Fwd: California Gets A' in Evolution Education; 19 other states fail to make the grad

From: Ted Davis (tdavis@messiah.edu)
Date: Wed Sep 27 2000 - 12:34:55 EDT

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    The San Francisco Chronicle

    California Gets A' in Evolution Education; 19 other states fail to make the
    grade in national survey

    BYLINE: Tanya Schevitz, Chronicle Staff Writer

    California is among just six states that received high marks for their
    teaching of evolution, while 19 states faired poorly and Kansas flunked, with
    a curriculum deemed "disgraceful," according to a new report that promises to
    spur the decades-old debate between science and creationism in the schools.

    The report, commissioned by the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation in Ohio and
    released yesterday by the American Association for the Advancement of
    Science, considers how well evolution is included in the state science
    education standards of 49 states and the District of Columbia.

    The states were each given a letter grade, with California and five other
    states -- Connecticut, Indiana, New Jersey, North Carolina and Rhode Island
    -- receiving a perfect 100 percent. They ranked high for introducing at least
    some of the basic processes of biological evolution early on, building on
    them later, making evolution the centerpiece of the life sciences and
    maintaining the continuity of historical sciences.

    Twenty-five other states received grades ranging from A to C, or from very
    good to satisfactory. But six states -- Arkansas, Kentucky, Wisconsin,
    Virginia, Alaska and Illinois -- received an unsatisfactory D, and 13 others
    an F or worse, which the report says indicates their "standards are quite
    useless for purposes of teaching evolution."

    The states with a failing grade were: Wyoming, Maine, Ohio, Oklahoma, New
    Hampshire, Florida, Alabama, North Dakota, Georgia, Mississippi, West
    Virginia and Tennessee. Kansas's grade was F-minus. Iowa was not included in
    the report because it allows local districts to set education standards.

    Phillip Johnson, a law professor at the University of California at Berkeley
    and an author of books about evolution, criticized the report.

    "I think it is a pile of nonsense and the enlistment of the cultural and
    financial power of the scientific enterprise in a program of indoctrination
    and not education," he said.

    He called it part of an "anti-religious movement" that forces students to
    trust science.

    "They are taught an ideology. They are told to believe and not to ask any
    questions," he said.

    The author of the report, Lawrence S. Lerner, a professor emeritus at the
    California State University at Long Beach, calls "creation science," a
    "pseudoscientific rival to evolution that the courts have repeatedly held to
    be thinly veiled religion." He said that objections to the teaching of
    evolution are expressed in elementary and secondary education in various
    ways. In some states, the fundamental concepts and facts are covered only
    briefly but the word "evolution" is carefully avoided in favor of "change
    over time."

    In others, the "subject is avoided altogether or barely mentioned, reducing
    the sciences -- especially the biological sciences -- to disjointed lists of
    facts," he says in the report.

    The teaching of evolution in schools evokes bitter controversy, Lerner says,
    and the issue has galvanized states in the past few years.

    The Kansas Board of Education made headlines last year when it dropped the
    big-bang theory of the origin of the universe and revised science teaching
    standards to emphasize creationism over evolution.

    In giving Kansas the lowest grade of all the states, Lerner calls the state's
    science education standards a "disgraceful paean to anti-science.

    Linda Holloway, former chairman of the Kansas State Board of Education, said
    the report was deceptive and "very unfair."

    "Clearly they have an ax to grind about evolution," she told the Associated

    Kentucky's D-rated science standards earn a comment from Lerner that "It
    appears that young Kentuckians are to be sheltered from any exposure to
    evolution and other dangerous words and theories."

    "It is a problem for science literacy in this country," said Molleen
    Matsunura, of the National Center for Science Education in Berkeley. "It is
    not new, but it is something to worry about."

    She said that college science professors are reporting students coming in
    unprepared, having never heard of evolution, and that students who do not
    learn evolution will not pass the science subject section of the SAT or the
    Advanced Placement test.

    Matsunura said California ranked high in the new study because the State
    Board of Education has adopted a curriculum framework and science standards
    that include the teaching of evolution.

    The state approved a policy in 1989 stating that discussions of scientific
    facts or theories "related to the origins of the universe, the Earth, and of
    life" are appropriate to the science curriculum, while discussions of "divine
    creation" are appropriate to the history, social science and English



      A new report ranked each state according to how well
    it taught evolution in its public schools. Top scoring states
    earned the highest grade of: A, which was deemed excellent.''
    The lowest scoring state received an: F-, Considered disgraceful.''
    Calif.: A
    N.J.: A
    Wash.: B
    La.: C
    Okla.: F
    Utah: B
    Mont.: B
    Colo.: B
    Neb.: C
    Mo.: B
    Iowa (No grade)
    S.D.: B
    Nev.: C
    Ark.: D
    Md.: C
    Pa.: A
    Vt.: B
    Maine: F
    Mass.: B
    R.I.: A
    Conn.: A
    Ga.: F
    Fla.: F
    Ala.: F
    Miss.: F
    Ariz.: B
    Ore.: B
    N.D.: F
    Wis.: D
    Ohio: F
    Ill.: D
    Mich.: B
    Ind.: A
    Kan.: F-
    N.M.: C
    Wyo.: F
    Idaho: B
    Del: A
    Dist. of
    Columbia: B
    Hawaii: A
    Alaska: D
    Texas: C
    Minn.: B
    W.Va.: F
    Tenn.: F
    N.C.: A
    S.C.: A
    N.H.: F
    N.Y.: C
    Va.: D
    Ky.: D
      Score Description
    A: 90-100 Excellent
    B: 80-89 Good
    C: 60-79 Satisfactory
    D: 40-59 Unsatisfactory
    F: 0-39 Useless or Absent:
    F-: Negative values Disgraceful
    Source: Lawrence S. Lerner, professor emeritus, California
    State University, Long Beach

    E-mail Tanya Schevitz at tschevitz@sfchronicle.com. Chronicle wire services
    contributed to this report.


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