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Archive for Wednesday, February 14, 2001

Evolution vote expected Wednesday

State board set to approve science standards with greater emphasis on evolution

February 14, 2001

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— After 18 months of national and international attention, the state Board of Education planned Wednesday to approve new science standards with a greater emphasis on evolution.

The new standards would replace ones adopted in August 1999, which omitted references to many evolutionary concepts.

If approved, Kansas students would be given tests this spring on the new science standards, which restore references to "macroevolution," the process of change from one species to another.

The die for changing the standards was cast last fall when voters ousted two board members who voted for de-emphasizing evolution, including then-chairwoman Linda Holloway, of Shawnee.

Expected to vote Wednesday for the new standards were Chairman Sonny Rundell, of Syracuse; Sue Gamble, of Shawnee; Carol Rupe, of Wichita; Val DeFever, of Independence; Janet Waugh, of Kansas City; Bill Wagnon, of Topeka; and Bruce Wyatt, of Salina.

Likely to vote against the standards were John Bacon, of Olathe, and Steve Abrams, of Arkansas City, who was an architect of the current standards. The vote of the board's 10th member, Harold Voth, of Haven, wasn't certain, though he supported the current standards.

Evolution, a theory developed by Charles Darwin and others, holds that the Earth is billions of years old and that all life, including humans, evolved from simple forms through a process of natural selection.

Some religious fundamentalists and others object to the teaching of evolution, saying it contradicts the biblical account of creation.

The board caused an uproar in 1999 when it voted 6-4 in favor of science standards that critics said stripped evolution from its accepted place at the center of biological studies. Gov. Bill Graves called the board's action "terrible, tragic, embarrassing."

The 1999 standards deleted references to macroevolution but included references to "microevolution," or changes within species.

Those standards also mention natural selection, the idea that advantageous traits increase in a population over time, but omit any reference to the big-bang theory of the universe's origin.

Supporters of those standards said they leave the decision about what to teach in the classroom up to local boards of education.

Kansas is one of several states, including Arizona, Alabama, Illinois, New Mexico, Texas and Nebraska, where school boards have attempted to take evolution out of state science standards or to de-emphasize evolutionary concepts.

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