Kansas Science Standards

Keith B Miller (kbmill@ksu.edu)
Mon, 9 Aug 1999 23:09:59 -0500

A news item (Washington Post article) has been posted to both the ASA and
ACG lists about challenges to evolution in Shawnee Mission, Kansas.
Actually the challenge is to the statewide science standards now before the
Kansas Borad of Education.

To briefly fill everyone in, a 27 member committee of K-12 science
teachers, science educators, and scientists have put together a document
that will establish standards for the teaching of science in public schools
in Kansas. Over a two year period, it went through several drafts and
several rounds of public comment. During this process there was
considerable opposition by certain Christian groups who sought the
elimination of evolution from the curriculum. In the end, the resulting
document was really quite well written and stressed both the nature and
methodologies of science as well as several unifying theories and concepts
that cut across disciplines (including evolutionary theory).

This standards document has been before the State Board of Education for
three months awaiting approval. However, one state board member put
forward an alternative proposal that completely bypassed any process of
review or public comment. It was ghost written by members of a local
creation science organization. The document was terrible and demonstrated a
complete lack of understanding of the nature of science. It eliminated any
mention of evolution and also removed reference to _any_ unifying
scientific theories. It rather put the focus on technology, and dismissed
"theoretical science" as unproven and of little use. The unbelievable part
is that fully half the present members of the State Board of Education (an
elected body under no other political, educational, or legislative body)
favored this proposal over the document developed by
the education committee.

The latest turn of events is that 3 members of the Board rewrote the
standards to produce a "compromise" document. While not including the more
egregious parts of the alternate proposal, it still eliminates the theory
of evolution as a model for understanding the history and diversity of
life. Furthermore it does not mention cosmology (Big Bang) or the Age of
the Earth. It also includes errors of fact and misrepresentations of
scientific methodology and content. This version is likely to pass the
Board by a 6 to 4 vote.

The original standards document is strongly supported by virtually every
scientific and educational body in the state. The Governor and all of the
presidents of the regents institutions have appealed to the Board to reject
the alternate document. To put it mildly, things are a mess, and are an
embarassment to Christians who would seek to make an impact in the
intellectual community.


Keith B. Miller
Department of Geology
Kansas State University
Manhattan, KS 66506