Sunday, August 5, 2001

Creationism debacle
drowned out meaningful
discussion of beliefs

The issue: Members of the Board of
Education unanimously voted against
changing student performance standards
for science, and opening the door
to teaching creationism.

Hawaii did not cover itself with distinction in the debate over the teaching of creationism and evolution in the public schools last week. The introduction of this emotionally charged issue was politically inept and not carefully thought out. The response of the Board of Education was confused. Among the public, sides were swiftly chosen and positions were set in concrete with little thoughtful or searching discussion. The definition of creationism was simplistic and never came close to being fully developed in all its intricacy and subtlety.

Lamentably, a disconcerting lack of respect for the views of others was all too evident in the public discourse. Many of the letters to the editor received by this newspaper were couched in self-righteous terms. Petty bickering detracted from the quality of the debate as did the repeated argumentum ad hominem, the argument to the person rather than to the issues. In short, the aloha spirit took some nasty hits along the way.

It quickly became evident that a proposal to interject creationism into the science curriculum would be unacceptable and the Board of Education was prudent in voting it down. That, however, should not be the end of consideration of this issue.

After tempers have cooled, the Board of Education should foster an elective to be taught in high school about the religions and cultures of the world, including the variety of beliefs about how the world was created and how peoples have migrated to cover the face of the Earth. The intent would be to stretch the minds of our young people by exposing them to the wondrous complexity of human civilizations. That would also help them to understand the wars and struggles that, unhappily, set Catholic against Protestant in Northern Ireland, Arab against Jew in the Middle East, Muslim against Hindu in South Asia.

Moreover, the literature about the Greek and Roman gods, the mythology of Norse and Celt, the tales of Polynesia, the worship of the Incas and Aztecs, the accounts of creation in the holy books of Islam and Buddhism, the bible of the Judeo-Christian tradition and much more make for mind-expanding and entertaining reading. Ever since men and women first raised their eyes to the stars and became aware of the Earth around them, they have wondered: "How came we to this place?"

The children of Hawaii were the losers in the tumult of this past week, but they could become winners with a modicum of good will and careful thought that would open up new worlds for them.

Both sides need to check
stubbornness and reach
accord on patients’ rights

The issue: The U.S. House has approved
its version of the patients' rights bill,
which will be assigned to a conference for
working out differences with the Senate bill.

PRESIDENT Bush demonstrated through House passage of the patients' rights bill that he knows how to play hardball to achieve legislative goals. Soon, however, he and Senate Democrats will face the more difficult task of tailoring a bill that can receive bipartisan support. While pundits described the House action as a victory for the president, both sides will lose public trust if they fail to enact a bill for the president to sign.

The legislation has received broad public support for the many ways in which it will improve patients' benefits under privately managed health-care plans. For example, a woman would no longer need her primary-care doctor's approval to see a gynecologist, and parents would be free to take their child directly to a pediatrician. Insurers would lose the arbitrary power to reverse decisions by physicians and patients.

The dispute involves the legal rights of patients to sue health plans over denials or delays of treatment. Bush and most Republicans have complained that the Senate bill, approved in June, would increase the price of health insurance by allowing a flood of litigation. The only limits on patients' lawsuits are those provided by state laws.

Democrats contend that the House version, approved 226-203 along party lines with Hawaii's Reps. Patsy Mink and Neil Abercrombie voting no, would unduly shield insurance companies from lawsuits. It would override patient protections in 10 states, not including Hawaii, a provision adopted only after Bush applied pressure to Rep. Charles Norwood of Georgia, a former dentist and key Republican sponsor of the legislation. The GOP support that accompanied Norwood put Bush's preferred provision over the top.

At this point, Democrats controlling the Senate vow they will not accept the House provision. Bush, claiming he already has compromised in negotiations with Norwood, is adamant about vetoing the Senate version.

Following the House action, Senate Majority Leader Thomas Daschle, D-S.C., and other sponsors did not rule out the possibility of finding a middle ground in the upcoming House-Senate conference committee. Bush, who has said he agrees with 90 percent of the Senate version, should similarly declare his willingness to seek bipartisan agreement.

Although accused of betrayal by his allies on the issue of patients' rights, Norwood made no apologies during the House debate and said it was "time to bring this gridlock to an end." The possibility of gridlock did not end with House approval of the measure and will continue so long as the president threatens to veto the bill if he disagrees with any part of it.

Published by Oahu Publications Inc., a subsidiary of Black Press.

Don Kendall, President

John Flanagan, publisher and editor in chief 529-4748;
Frank Bridgewater, managing editor 529-4791;
Michael Rovner,
assistant managing editor 529-4768;
Lucy Young-Oda, assistant managing editor 529-4762;

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