ON ITS WEB SITE, the Board of Education of Charles County, in Southern Maryland, affirms its belief that "there is value in diversity." That credo is in danger of being distorted by several members of the board. Among the ideas they are advancing: to have science classes offer instructional materials that teach creationism and cast doubt on evolution; to require books that stress America's history as "a Christian nation"; and to revamp sex education so it is informed by "theological perspectives of the Founders." Board members would also invite Gideons International to provide Bibles to students, and cull school reading lists to ban books offering "a neutral or positive view of immorality or foul language."
As it happens, one of the board members, Collins A. Bailey, is a member of Gideons International. A second, Mark Crawford, is host of a weekly religious radio show whose producer favors the abolition of public schools and opposes women holding elected offices that exert authority over men. A third, Margaret Young, told The Post's Joshua Partlow that the schools were assigning reading "filled with profanity and pornography." As an example, she offered "Dust Tracks on a Road," published in 1942, the autobiographical account of Zora Neale Hurston's rise from childhood poverty in the rural South to literary prominence in the Harlem Renaissance. Mrs. Young, it would seem, would prize "value in diversity" -- but not too much diversity.
Charles County, once rural, agricultural and almost uniformly conservative, is changing fast. Many Hispanic and Asian immigrants have moved into the county and its public schools. That may disquiet some longtime residents. The right response is to encourage dialogue, not infuse public education with one religious point of view. While Bibles and other important religious texts should be available in public schools, no public school should be espousing any religion. The Constitution and courts, informed by the doctrine of separation of church and state, have been clear on that. Yet the proposals in Charles County, taken together, seem more about advancing a sectarian agenda than reinforcing the diversity to which the Board of Education pays lip service. It is not clear whether a majority of the board favors the most radical proposals that have been offered. Some members note that the ideas are the product of a brainstorming session and would undergo an extensive process of hearings and review before being adopted as policy. We hope so, and we trust that the bright light of public scrutiny will ensure that the county schools remain a forum for education, not indoctrination.