SALISBURY, Md. – The president of a public school board in southeastern Maryland generated considerable attention and criticism when he recently took issue with a claim from a textbook that his school district might soon use for history classes.
Ron Willey, president of the Wicomico County Board of Education (WCBE), has served on the school board since mid-2007. According to his professional profile on the school’s website, Willey has had well over 40 years of experience in the Wicomico County Public School System, which educates approximately 15,000 students. He is also a member of a local Nazarene church.
Recently, WCBE members met to discuss a history book titled Ways of the World: A Brief Global History with Sources. The book is designed to give students the “big picture” of world history, and is currently under consideration for usage in Wicomico’s 11th and 12th grade Advanced Placement classes.
However, Willey recently voiced his disapproval of a sentence in the very first chapter of the history book that mentions evolution.
“Ever since Charles Darwin,” the sentence reads, “most scholars have come to view human beginnings in the context of biological change on the planet.”
Later in the same paragraph, the book’s author asserts that the “evolutionary line of descent” of humans and chimpanzees “diverged” 5 to 6 million years ago.
“I have a problem with the statement on page 3,” Willey told members of the WCBE in a recent meeting, as reported by The Daily Times in Salisbury. “It is a matter of fact versus theory. That one statement does continue to give me real pain.”
After the board meeting, he further clarified the reason he believes Ways of the World misrepresents current scientific thinking.
“‘Most scholars’ is the concern I voiced,” he stated in an interview. “Many will read that as truth and not theory. ‘Some’ scholars agree, it should have said, but it says ‘most.’ It is not a point of what is taught in the classroom, but to proclaim theory as fact, I have a problem with that.”
Willey further commented that he’s “not sure” if the textbook’s assertion regarding evolution is “a fair and correct statement.”
The board is set to officially vote today on whether or not to use the history textbook, but Willey’s single objection has already generated a swirl of controversy. Starlin Weaver, associate dean of the Seidel School of Education and Professional Studies and a science educator at Salisbury University, argues that the textbook’s claim is accurate, because—according to her—“science says” evolution is true.
“Most scientists do believe that evolution is theory supported by lots of evidence,” she stated, according to The Daily Times.
Meanwhile, Willey’s frank comments regarding the history book’s first chapter have many evolutionists outraged. For instance, a Sunday posting on the evolution-advocating “Sensuous Curmudgeon” blog labeled the school board’s president “a flaming idiot.”
“With people like [Willey] running a university-level training program for teachers,” the blog states, “it’s no wonder we have the chaos we routinely observe in public schools.”
However, others have been strongly supportive of Willey’s statements, including several commenters on news sites who want more objectivity in public school classrooms.
“Hats off to Mr. Willey,” wrote Vincent Perrotta. “It takes courage to take on the establishment. Many in education believe they are the objective ones in our society, especially those who teach science. I trust their conscientiousness, but would like to suggest that many of them don’t know what they don’t know. How many science teachers in our school system are aware of the mounting evidence against Darwin’s theory or evolution in general?”