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Is the impasse in South Carolina over?


There are signs that the impasse over South Carolina's science standards is nearing its end. As previously reported, the state board of education voted in March 2006 to reject a proposal from the state's Education Oversight Committee that would have significantly expanded the "critical analysis" language already present in the section of the new state science standards that deal with evolution. But although the EOC apparently lacks any power to revise the standards, it still retains the power to approve or reject the standards as a whole, so a deadlock was a possibility. Moreover, a member of the EOC -- state representative Bob Walker (R-District 31) -- subsequently attempted to amend a senate bill, S 114, to direct the state board of education to approve only textbooks that "emphasize critical thinking and analysis in each academic content"; that attempt was rejected by the House Committee on Education and Public Works.

On May 22, 2006, the EOC's Academic Standards and Assessments Subcommittee voted to adopt the curriculum standards originally proposed by the state board of education, and on May 31, the state board of education unanimously reaffirmed its support for those standards. The State reported [Link broken] (May 31, 2006) that the single instance of "critical analysis" present in the originally proposed standards was added to placate state senator (and EOC member) Mike Fair (R-District 6), whose various efforts to undermine the teaching of evolution in South Carolina's public schools over the last few years have been so far unsuccessful. He may, however, regard a provision (see 1A.71.) in the 2006-2007 state budget as a token victory: it directs expenditures on and assessments of instructional material to emphasize "higher order thinking skills and critical thinking." Walker told The State that he was satisfied with the outcome. The EOC is scheduled to meet on June 12, when it is expected to vote on the standards.