Atheists and other supporters of evolution are understandably irritated that creationists want to have their ideas taught in science classes in public schools. The irritation is understandable because creationism cannot be science by definition because science is concerned with examining evidence obtained in the natural world, not the supernatural, which is a necessary ingredient in any creationist theory.
What is less understandable is why (some) atheists find it necessary to require the teaching of evolution – even in private schools – as was the case in the province of Quebec in 2007: http://www.lifesitenews.com/ldn/2007/aug/07081701.html
The story indicates that a Mennonite school in Quebec was told to comply with the provincial curriculum, which included sections on evolution and homosexuality that the school found objectionable. I don’t know what laws private schools or homeschoolers are under in the state of Iowa or anywhere else in the US, but apparently in Quebec all institions of education, public and private, must abide by the same curriculum.
The reason I bring up this story is because it occurs to me that many atheists would side with the state on this matter and require the Mennonites to teach the state-approved material, on the grounds that the children need to learn the things the state wants to teach them. My argument is that if what you want is for more people to accept evolution as fact or be more tolerant of homosexuals, which I think is what most atheists want, then these kinds of laws are in fact counterproductive to that end.
My logic is this: There will be a greater backlash against evolution or whatever it is you’re promoting if the people you’re trying to reach feel that it’s being forced upon them, which in this case it clearly is. Thoughtful Christians who may otherwise see the logic of evolution and adjust their religious views accordingly will be turned off by the tactics of evolutionists who evidently think the only way Christians will ever accept the theory is through coercion.
Additionally, the fact that the teaching of evolution is mandated will shift the debate away from the supporting science and to something altogether different such as freedom of conscience or freedom of choice, which the creationists can now rightly argue they do not have.
The solution to the problem then is to allow theists to teach their children whatever they want to. If it really is the case that evolution provides us with a better understanding of the world than does creationism, as I believe, then the theists will eventually reach this conclusion as well if they want their children to succeed in scientific endeavors where a knowledge of evolution is essential.
Therefore, atheists should support greater educational freedom on the grounds that it will make evolution more palatable to theists than through government mandate. Notice that it makes sense for atheists to adopt this position even if they care not at all about individual liberty.