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Saturday, May 07, 2005
Kansas Debates Evolution Standards For Public Schools
The Kansas State Board of Education is holding hearings to discuss new proposed standards for teaching science in Kansas public school classrooms. The Board is considering two sets of standards. One set, referred to as the majority opinion, was authored by 18 of the Board's 26-member curriculum panel. That proposal recommends leaving the state's current standards on evolution in place. The other proposal, the minority report, was submitted by 8 members of the curriculum panel, and it calls on classroom teachers to teach that evolution is a controversial subject and that there are other points of view.
The minority report also calls for the state to redefine "science" in a way that does not explicitly limit scientific inquiry to natural causes. The state's current definition, that science consists of "seeking natural explanations for what we observe around us" has been criticized as requiring a rejection of nonmaterialistic causes in explaining the natural world. The new definition would consider science as a "continuing investigation that uses observation, hypothesis testing, measurement, experimentation, logical argument and theory building to lead to more adequate explanations of natural phenomena."
The state's 10-member Board is expected to vote to adopt the minority report, implementing its 20 suggestions into Kansas' science curriculum, in June. Control of the Kansas State Board of Education has gone back and forth over the past decade between pro- and anti-evolution forces. The Board is currently controlled by its conservative majority.
Advocates of teaching evolution without mentioning controversy or alternative theories declined to testify before the hearings. Board members and some witnesses before the hearings were criticized for not having read the 100-page majority opinion word for word by attorney Pedro Irigonegaray, who also questioned witnesses about their religious and scientific beliefs. Irigonegaray represents the authors of the majority report.
In recent years, there have been struggles over the teaching of evolution in the states of Michigan, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. Fights are ongoing or brewing in 20 states nationwide. In Kansas, some 25 witnesses, including writers, scientists, and educators, have been called by the board to criticizae the way evolution is taught in Kansas. Most are advocates of "intelligent design", a theory which holds that life was created by some directed intelligence, perhaps God.
The hearings will conclude on Thursday, May 12.
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The New York Times
Kansas City Star
Robert Hayes blogs at Let's Try Freedom.
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posted by BNN Archive at 6:37 PM
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