Archive for Monday, November 14, 2005

Discord reigns on Board of Education

Evolution decision ripples; commissioner at center of disputes

November 14, 2005


— The State Board of Education last week finished its battle over evolution, but the war continues.

"The main purpose of the board of education is to provide a good education for the young people of Kansas, but now the hard right agenda is front and center," said Mel Kahn, a political science professor at Wichita State University.

Last week, the board in a 6-4 vote approved science standards that criticize evolution, ending for now a yearlong struggle charged by religion that was played on a national stage.

But the vote certainly didn't end board dissension.

Certain of victory, board Chairman Steve Abrams, a conservative Republican, pushed the standards through along with a resolution that detailed the conservative side's reasoning for the standards.

Moderates on the short end of the vote saw Abrams' resolution as adding insult to injury.

"I'm very disappointed in you," board member Carol Rupe, R-Wichita, said to Abrams. Abrams said the resolution was needed to explain why the standards were needed.

At the same meeting, newly hired Education Commissioner Bob Corkins' travel plans with conservative board members and his pursuit of private school vouchers caused another eruption.

Corkins announced he was going on multiple-city tours with two conservative board members, Connie Morris of St. Francis and Ken Willard of Hutchinson, both Republicans.

Janet Waugh, a Democrat from Kansas City, asked why Corkins didn't invite her to a recent series of meetings he held with groups in her district.

She said she heard secondhand that Corkins promoted private school vouchers and expansion of charter schools at the meetings.

Corkins has long favored those positions, but the board has yet to endorse them.

"My understanding is the commissioner speaks for the board. Are you speaking for the board or are you speaking for yourself?" Waugh asked.

Corkins said he would never advocate something the board didn't support. Morris said moderates were jumping the gun in their opposition to charter schools and vouchers.

"The attacks have come out before we've even had a discussion," she said.

The hiring of Corkins last month by the 6-4 majority and his subsequent actions continue to ignite controversies on the board.

Corkins has hired a public relations person for $5,000 per month to handle media relations, and a consultant for $2,500 per month to handle his transition.

He defended the moves, saying the $5,000 per month contract was less than the former information director was paid, and the transition work was needed to help him evaluate the agency.

Sue Gamble, a moderate Republican from Shawnee, complained during the meeting, "I'm concerned about the concept of transitioning when I have no idea what we are transitioning to."

Kahn, the WSU professor, said the board's fights were "certainly diversionary."

Kahn said there needed to be bridge-building between the factions and a recognition that "nobody can expect to have their way all the time."

Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, a Democrat who opposes the change in the science standards, urged voters to get familiar with what the board is doing. Four of the six members who voted for the standards are up for re-election next year.

"I hope people will pay close attention to the races that will be run in 2006," Sebelius said.


Chocoholic 12 years, 6 months ago

I also like the quote on the SJG site home page:

"Objectivity cannot be equated with mental blankness; rather, objectivity resides in recognizing your preferences and then subjecting them to especially harsh scrutiny - and also in a willingness to revise or abandon your theories when the tests fail (as they usually do)." -Stephen Jay Gould


Good for us all to remember I think.

Richard Heckler 12 years, 6 months ago

It may be time to remove the Kansas BOE. Allow the governor to appoint a secretary of education with some background in the matter.

This group are terrible at managing spending. The majority of this board have a dictator type mentality with their priorties as the agenda. If school vouchers gets through the legislature watch the no tax people become tax increase people. Corporate welfare on the horizon.

Corkins will running around as an advocate for TABOR : A move which has a negative impact on public education funding.

