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Monday, May 20, 2013

Ball State continued: My Letter to Higher Learning Commission

Here is the letter I am sending to the Executive Office at Higher Learning Commission, the agency responsible for Ball State University's accreditation.  (See here for background.)  It would be wonderful if university professors with good standing were to send similar letters.

Subject: Ball State University's Accreditation

To Whom It May Concern,

I am writing to you because Higher Learning Commission is currently in the process of determining whether or not Ball State University will receive accreditation for another ten years.  Please consider the following concern when making this important decision.

In April of this year, some undergraduate courses at Ball State University came under public scrutiny.  HONR 296 "Inquiries in Physical Sciences" and ASTR 151 "The Universe and You," both taught by Assistant Professor Eric Hedin, satisfy parts of the university's core requirements.  HONR 296 is one of three Honors Science Courses which satisfy the Honors Science requirement for students in the Honors College.  ASTR 151 (which is also sometimes called "The Boundaries of Science") satisfies a Tier 2 Core Curriculum requirement in the Natural Sciences.  The syllabuses and reading lists for ASTR 151 and HONR 296 are very similar, and they show a strong bias towards Intelligent Design and Christian apologetics.  Furthermore, these courses focus entirely on theology, cosmology, evolutionary biology, the philosophy of science and the study of human consciousness.  Yet, Professor Hedin has no competence in any of these fields.  It is reasonable to conclude that these courses, as taught by Professor Hedin, do not fairly represent the values, methods, findings and competences of contemporary science.

As part of their "Vision and Mission" statement, Ball State writes:

"We promote habits of mind that will enable our graduates to value and appreciate the arts, sciences, and humanities. . . . As civic and professional leaders, we value civic engagement with the larger communities of which we are a part and are dedicated to preparing civic and professional leaders for the future. We accept our individual and institutional responsibilities to improve the economic vitality and quality of life in the greater society we serve." 
However, a Ball State University graduate will have a hard time learning to value and appreciate the sciences if their scientific literacy depends on HONR 296 or ASTR 151 with Professor Hedin.  If Ball State wants to prepare civic and professional leaders for the future, and improve the economic vitality and quality of life, they must make sure that their students possess an adequate level of scientific literacy.  This cannot be achieved if their core science requirements present a heavily skewed and intellectually dubious vision of contemporary science.  To maintain the integrity of the university in relation to its own mission statement, Ball State should not allow HONR 296 and ASTR 151 to satisfy core requirements--at least as these courses are currently taught by Professor Hedin.

As the institution responsible for Ball State's accreditation, Higher Learning Commission is in a unique position to take a stand against this affront to scientific literacy and academic integrity.  Please help improve the state of science education by taking a stand on this issue.  Tell Ball State University that, in order to receive full accreditation, they must only allow students to satisfy core requirements with courses that respect the fields they purport to teach.

Respectfully yours,
Jason Streitfeld
International Baccalaureate Teacher
Szczecin, Poland