or what that designer is.
Critics claim the theory is a guise to introduce creation science in the classroom.
The critics case seems to be well supported by the fact that school board’s legal defense is being provided by Allied Defense Fund, an organization founded in part by Campus Crusade for Christ and James Dobson’s Focus on the Family. Allied Defense Fund says its mission is to "keep the door open for the spread of the Gospel." I assume they mean the door to the school.
"Over the past few weeks, students have discussed the issue at length and formed opinions about intelligent design," Lebowitz said.
One sign read, "Creationism in a cheap tuxedo." And others called on people to go to church for creationism.
Lebowitz walked down the row of students asking individuals why they were there. Students strongly voiced concern about creationism being in science class and encouraged people to vote in the upcoming school board election.
Currently, students touch on evolution in life science class in seventh grade and then again in 10th-grade biology.
"But evolution is not shoved down our throats," he said. "I was pretty disturbed by the ignorance of our community about what we're really being taught."
Lebowitz carried a sign that read, "Strike against preaching pseudo science," and said he would have taken the risk of disciplinary action if his parents didn't let him check out of school.
Even when I was in high school at the height of the Viet Nam War and the Civil Rights Movement, I would not have believed it possible to turn out one third of the student body to demand quality education. As long as the public schools can turn out kids like this, the school system is doing just fine. Don’t believe the far right propaganda about our schools being failures that need to be replaced by voucher supported private (religious) schools. And as long as we have kids like Aaron Lebowitz and his cohort, civilization isn’t doomed quite yet.