8.15.2005

Kansas Devolves

Kansas Moves To Stem Role of Evolution in Teaching

from Reuters

OVERLAND PARK, Kan. - After months of debate over science and religion, the Kansas Board of Education has tentatively approved new state science standards that weaken the role evolution plays in teaching about the origin of life.

The 10-member board must still take a final vote, expected in either September or October, but a 6-4 vote on Tuesday that approved a draft of the standards essentially cemented a victory for conservative Christian board members who say evolution is largely unproven and can undermine religious teachings about the origins of life on earth.

"We think this is a great development...for the academic freedom of students," said John West, senior fellow of the Discovery Institute, which supports intelligent design theory.

Intelligent design proposes that some features of the natural world are best explained as products of a considered intent as opposed to a process of natural selection.

The board is sending its drafted standards to a Denver-based education consultant before a final vote. If they win final approval, Kansas will join Minnesota, Ohio, and New Mexico, all of which have adopted critical analysis of evolution in the last four years.

The new science standards would not eliminate the teaching of evolution entirely, nor would they require that religious views, also known as Creationism, be taught, but it would encourage teachers to discuss various viewpoints and eliminate core evolution theory as required curriculum.

Critics say the moves are part of a continuing national effort by conservative Christians to push their views into the public education process.

"This is neo-creationism, trying to avoid the legal morass of trying to teach creationism overtly and slip it in through the backdoor," said Eugenie Scott, executive director of the National Center for Science Education.

Kansas itself has been grappling with the issue for years, garnering worldwide attention in 1999 when the state school board voted to de-emphasize evolution in science classes.

That was reversed in 2001 with new members elected to the school board. But conservatives again gained the majority in elections in 2004, leading to the
newest attacks on evolution.

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