Archive for Friday, February 11, 2005

Board members differ on placing stickers in textbooks

February 11, 2005


— At least one State Board of Education member favors putting stickers saying evolution is a theory and not fact in science textbooks, but other conservative board members aren't sure about the idea.

Board member Iris Van Meter said she likes the idea, which Atty. Gen. Phill Kline suggested publicly after private meetings with the six conservative Republicans, including Van Meter, who form a majority on the 10-member board.

"I think children ought to be taught that it is theory alone," Van Meter said of evolution.

The board's plans to consider changes in state science education standards later this year rekindled the debate over how evolution is taught. Current standards describe it as a key concept for students to learn, but critics hope to expose students to more criticism of it. In the past, some have argued for teaching creationism or intelligent design alongside evolution.

Kline -- who continued Thursday to face criticism over his meetings with board members -- said adding stickers to textbooks would be a reasonable compromise. A federal judge in Georgia ruled against such a policy last month, but Kline has offered to defend the idea in court.

Board member Kathy Martin, a Clay Center Republican and one of the conservatives, said local school boards should decide whether to put stickers in textbooks. Board Chairman Steve Abrams, an Arkansas City Republican, said: "That has not been my first priority."

Gov. Kathleen Sebelius didn't address that controversy Thursday but said she doesn't support changing how evolution is taught.

"We want to have the best-educated work force in the country," she said. "The last thing we need to do is tamper with science standards and change the curriculum."

A Kansas University graduate student will present "Intelligent Design Theory: Fundamentalism's Attack on Public Education" at 7 p.m. Tuesday in the Kansas Room of the Kansas Union.Evan Kreider's talk will provide a historical, scientific, philosophical and political overview of the issues and arguments involved. He also will discuss currently proposed revisions to Kansas science education standards.The event, which is free and open to the public, is sponsored by the Society of Open-Minded Atheists and Agnostics at KU.

On Wednesday, the board voted 6-4 to have three of its conservative members hold public hearings to hear from scientists. Abrams said the those hearings represent his first choice for dealing with evolution, rather than the stickers.

Abrams and other members of the state board have clashed with a panel of science educators appointed by the board to review the standards. They are concerned it hasn't given proper consideration to supporters of creationism and intelligent design.

Evolution says that species change in response to environmental and genetic factors over the course of many generations. Intelligent design, a secular form of creationism, argues that there's evidence of an intelligent design behind the origin of the universe, the formation of the Earth and biological change.

Sue Gamble, a Shawnee Republican and one of four board members supporting the current standards, said evolution critics are trying to gain public support because, "They have failed to legitimize themselves in the scientific community."

Martin said she and other conservatives aren't trying to bring creationism or intelligent design into the classroom, only give students a balanced view of evolution.

Kline said he discussed disclaimer stickers with board members because legislators have asked him about the idea, though he could not remember specifically which ones.

"It was just in the air because of that Georgia case," Kline said.

The Georgia case involved the 2002 decision of a suburban Atlanta school district to place stickers in its science textbooks. A federal judge ruled last month the stickers were an unconstitutional endorsement of religion.

Kline said he hasn't reviewed the Georgia case thoroughly but said he believes using such stickers would be constitutional.

"I think it really would be a stretch to say it's not," he said.

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