Funded by the Right Most of the financial backing for TABOR initiatives has come from antitax fanatics like Grover Norquist, White House insider and intellectual author of the Bush tax cuts, or brothers Charles and David Koch of oil pipeline conglomerate Koch Industries, heirs to their father's company and fortune. As co-owners of their $40 billion corporation, the Kochs have used their staggering resources to start an ultraconservative think tank designed to pump out ideological broadsides disguised as policy studies. The Americans for Prosperity Foundation (AFPF) touts TABOR and other pieces of conservative legislation as overwhelming success stories, usually with validating data from like-minded (and like-funded) organizations. "It's no accident that TABOR's major champions : share many of the same free-market philosophies and goals. They also share many of the same funders-large corporate interests and right-wing private foundations-and in some cases, they share board members as well," concludes a 2005 report by the Bureau of National Affairs, a nonpartisan business news publisher.

yourworstnightmare 12 years, 6 months ago

Agreed. These are not slight differences of opinion. The BOE and many in the legislature want to bring down public education and other state institutions. TABOR is just the most recent example. I once heard David Adkins give a speech (in 2000) in which he said this cabal doesn't want to make government work better or more efficiently. They want to bring government down. K-12 and higher education, said Adkins, were there main targets.

Time for politeness and equivocation is over. It is time for hardball, as bennyoates said. These wacko fundamentalist christians need to be exposed for what they are: liars and intemperate idealogues, the Kansas equivalent of the Taliban, who want to turn Kansas and the US into a theocracy governed by religious mullahs with education limited to madsasas.

As GWB said about the other Taliban: Bring it on!

glockenspiel 12 years, 6 months ago

How many of you negators have actually read the science standards?

Read the standards, jot down your complaints, and then post your criticism. You people don't even know what you are critisizing. I challenge you to find where in the standards it tells teachers to teach intelligent design, christianity, or creationism.

glockenspiel 12 years, 6 months ago


Funded by the Right Most of the financial backing for TABOR initiatives has come from antitax fanatics like Grover Norquist, ... ...

I hope your name is Micheal Rebne. If not, copying some one elses work and posting it as your own is a crime and seriously hurts your credibility.

Richard Heckler 12 years, 6 months ago

I have posted this article in it's entirety elsewhere however due to lack of space and it's connection to the right wing I only provided this portion and the source is:

Tabor Is Coming

This publication has been in my library for a few years. Next time I will provide the link or feel free to ask.

yourworstnightmare 12 years, 6 months ago

By the new KBOE standards and the logic of ID creationists, we must abandon our criminal justice system.

We can never "recreate" the crime. In a controlled situation we can never make a murder happen again. We can only rely on post-facto proof and evidence which, thanks to ID creationists, we all know is not proof at all.

How long will we let this travesty of our criminal justice system persist based upon such flawed ways of thinking?

glockenspiel 12 years, 6 months ago

Kinda like the old Christian hypocracy of saying "We don't hate Muslims, we just want to blow their heads off for threatening our supply of oil, ....

As usual, its all interconnected. the standard party line... Over analyse a statement, then throw in terrorism, make sure we get oil in there. What else are we forgetting? Oh yeah, God sux.

begin quote "d. Whether microevolution (change within a species) can be extrapolated to explain macroevolutionary changes (such as new complex organs or body plans and new biochemical systems which appear irreducibly complex) is controversial. These kinds of macroevolutionary explanations generally are not based on direct observations and often reflect historical narratives based on inferences from indirect or circumstantial evidence." end quote

The explanation behind macroevolutionary changes are debated even within the confines of the evolution community.

yourworstnightmare 12 years, 6 months ago


"The explanation behind macroevolutionary changes are debated even within the confines of the evolution community"

Where did you pull this from? As per Wendt, macroevolution is a term made up by creationists because of the overwhelming proof that organisms change over time. They made up this false term to wriggle their ludicrous ideas around reality that became too overwhelming for them. Intellectual shifting sands as usual from this ID creationist crowd.

Don'y rely on what religioud and politcal leaders say about evolution. Listen to scientists.

Chocoholic 12 years, 6 months ago

Wendt, you said: "Macroevolution" is a straw dog. It doesn't exist. "

And Nightmare, you said: "As per Wendt, macroevolution is a term made up by creationists because of the overwhelming proof that organisms change over time. They made up this false term to wriggle their ludicrous ideas around reality that became too overwhelming for them. Intellectual shifting sands as usual from this ID creationist crowd."

