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01:37 AM ET 09/27/00
Report Grades Evolution Teaching
By PAUL RECER
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
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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