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Back to Mar. Ed Reporter

Education Reporter
NUMBER 230 THE NEWSPAPER OF EDUCATION RIGHTS MARCH 2005

Channel One Takes Hit in Alabama
Conservatives Also Claim Evolution Victory
Former Lt. Gov. Jere Beasley
Former Lt.
Gov. Jere Beasley
The Alabama Board of Education voted in February to recommend that Channel One stop advertising unhealthy foods, medicines, or movies or television programs with objectionable ratings. Furthermore, if local school systems continue to use Channel One, they should monitor the programming and evaluate it for content that affects food choices and healthy lifestyles.

Channel One is a 12-minute daily newscast with commercials that is beamed into 12,000 American middle, junior high and high schools with more than 8 million students and 400,000 educators.

The Board of Education's February 10 hearing drew vocal opponents of Channel One, who charged among other things that it exposes students every day to ads for junk food, medicines and violent movies. Former Lt. Gov. Jere Beasley, one of Alabama's most prominent trial lawyers, joined forces with John Giles, leader of the Christian Coalition of Alabama, and Eagle Forum leaders to urge the board to banish Channel One from Alabama schools.

Beasley, a grandfather of four public school students, said what concerned him most was the sometimes sexual content and violent language of Channel One programs. Giles said too many Channel One programs fall into what he called "the pollution of pornography." (Birmingham News, 2-11-05)

While declining to ban Channel One, the Board of Education voted 5-1-1 in favor of careful monitoring of content by local school personnel and recommended that Channel One "refrain from advertising high-sugar, high-fat, or low nutritional value food or drink products, over-the-counter medicines, or movies and television shows that receive a MPAA rating for sexual, violent, or drug content."

A Channel One opponent pointed out early in the hearing that five of the board members had received campaign contributions from Channel One lobbyists. One board member, Randy McKinney, subsequently indicated that he planned to return the $500 he received.

Jim Metrock of Obligation Inc., which has battled the use of Channel One for nine years, called the board's action "a huge step forward."


Science guidelines adopted 
At the same meeting, the Alabama Board of Education unanimously adopted science guidelines including a slightly revised disclaimer for textbooks covering evolution. The disclaimers included in science textbooks since 1996 warn that evolution is a "controversial theory" that should be questioned. The new guidelines delete the word "controversial" but also state they are intended to educate students in science, "not to question or diminish one's beliefs and/or faith."

The guidelines had been endorsed by the 36-member state Science Course of Study Committee with only one dissenting vote. The dissenter wrote a "minority report" objecting to the "unjustified direct influence of a non-scientific political group" - Eagle Forum of Alabama - on the Board of Education. Larry Darby, president of the Atheist Law Center, spoke against the new guidelines at the Board of Education hearing, asserting that "science and religion are not compatible."

Eagle Forum of Alabama president Eunie Smith praised the new disclaimer language as "scientifically accurate and, at the same time, respectful of the many Alabamians who disagree with Darwin. Students will be taught this theory, and, in addition, be encouraged to exercise critical thinking regarding the assumptions underlying it."

A shorter textbook disclaimer stating that evolution is "a theory, not a fact," and "should be approached with an open mind, studied carefully, and critically considered," in sticker form, was declared unconstitutional in January by a federal district court in a case involving the Cobb County, GA school district. (See Education Reporter, Dec. 2004, Feb. 2005.) That district is appealing the decision.


 
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