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Minnesota Official Concerned About Santorum Language

According to a July 8, 2003, broadcast on Minneapolis television channel WCCO, Education Commissioner Cheri Peterson Yecke, who is in charge of choosing committee members to draft Minnesota’s science education standards, is citing the Santorum “amendment” as grounds for including “a higher power creating life alongside evolution”. Commissioner Yecke is quoted as requesting clarification from unknown sources in Washington, DC: “I want a clarification from them, and, if they send me the exact same language that they sent to Ohio, then I feel that, you know, certainly we have the law behind us and can use that language.”

Apparently Ms. Yecke is unaware that members of Congress have already clarified the significance of the Santorum language from the conference committee report of the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) act, and that there is no direction in the NCLB to teach intelligent design or other forms of creationism, teach “evidence against evolution,” or make any other alterations to the curriculum. Here is what Representative George Miller, co-chair of the Education committee and member of the House-Senate conference committee that drafted the NCLB, wrote NCSE:

“While the subject of evolution was used as an example of a controversial issue in the report language, neither the teaching of evolution nor any other specific topic is mandated in NCLB or the conference report. The law restricts the federal endorsement of curriculum, and the report language should not be construed to promote specific topics within subject areas. Congress recognizes that the teaching of the ‘full range of scientific views’ should be encouraged, and such decisions are best left to the scientific community, rather than legislators.”

For the full text of Rep. Miller’s letter, see here

A further clarification is provided by Rep. Rush D. Holt, one of the few members of Congress with a Ph.D. in science, in the Congressional Record on December 13, 2001:

“Mr. Speaker, I rise today to address my colleagues regarding H.R. 1 , No Child Left Behind.

“Although we passed this important legislation last week, I must express my reservations about certain language included in the conference report::

‘The conferees recognize that a quality science education should prepare students to distinguish the data and testable theories of science from the religious or philosophical claims that are made in the name of science. Where topics are taught that may generate controversy (such as biological evolution), the curriculum should help students to understand the full range of scientific views that exist, why such topics may generate controversy, and how scientific discoveries can profoundly affect society.’

The implication in this language that there are other scientific alternatives to evolution represents a veiled attempt to introduce creationism – and, thus, religion – into our schools. Why else would the language be included at all? In fact, this objectionable language was written by proponents of an idea known as ‘intelligent design.’ This concept, which could also be called ‘stealth creationism’, suggests that the only plausible explanation for complex life forms is design by an intelligent agent. This concept is religion masquerading as science. Scientific concepts can be tested; intelligent design can never be tested. This is not science, and it should not be taught in our public schools.

“Mr. Speaker, I am a religious person. I take my religion seriously and feel it deeply. My point here is not to attack or diminish religion in any way. My point is to make clear that religion is not science and science is not religion. The language is this bill can result in diminishing both science and religion.”

Sen. Edward Kennedy, co-chair of the conference committee, also has weighed in on the Santorum language and its meaning for evolution education. In a March 21, 2002, letter to the editors of the Washington Times, Sen. Kennedy wrote:

“The March 14 Commentary piece, ‘Illiberal education in Ohio schools,’ written by my colleague Sen. Rick Santorum, Pennsylvania Republican, erroneously suggested that I support the teaching of ‘intelligent design’ as an alternative to biological evolution. That simply is not true.

“Rather, I believe that public school science classes should focus on teaching students how to understand and critically analyze genuine scientific theories. Unlike biological evolution, ‘intelligent design’ is not a genuine scientific theory and, therefore, has no place in the curriculum of our nation's public school science classes.”

NCSE is aware that school boards and district administrators are being told that the Santorum “amendment” requires evolution be “balanced” by the teaching of “alternate views.” Nothing could be farther from the truth. NCSE members should help their fellow citizens realize this by providing them with the information provided here