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Indiana state Sen. Dennis Kruse
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Indiana state Sen. Dennis Kruse

Politically incorrect but creative thinking in the classroom

Education

Indiana state Sen. Dennis Kruse doesn’t worry much about what’s politically correct. He saw the easy-divorce problem hurting children and families and recommended a controversial covenant marriage option to the Indiana General Assembly. The idea provoked some healthy debate over whether and how government can strengthen families through divorce law. But most years his proposal got stuck in committee. Now he’s come up with some more politically incorrect thinking. He proposes to allow students to ask science teachers about evidence for the theory of evolution.

His assumption: Teachers sometimes go beyond scientific evidence to speculation about matters of faith and philosophy, especially with respect to origins of the universe. His proposal might prompt a discussion about the limits of science.

Describing himself as an ardent participant in scientific endeavors, Dr. Greg Enas of Indianapolis is a statistician who retired from Eli Lilly after almost 30 years of work with other scientists and researchers. He also understands and embraces the biblical faith of many of the originators of the scientific method. Paradoxically he has felt the derisive stings of some scientists with respect to the alleged backwardness of a Christian faith based on the Bible. Enas doesn’t think Kruse’s legislation is necessary, that students already are free to raise questions about any subject matter and ought to do so as a matter of course. But he has some sympathy for the thinking behind the bill.

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“Genesis teaches who created the universe and the ultimate purpose of nature, but not how nature functions,” he said. “God reveals Himself through nature and it’s our obligation to discover how it’s all put together. It’s our calling as scientists to investigate how God’s universe works.”

But that research, Enas is quick to add, has never proven the Bible’s creation account to be false. Science and the Bible speak to different aspects of the story of the universe.

“Scientists have to live by faith, just as non-scientists,” he said. “Some scientists believe while other scientists reject a sense of transcendence or special revelation, declaring that they cannot know. But that rejection is a matter of faith on their part, an a priori assumption, not a scientifically verifiable fact.”

Kruse may wind up expanding his legislation to encourage students to ask questions on any topic in school. He wants students to have a sense of academic freedom to ask for the thinking behind the teaching they are receiving in the classroom. He’s been an influential advocate of Indiana education reform legislation that has opened the door to more charter schools in the state and given low-income parents a state voucher to send their children to private schools. Another reform has restricted teacher contracts to pay and benefits, giving administration more authority over teacher performance.

“In our new teacher evaluations,” Kruse noted, “one of the purposes is to get the students engaged more in the educational process.”

A creative teacher might make good use of the law.

Students get most engaged in writing when they become passionate about a topic. Find something important to them, have them read a critique of it and develop a persuasive response.

Kruse’s legislation might prompt some inquiring students to do more research and writing than normal, with more passion. It also could help teachers show students some of the boundaries in matters of faith and science.

Russ Pulliam
Russ Pulliam

Russ is a columnist for The Indianapolis Star, the director of the Pulliam Fellowship, and a member of God's World Publications' board of directors.

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