Archive for Friday, July 9, 2004

Education board still at odds over wording of social studies standard

July 9, 2004


A stalemate continues among Kansas State Board of Education members who cannot decide how much emphasis social studies teachers should put on global issues.

Some board members want to use the original standards presented to them last month by a committee of 10 social studies teachers from across the state. Others favored new wording brought to them Thursday by the committee that contained changes proposed by a board member.

The standards will become the basis for testing the state's 480,000 students.

The committee came up with the new wording for the civic government, economics and geography standards based on changes suggested in June by board member Steve Abrams, an Arkansas City Republican.

"We, obviously, have a difference of opinion here and you're caught in the middle of it," Abrams said to committee members Thursday during a meeting of the board.

Abrams' suggestions would put more emphasis in lessons on Kansas and the United States. But board members Sue Gamble, R-Shawnee, Bill Wagnon, D-Topeka, and Bruce Wyatt, R-Salina, said the new wording took attention away from world issues and the ties Kansas and the United States have to global affairs.

"It's important for us in Kansas to understand that we breathe the same air that passes across China, for Pete's sake," Wagnon said during a heated portion of the almost two-hour discussion.

Abrams said he never meant to imply that Kansas was or should be isolated, noting that agricultural products and airplanes are exported, while Wal-Mart sells Chinese goods.

"Obviously, we have a difference of opinion," he said.

The board took no action on the standards, though it came to an agreement on wording for the economics standard.

After a long period of discussion on the civics-government and geography standards with no compromise, the board opted to take a suggestion made by Education Commissioner Andy Tompkins. They formed a special committee to guide the standards revision committee.

"I'm not sure it's good to come up with compromise language during a board meeting," Tompkins said before making the suggestion.

Board members approved on a 7-2 vote creating a special committee consisting of Wagnon and Abrams. Gamble and Wyatt dissented. Board member Kenneth Willard, R-Hutchinson, wasn't at Thursday's meeting.

"The original wording is far superior," Gamble said. Wyatt also approved of the original

Wagnon and Abrams said they could work together and were optimistic about coming to an agreement.

This is the second time in five years that board members clashed over standards. In 1999, conservative Republican board members, including Abrams, won approval of science standards that de-emphasized evolution -- drawing international ridicule.

In the 2000 elections, a coalition of moderate Republicans and Democrats regained control and reinstated evolution as a key element of the science curriculum.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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