Archive for Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Public weighs in on science standards

Creationism supporters say teaching only evolution is censorship

January 12, 2005


Supporters of creationism being taught in public schools appeared before the Kansas State Board of Education on Tuesday and said it was censorship for their beliefs to not be taught.

Celtie Johnson, of Prairie Village, told the board that hundreds of scientists with Ph.D.s have scientific evidence of a creator.

But their "claims are as dogmatically and shamefully rejected as were the opposing views of Galileo's in the 1600s," said Johnson, a homemaker with a mortuary science degree. "Didn't we learn from Galileo that censorship is not progress?"

A committee of about 25 people, most of whom are professors or high school or middle school teachers, has been rewriting the state science education standards since June. The state board of education did not discuss evolution or the science standards Tuesday morning. But it did accept public comment about the proposed revisions. The earliest the board would adopt science standards would be May or June.

At a meeting in mid-December, conservative members of the board attacked the committee rewriting the standards. They said some committee members failed to properly consider views about creationism and intelligent design when working on rewriting the standards.

Creationists follow the biblical story of how the world was formed. Advocates of intelligent design believe an unspecified intelligent cause best explains how certain features of the universe came into being. Critics say intelligent design is another form of creationism.

At the board meeting Tuesday, five people testified in favor of increased scrutiny of evolution.

Students will be better informed if they learn about the strengths and weaknesses of different viewpoints, said biologist Chris Mammoliti, of Topeka.

"It will not mean students are less competitive in college or the job market," he said. "High-tech industries will not leave our state. The sky will not fall."

One person told board members she did not want intelligent design added to the standards, saying intelligent design was more aligned to faith than science.

"Around the world, people live in oppression under regimes where religion and government are dangerously connected," said Kathy Cook, executive director of Kansas Families United for Public Education. "Once we begin to mix religious beliefs with politics, it becomes a downward slippery slope into a theocracy."

Public hearings on state science education standards are scheduled next month in four cities around the state. The hearings were supposed to be this month, but the committee rewriting the standards postponed them after members of the state board of education raised concerns at their December meeting about teaching evolution.

The rescheduled public hearings will be Feb. 1 in Kansas City, Kan., Feb. 8 in Topeka, Feb. 10 in Derby and Feb. 15 in Hays.

The delay in the public hearings also gave the committee more time to consider comments from people who work in education.

The board had been split 5-5 between conservatives and members who were comfortable with the science committee's work. Conservatives gained a 6-4 majority in last year's general elections; that majority took office Tuesday.

Current standards treat evolution as central to the science curriculum, among a few key subjects students must grasp. State law requires regular updating of academic standards, and the board decided to review science standards starting in 2004.

-- Information for this article was contributed by The Associated Press.

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