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Revisiting state science standards

State board should maintain status quo

By The Mercury

Here’s hoping the mainstream science standards that Kansas and two dozen other states are collaborating on aren’t muddied by creationism/intelligent design advocates.

The issue surfaced last week at the Kansas Board of Education when, according to the Associated Press, Ken Willard, a Republican member whose term won’t expire until 2014 and who is running for the Legislature, called a draft of proposed science standards “flawed” because of its treatment of evolution. Its purported flaw involved describing evolution as a well-founded, core scientific concept.

Mr. Willard, who worries that those who question evolution might be considered “crackpots,” distributed to fellow board members a letter from a group that objects to the proposed standards. Trouble is, the group, Citizens for Objective Public Education, doesn’t want more objectivity in the public school science curriculum, it wants more religion.

Its letter indicated that the proposed standards show little respect for religious diversity and ignore evidence that challenges evolution. The letter further indicated that the draft standards promote secular humanism, ruling out the role of a supreme being in the workings of the universe, and added that the draft is an attempt to “indoctrinate” students with “non-theistic beliefs.”

A state board dominated by social conservatives more than a decade ago included creationist ideas in the teaching of evolution. That was a victory for ideology over the education of Kansas students, one that installed religious doctrine in the teaching of science. That led to a multi-year see-saw battle in which a moderate board majority, while fully respectful of religious teachings, ultimately prevailed in opposing religious teaching in the science curriculum.

Although some on the present board want the draft standards voted on before the year is out — timing that would benefit the status quo — a vote this year is unlikely. Officials in the Kansas Department of Education have said that the new standards won’t be ready to be voted on until early next year. That means a new board, one that could have as many as six new members, will make the decision.

To what extent that makes evolution an election issues is unclear. If it does become a central issue, we hope most voters, including devout Christians, recognize the wisdom of teaching matters of faith in homes or houses of worship and teaching matters of science in the classroom.

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