Fwd: Report Grades Evolution Teaching

From: Ted Davis (tdavis@messiah.edu)
Date: Wed Sep 27 2000 - 12:35:49 EDT


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    01:37 AM ET 09/27/00

    Report Grades Evolution Teaching

    AP Science Writer

           WASHINGTON (AP) _ Nineteen states got D's or F's in a report
    that evaluated how public schools teach evolution, raising a new
    issue in a continuing dispute between science and religion.
           The report graded 49 states and the District of Columbia and
    gave the highest rankings to California, Connecticut, Indiana, New
    Jersey, North Carolina and Rhode Island. Kansas, whose standards
    were described as ``disgraceful,'' got the lowest grade.
           The report was commissioned by the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation
    and released Tuesday at the American Association for the
    Advancement of Science national headquarters.
           Following the six top-ranked states, four states got numerical
    grades in the 90s and were also given A's in the report.
           Fourteen states were graded at B, seven got C, six were given
    D's and 13 flunked. Iowa was not included because it has no
    statewide education standards, leaving that up to each local
           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 said
    in a telephone interview.
           Kansas last year rekindled the issue of teaching evolution in
    public schools when the state board of education, led by Holloway,
    approved science teaching standards that minimized the importance
    of evolution and omitted the big-bang theory of the origin of the
           Other states have considered similar curriculum changes and some
    state legislatures have proposed laws that would forbid completely
    the teaching of evolution in public schools.
           Evolution, a theory developed by Charles Darwin and others,
    holds that the Earth is billions of years old and that all
    creatures, including humans, evolved from simpler forms through a
    process of natural selection.
           Related to biological evolution is the concept that the universe
    began with a ``big bang'' and that only later were the sun and the
    planets formed.
           Teaching of evolution has been opposed by those who believe that
    the universe, the Earth and its creatures were created abruptly by
           Some proponents of divine creation have organized a concept,
    called creationism, that they proposed be taught along with
    evolution. In 1987, the Supreme Court barred states from requiring
    the teaching of creationism. Now some of the same proponents
    support other concepts, such as ``abrupt appearance'' or
    ``intelligent design,'' that are linked to divine creation.
           Lawrence S. Lerner, who compiled the report, said the conflict
    ``is not really about science, but about religion and politics.''
    He calls creationism ``a pseudoscientific rival to evolution that
    the courts have repeatedly held to be thinly veiled religion.''
           Lerner, a former professor at California State University, Long
    Beach, said Kansas got such a poor grade because its guidelines
    forbid teaching anything about the age of the Earth or the
           ``There is not a reference to the age of the universe because it
    changes all the time,'' explained Holloway. ``Within a month after
    we adopted the standards, I heard three different ages of the
    Earth. That is kind of ludicrous to get them (teachers) to stick to
    one age when it changes all the time.''
           Lerner called the Kansas science education standards ``a
    disgraceful paean to antiscience.''
           Holloway, however, said the report was part of ``a campaign of
    deception'' and that all districts in Kansas are still teaching
           ``All we did was allow local groups to decide how they wanted to
    teach evolution,'' she said. ``That is a reasonable thing to do.''
           Warren Nord, a member of a panel assembled by AAAS to comment on
    the report, spoke in favor of education standards that would
    include religious concepts of creation along with concepts of
           But Nord, director of the Program on Humanities and Human Values
    at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, said the report
    failed to evaluate the completeness of science education.
           ``A good science education should not limit itself to what
    scientists think, but should also explore the cultural context in
    which scientific claims are made,'' said Nord, noting that the
    report ``doesn't address that.''

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