Wednesday, March 18, 2009

ICR Wants to Issue Graduate Degrees

The Institute for Creation Research (which used to be near San Diego) moved to Texas a couple years ago. They have been trying to get their Master of Science program to become a legitimate graduate degree. But the road has been a little bumpy for them. Now a Texas legislator is advocating for them.

"Bill Would Allow Texas School to Grant Master's Degree in Science for Creationism"
A Texas legislator is waging a war of biblical proportions against the science and education communities in the Lone Star State as he fights for a bill that would allow a private school that teaches creationism to grant a Master of Science degree in the subject.

State Rep. Leo Berman (R-Tyler) proposed House Bill 2800 when he learned that The Institute for Creation Research (ICR), a private institution that specializes in the education and research of biblical creationism, was not able to receive a certificate of authority from Texas' Higher Education Coordinating Board to grant Master of Science degrees.

Berman's bill would allow private, non-profit educational institutions to be exempt from the board’s authority...

All colleges and universities granting degrees in Texas currently must be issued a certificate of authority by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (THECB). The certificate allows that institution to grant a higher education degree that is recognized by the state – a degree a graduate would need to apply for a teaching position in a Texas public school.

ICR was denied a certificate of authority in 2007.

HB 2800 would pave the way for institutions like ICR to grant science degrees equal to those of other Texas universities. And that possibility has critics fuming...

“HB 2800 appears to open the doors of Texas to predatory institutions,” says De Juana Lozada, assistant director of communications for THECB. “Were the bill to become law, it could have the effect of leaving students defenseless against exploitation by diploma mills and other substandard institutions.
I'm interested in opinions - Is this an example of Christian censorship? Or the preservation of good science?

UPDATE (3/21/09) - I had another thought about this - Would your opinion change if a creationist organization was teaching that Copernicanism was false, secular science? Should we allow that organization to grant a graduate degree as well?

5 comments:

Virginia Peterson said...

ICR was allowed to grant degrees in California, wasn't it? What about other Christian colleges and universities that are accredited but teach a young earth viewpoint? (At least the couple I'm thinking of I think are accredited...) It does seem a little like censorship, but I think if the school shows they teach the secular science viewpoint, even if they don't necessary believe it, along with a Christian one, that they should be able to grant degrees. People would generally know the viewpoint of the school or could find out, if they wanted to avoid hiring someone from that viewpoint (although you could picture some kind of subtle discrimination going on - would that be legal?)

Cedarville University has announced that they will start a geology major from a YEC viewpoint, although they will teach standard geology also. I wonder how many of the students will be able to hold onto a YE view after being exposed to the standard one - I've heard a fair number of stories of people whose faith was challenged in that manner.

Anonymous said...

Virginia:

When ICR was in CA, I don't think they were able to issue full-level Master's degrees. They were accredited through some lower level organization. (I could be wrong about that, however.)

But if an institution wants full university level accreditation that is universally recognized (which is what the courses offered through Reasons Institute have, by the way), then they must conform those standards set by the accreditation body. There is no law that says what those standards must be (at least none that I'm aware of). It's just sort of universally "understood" that "good education" consists of certain ingredients. Now, the question becomes, what happens when not everyone agrees on what those ingredients actually are.

"Theology Mom"

Virginia Peterson said...

So if ICR wants to grant degrees at the same level as any other college, and they weren't similarly accredited in CA, that is a somewhat different thing - my impression from their description of it was that it was the same and they were being discriminated against. It's a tricky subject - I remember the discussion on Creation Update about the Christian high school curriculum that was being complained about. (What was the resolution to that?) Where should the line be drawn for free speech, even if it's wrong? How much should the government or the science community be involved in regulating free speech? Another area this comes up - health and diet claims, some of which are religiously-based as well.

Anonymous said...

Ok, I found a history of ICR's accreditation situation: http://www.conservapedia.com/ICR_Graduate_School. As best as I understand it, when ICR was in CA, they were first accredited by the CA Department of Education, and then later by: http://www.tracs.org/ (which is recognized in CA as a legitimate accreditation body). The problem now is, Texas does not recognize this body (TRACS). So that's why ICR is starting over.

I still question, however, whether a degree accredited by TRACS would be transferable as foundational coursework to a mainstream Ph.D. program. I doubt it. For example, in CA there is an accreditation body that is used by trade schools and some lower level Bible colleges and what-not (http://www.bppve.ca.gov/). It is recognized as a legitimate organization by the state of CA. But graduate degrees from these institutions would not likely be looked at as being at as having the same level of academic rigor as those accredited through WASC.

I think that's kind of the scenario we're talking about with ICR. When they were in CA, they were recognized by a legitimate, state-approved accreditation body, but it was not at the same level as a university masters degree. (Hopefully that makes sense.)

Virginia Peterson said...

Thanks for checking that out.

Just tonight I picked up a book at the library written by a Brown University student who decided to go to Liberty for a semester for a kind of “foreign culture” exposure. Creationism comes up right off the bat.

“In 1982, in response to pressure from the ACLU, a Virginia state education board ruled that biology graduates from Liberty University (then called Liberty Baptist College) were uncertifiable as public school teachers, since Liberty’s undergraduate biology program was based in creationism. In response, university higher-ups made a quick fix, shuffling the creationism courses out of the Biology Department and into a new department called Creation Studies.

“Liberty has since gotten teacher certification approval for its biology program, and the school now teaches courses in both evolution and creationism—sort of. All Liberty students are required to take a creation studies course, while only biology majors are required to learn evolution-based science. And even those evolution courses are sort of Fair and Balanced™, if you get my drift.” p. 33

The Unlikely Disciple, Kevin Roose, Grand Central Pub., 2009.

Recently I had occasion to talk online with a person I attended church with years ago, who has been teaching biology at Liberty for quite a while. He says he’s still OE but not as strongly as in the past – death and suffering in the animal world is a bothering point, among other issues.