Oklahoma City Community College professor not returning after evolution fuss

Student's allegations about creationism slant in biology class incorrect, former professor says
BY TRICIA PEMBERTON Modified: August 8, 2010 at 12:43 am •  Published: August 8, 2010
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After 17 years as an adjunct professor at Oklahoma City Community College, Michael Talkington will not be in the classroom this semester.

The decision is his own, he said, though it came after a student in the spring complained Talkington "glossed over" evolution and instead taught creationism and intelligent design in his biology class.

Student Bryan Jaden Walker wrote on his blog, jadeneternal.wordpress.com, that the professor "glossed over the scientific explanation very quickly (less than 20 seconds), then explained Creationism for about five minutes (5,000-year-old Earth, no evolution, etc)."

Walker wrote that he complained to Sonya Williams, OCCC's director of science, but was told the professor was entitled to share his opinions in class.

The complaint was investigated internally by the college but no disciplinary action was deemed necessary, OCCC spokesman Cordell Jordan said.

"We checked it out and admonished the professor to please follow curriculum protocols," Jordan said. "We give latitude. You're allowed to teach however you want, but you do have to teach what's on the syllabus and that seems like what happened."

Talkington said what Walker reported on his blog is inaccurate.

"That may be his perception. I'm not calling him a liar, but that is not factual," Talkington said.

"I simply acknowledged that there are other schools of thought. I did not teach creationism. I did not promote one view over another. I did not mention God or Christianity. I stayed within the bounds of what the college allows."

He said he presented the basic principles of evolution and taught an entire lab on evolution and he doesn't believe he shortchanged students taking his science class.

Walker's telephone number is not listed and he didn't return messages left on his blog.

Physics major John Weis, 23, said he took Talkington's biology class about a year ago.

"Evolution was not taught at all in his class," Weis said. "When he hit that unit, instead of discussing it himself he had a single slide that had both creationism and evolution. When I spoke up and asked him about it, he claimed there was no evidence for either, but they are just different world views."

Complaint lodged

Weis said he complained to a department coordinator and was assured Talkington's view was not the college's policy and the issue would be discussed with him.

"She mentioned that other students had complained about his behavior in the past," Weis said. "She told me to stay in the class and finish and that other classes in the future would deal with the topic more thoroughly."

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Legal challenges

Legal challenges to anti-evolutionist policies began with the Scopes Trial of 1925, a case the evolutionists lost.

Since 1968, however, U.S. courts have consistently held that "creationism" is a particular religious viewpoint and that teaching it in public schools would violate the First Amendment of the Constitution.

The leading cases are:

Epperson v. Arkansas (1968) Supreme Court decision.

McLean v. Arkansas Board of Education (1982).

Edwards v. Aguillard (1987) Supreme Court decision.

Kitzmiller v. Dover (2005) teaching "intelligent design" in public schools was found to be unconstitutional.

SOURCE: NATIONAL CENTER FOR SCIENCE EDUCATION

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