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Standards should serve students well

Secular approach right for public schools

By The Mercury

It’s refreshing to learn that the debate over evolution and intelligent design didn’t dominate the discussion leading to the Kansas Board of Education’s approval Tuesday of new science standards for public school students.

Not that the topic has completely gone away. It hasn’t. But there was little support for creationism on a board controlled by moderate Republicans and Democrats; their vote on the standards was 8-2, according to the Associated Press and other accounts of the board’s meeting.

That vote also affirmed the last board vote on science standards, which was in 2007. In both instances the standards treat evolution as an established scientific concept. That is as it should be. The board took up science standards again because the law requires that the standards be updated every seven years.

Also appropriate was the plan to regard climate change as a significant enough concept to be included in science lessons in all grades, not just as a separate scientific topic in high school.

Not surprisingly, Ken Willard, a conservative BOE member from Hutchinson, wasn’t happy with the standards’ handling of evolution or climate change. He said the subjects are “presented dogmatically.” In voting against the standards, he said, “This nonobjective, unscientific approach to education standards amounts to little more than indoctrination in political correctness.”

Also speaking out against the new standards was Rex Powell, a member of Citizens for Objective Public Education, which was formed to challenge the new standards. He went so far as to say that the new standards promote “an atheistic world view.” He also described the standards as “standards for religious indoctrination rather than objective science education.”

If the standards promote a world view, it’s a secular world view, which is the proper approach in public school environments. Moreover, they reflect mainstream science regarding both evolution and climate change. 

The latter is essential for the simple reason that our climate is changing and because evidence is overwhelming that humans have contributed to it and continue to do so. Our students deserve reliable information on a phenomenon whose impact is almost certain to increase in their lifetimes.

Also, despite the misconceptions over Common Core education standards for reading and math, a topic that drew plenty of attention again Tuesday, Kansas students stand to benefit from this state’s early involvement in their development and their implementation in districts across the state.

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