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"Critical analysis of evolution" lesson passed by Ohio BOE

by Nick Matzke

On Tuesday, March 9, the Ohio state Board of Education passed the proposed model science curriculum, including the controversial model lesson plan L10H23, "Critical Analysis of Evolution." This lesson plan corresponds to a similarly controversial provision included in the Ohio state science standards adopted in 2002, Benchmark H, indicator 23, which reads "Describe how scientists continue to investigate and critically analyze aspects of evolutionary theory. (The intent of this indicator does not mandate the teaching or testing of intelligent design.)"

The 22-page "Critical Analysis of Evolution" lesson plan was opposed by numerous science and education organizations, including the National Academy of Sciences and the Ohio Academy of Science. On February 23, the Ohio Academy of Science sent an open letter to Ohio governor Bob Taft arguing that "the model science lesson (L10H23 'Critical Analysis of Evolution') is defective because it is not science and has no place in the science curriculum." Adoption of the lesson, according to the OAS, would "advance the 'wedge' strategy of the Intelligent Design movement whose purpose is to inject fundamentalist Christian beliefs into education," and damage Ohio's "Third Frontier" program to "attract and retain high-level researchers." The OAS letter criticized the "opaque" writing and review process for the lesson plan, noting that it took the OAS five weeks and legal action to obtain the text of the lesson, and also complained that of the 55 members of the advisory group and writing committee, only three were scientists, and two of these were creationists.

On February 27, Richard Baker, vice-president of the Ohio Board of Education, responded to scientists' criticisms. As quoted in The Observer, the student newspaper of Case Western Reserve University, Baker said, "We spend all this malarkey and baloney when 99 percent of all the people who are taught this have nothing to do with the rest of their lives ... These scientists, they don’t care about wasting their own time or anybody else’s time. In business we don’t waste time ... To me, [the lesson] is not a big deal." According to Baker, the reason scientists oppose the lesson plan is that "[They] think [they] know everything. [They’re] just a bunch of paranoid, egotistical scientists afraid of people finding out [they] don’t know anything."

The 547-page model curriculum, including the "Critical Analysis of Evolution" lesson plan, was passed by a 13-5 vote. A preceding vote to remove L10H23 failed 10-7. Teachers are not required to teach the model lesson plans. However, since the model lesson plans are based on the Ohio science standards, on which students can be tested, it is expected that they will be widely used.

Several of those opposed to the model lesson plan have discussed lawsuits. Patricia Princehouse, Case Western Reserve University philosophy professor, said "They're standing in line -- high school teachers, board members, parents, the students themselves," according to an Associated Press story.

Contact information for the Ohio Board of Education can be found at the Ohio Citizens for Science BoE contact information page [Link is broken]

Background links:
Ohio Citizens for Science [Link is broken]

Ohio BoE Model Curriculum Update [Link is broken]

Model Curricula Contents of Science Lessons Set A [Link is broken]

Documentation of Changes Made to Set A Science Lessons After Presentation to the State Board of Education in January [Link is broken]

L10H23, "Critical analysis of evolution" model lesson plan, February version [Link is broken]

Ohio evolution lesson plan irks science groups [Link is broken]

"Professors debate intelligent design." by Robert Arons, Staff Reporter for The Observer: The Student Newspaper of Case Western Reserve University

Evolution lesson plan approved: Critics say it contains elements of intelligent design [Link is broken]