"Controversial Issues" framework stalled in Ohio


The Achievement Committee of the Ohio Board of Education declined to consider a proposed "Framework for Teaching Controversial Issues" at its September 11, 2006, meeting. James L. Craig, co-chair of the committee, said, "We've run out of time," according to a report in the Columbus Dispatch (September 12, 2006), and peremptorily adjourned the meeting. The decision not to consider the framework was surprising, since, as the Dispatch reported, the board received "national attention and thousands of e-mails" concerning it in recent weeks, owing in part to a campaign organized by the Committee to Defend the Constitution [Link broken].

Evolution is not mentioned in the proposed framework (PDF), but because it was descended from a July 11, 2006, proposal by board member Colleen Grady that cited global warming and evolution as two areas of science in which scientists disagree, it was viewed with suspicion as a clear attempt to circumvent the board's February 2006 vote to retract a controversial "Critical Analysis of Evolution" model lesson plan and to remove the indicator on which it was based from the standards. Board member Martha Wise told the Akron Beacon Journal (September 7, 2006), that the framework "is a lot of gobbledygook -- it's just another wedge into the teaching of ID in science classes."

Just before the Achievement Committee's meeting, Ohio Citizens for Science issued a statement (PDF) regarding the framework, describing it as "incoherent if, as its major proponent has stated, it will have teachers and students 'challenge everything.' It is impossible to challenge everything in each school class; to even attempt such a thing would result in chaos and no learning." The statement added, "Clearly the template is in fact the latest step in ongoing efforts to orchestrate a religiously motivated attack on the theory of evolution ... While science relies constantly on genuine critical analysis, it does not use denigrating debate tools based on political propaganda and ill-informed by evidence."

Additionally, Alan I. Leshner of the AAAS criticized the framework in his op-ed for the Akron Beacon Journal (September 11, 2006), writing [Link broken], "ID advocates who in the past were concerned only with critical analysis of evolution are adding scientific concepts they oppose on religious grounds, including embryonic stem cell research, as subjects where the scientific consensus would come under attack in Ohio's classrooms. Although the advocates have crafted their arguments carefully, a critical analysis of their version of critical analysis suggests it's an old product in a new wrapper -- and that it poses clear and palpable threats to the education and future of Ohio's children."

Although the Achievement Committee decided not to consider the framework at its September meeting, the Beacon Journal (September 13, 2006) observed that "the issue could come up for a vote at next month's regularly scheduled board meeting" in October. The Dispatch reported (September 12, 2006), "Privately, several board members say they support an immediate vote so debate can end. The proposals, they say, are unnecessary and divisive and draw attention from more important topics." Meanwhile, the Beacon Journal (September 17, 2006) editorially commented, "Continuing this very political debate promises to harm the quality of education for Ohio students."