Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Leave it to Cleaver

These events were a bit overshadowed by Alan Bonsell, but yesterday opened with testimony by former school board member Jane Cleaver, a resident of Dover and long-time proprietor of the 5 and 10 cent store. Ms. Cleaver was appointed to the board in the summer of 2002 and voted to implement the curriculum change at the October 18th, 2004 meeting.

This white-haired spunky woman testified that she is an "independent person and not a rubber stamp for anyone" and charmingly referred to "intelligence design." But, despite her charms, Ms. Cleaver's testimony raised some questions....

She shared with us that "something was lost when prayer left the schools." She had been an advocate for a moment of silence at the beginning of the school day and for requiring a pledge of allegiance that included "under God." To this end, she campaigned from church to church.

She was present for the June meetings, but has no recollection of Mr. Buckingham's now infamous "2000 years" and "laced with Darwinism" comments. And, since she hasn't read the papers since 2002, she would not have seen the comments reported.

Mrs. Cleaver was out of the picture for much of the 2004 discussion of the biology book and curriculum change as she was in Florida for the August and September meetings (and possibly July). Mrs. Cleaver first learned about Of Pandas and People on October 2nd from her sister-in- law who informed her of "a big controversy" about the book. So, she obtained a copy from Mr. Buckingham before the October 4th meeting. She skimmed it and found "no mention of the Bible, of God or of creationism" and, thus, deemed it appropriate.

She testified that neither she nor anyone on the board had done a study to assess whether the book was suitable for high school age students, nor had anyone researched whether the science in this 1993 book was current. [Dover biology teacher Jennifer Miller has testified that she did a readability study. She found that the book was of too high a level for high school students and that the science was dubious.]

Cleaver also agreed that all people who spoke at the Oct 18th meeting with science background spoke against the book and that no board member ever "explained or expressed how the change in curriculum would improve it."

In her opinion, the book was only there as a reference and the teachers would not be teaching it. "I just think that students should hear about other theories."

She remembers that Mrs. Spahr said the teachers didn't want to teach ID because ID was creationism. "I disagreed" she said, "to me ID is just another science text or another theory."

"You didn't really understand ID, just knew it was another theory?" she was asked, yesterday. She agreed.

Submitted by Amy Laura Cahn, Community Education Organizer, ACLU of PA


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