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Local school district rejects Kansas's antievolution standards


The Manhattan-Ogden school district (USD 383) became the first local school district in Kansas to reject the state science standards adopted by the Kansas state board of education in November 2005. At its meeting on February 15, 2006, the USD 383 board of education voted 6-0 to adopt a resolution that endorses the original writing committee's description of science as "a human activity of systematically seeking natural explanations for what we observe in the world around us."

The resolution continues, "The Science Standards that use this definition will be used in science curricula in all appropriate USD 383 K-12 science courses. USD 383 does not support the redefinition of science included in the Science Standards passed by the Kansas State Board of Education on November 8, 2005; this document changed the definition of science to allow non-natural (including supernatural) explanations of natural phenomena."

In rejecting the standards, USD 383 joins a host of critics, including a group of 38 Nobel laureates (PDF), the National Science Teachers Association, the National Academy of Sciences, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Institute for Biological Sciences, the committee that wrote the original standards, and the Kansas Association of Teachers of Science.

The resolution was originally proposed to the board on February 1, 2006, by over 150 science, mathematics, and engineering faculty and staff at Kansas State University, who argued that adopting the redefinition of science contained in the adopted version of the state science standards would not only affect the quality of science education in USD 383 but also threaten the efforts of the university and of local business to recruit highly qualified professionals.

In addition, the proponents of the resolution argued, "The changes made to the science standards are based on the utterly false belief that evolutionary science, and the scientific method itself, is based on an atheistic philosophy. Promoting this false conflict between science and faith erects unnecessary barriers to student learning, discourages many students from pursuing careers in the sciences, and perpetuates public misunderstandings of the nature and conclusions of science."

USD 383 superintendent Bob Shannon told [Link broken] the Kansas State Collegian (February 16, 2006) that it is unlikely that the adoption of the resolution will have any financial or legal ramifications for the district. Board member Beth Tatarko added that in fact accepting the state standards might be financially and legally precarious, citing the outcome of Kitzmiller v. Dover: "If we had someone in our district teaching Intelligent Design right now, those costs would come back to us."

Mike Herman, a Kansas State University biology professor who originally presented the board with the resolution, told the Collegian, "The board made a bold move tonight by accepting and approving the resolution." Expressing his hope that other school districts across Kansas will follow in the steps of USD 383, he added, "It's important for the students of Manhattan, and it could be important for the state of Kansas in the end."