Hastings Constitutional Law Quarterly


Science education is one of the most hotly contested issues in public debate. Even after decades of jurisprudence and scholarly analysis, politicians still ignite public passions by suggesting that creationism or intelligent design theory be taught alongside of evolution in public school science classrooms. Despite political rhetoric, the Establishment Clause has been steadfastly used to prevent religion masquerading as science from entering the science classroom. However, public officials have launched attacks recently on other scientific theories, such as climate change, that are not religiously motivated. Students are left in these instances without resort to the Establishment Clause and are potentially forced to learn propaganda and psuedo-science in science classrooms. This Article confronts the vexing problem that students are protected from psuedoscience that is religiously based and not psuedo-science that is politically motivated, even though they are both equally damaging to the students' education. There is no intellectual or constitutional basis for banning some kinds of pseudo-science and allowing others within a compulsory public science class. This Article is the first to argue that students in public school science classrooms are entitled to an accurate and honest rendering of the scientific facts free from propaganda, proselytizing and politics under the Free Speech Clause of the First Amendment. Simply because a scientific theory is attacked for political motivations does not render it constitutionally permissible. So long as students are required by compulsory education laws to attend science class, the state is constitutionally required to protect the students' right to learn. This "right to learn" is rooted in a long and distinguished line of cases. Not only does it have a judicial pedigree, but the right to learn rooted in the Free Speech Clause shifts the constitutional analysis from the difficult task of determining motivations to the pursuit of scientific accuracy.