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Flawed draft of Kansas standards out for review

As expected, on August 9, 2005, the Kansas State Board of Education voted 6-4 to send the latest draft of state science standards for external review. The latest draft, based on the so-called minority report composed with the aid of a local "intelligent design" group, the Intelligent Design Network, systematically deprecates the scientific status of evolution. Reuters [Link broken] reported that "[c]ritics say the moves are part of a continuing national effort by conservative Christians to push their secular views into the public education process," quoting NCSE's Eugenie C. Scott as saying, "This is neo-creationism, trying to avoid the legal morass of trying to teach creationism overtly and slip it in through the backdoor."

Last week, the original writing committee issued a stinging rebuke of the standards, arguing that the strategy of selectively calling for "critical analysis" of evolution is not only "confusing and inappropriate" but also clearly intended to provide a pretext for "'alternative' theories to evolution" to be introduced in the science classroom." While ignoring the original writing committee's critique, the board agreed to the request of most of the members of the committee to delete their names from the latest draft. Steve Case, the co-chairman of the committee, told the Topeka Capitol-Journal, "They felt it didn't represent their work, and it misportrayed science ... They didn't want their names associated with it."

The American Institute of Biological Sciences was quick to decry the board's decision. In a press release issued on August 9, AIBS stated that the board "is doing a disservice to the state's K-12 students by adopting a curriculum that redefines science such that intelligent design/creationism and other non-scientific concepts could be taught in science classes." AIBS's executive director Richard O'Grady explained, "The theory of evolution underpins all of modern biology," and AIBS's president Marvalee Wake added, "If our students are going to compete in the global economy and if we are going to attract the next generation into the sciences, we must teach science. ... We simply cannot begin to introduce non-scientific concepts into the science curriculum."

The standards will be reviewed by Mid-Continent Research for Education and Learning (McREL), a reputable Colorado-based educational research organization. According to the Capitol-Journal, "In addition to commenting on whether the standards cover what students need to know, McREL is also to consider such issues as if the standards give enough guidance for curriculum and assessment." The review process is expected to take at least a month; the board is therefore expected to consider the standards again in light of McREL's assessment at its October meeting. But the board is not obligated to pay any attention to the assessment, and the six-member conservative majority seems to be bent on ignoring informed scientific and educational opinion.