That's not the information I'm finding. I went to the Steven Jay Gould Web site:

Check out "Gould on Richard Goldschmidt" "As a Darwinian, I wish to defend Goldschmidt's postulate that macroevolution is not simply microevolution extrapolated, and that major structural transitions can occur rapidly without a smooth series of intermediate stages. . . . In his infamous book of 1940, Goldschmidt specifically invokes rate genes as a potential maker of hopeful monsters: 'This basis is furnished by the existence of mutants producing monstrosities of the required type and the knowledge of embryonic determination, which permits a small rate change in early embryonic processes to produce a large effect embodying considerable parts of the organism.' In my own, strongly biased opinion, the problem of reconciling evident discontinuity in macroevolution with Darwinism is largely solved by the observation that small changes early in embryology accumulate through growth to yield profound differences among adults."

While ID folks would appear to carry those same terms through different processes to different conclusions, they didn't coin them.

The SJG site is pretty cool, by the way. Check out his comments on the previous KS BOE decision from Time mag in 1999 (maybe you all have already been here):

Kodiac 12 years, 6 months ago

Hey Glockenspiel,

"I challenge you to find where in the standards it tells teachers to teach intelligent design, christianity, or creationism"

I know this is late but I thought I would throw in my 2 cents worth. Just because you don't state something specifically doesn't mean you are not trying to do it. There is an underlying agenda in these standards and for you to sit there and deny it is ignorance.

Wendt has already indicated several creationist terms such as "irreducible complexity" which has been shown by the scientific community to be false and an oxymoron. Read the beginning of the standards for what the students are supposed to know or understand. It says the student "understands biological evolution, descent with modification, is a scientific explanation for the history of the diversification of organisms from common ancestors". This is evolution pure and simple yet the rest of the standards tries to show evidence against that statement. Why you make a statement about understanding evolution and then proceed to disprove it. It is another indication of a hidden agenda here. Another statement in the standards says the theory that all life had a common origin has been challenged by fossil records and molecular biology. This is not true. These so called evidences were created by the creationists and have been discredited by the scientific community. Another example of a hidden agenda. Another statement in the standards says "The sudden rather than gradual emergence of organisms near the time that the Earth first became habitable." This statement is misleading and clearly alluding to an act of creation.

The end result here is that the ultra conservatives on the board are trying to dictate what science is. It is time to kick them out.

devobrun 12 years, 6 months ago

Kodiac, nightmare wendt, I can't believe yer still here. As I scan the above, I find yer arguments to be increasingly strident. There's even a hint of paranoia. But then, that's understandable for a bunch of guys who are accustomed to creating reality. You guys really outta take a break. The world out there is a fine place. You can leave the abstractions, models, predictions, speculations behind. Just live it. That's what I've been doin' fer the last 2 or 3 weeks, and I'm goin' back to it. Join me. None of this stuff really matters anyhow, now does it?

Kodiac 12 years, 6 months ago

Hey Devo,

Nice to hear from ya. More power to ya. Have a nice life. Thanks for the advice. You go on back out there to your little reality and "live it". We will just sit here with our "abstractions, models, predictions, speculations" and paranoia and continue to create reality. If you really don't care about it then we should not see you ever again. This would suit me just fine since none of the things that you talk about really matters, now does it?

Your Buddy Kodiac

Chocoholic 12 years, 6 months ago

First, back to my point: that "macroevolution" and "microevolution" are not terms concocted by the ID or Creationist crowds. It's preexisting terminology used by those whom most would consider well-known, respected scientists. And, it appears to me that while other scientists do not always necessarily agree with their theories (of course there are those who dispute Gould), they do acknowledge their work as viable scientific research.

Maybe I misunderstand what you mean in saying macroevolution is a straw dog; maybe you mean that it's a straw dog only for the ID/C folks. But even so I'm not sure I get your point. Clearly in some brilliant scientific minds the concept-and the differentiation-does exist.

As for genetic defects leading to macroevolutionary change, if I'm bold enough to try to interpret the mind of Gould (ha), I don't think he's saying that genetic defects should be equated with macroevolutionary change. I do see what you're saying in that individuals born with genetic defects are unlikely to reproduce. But, wouldn't that depend on the nature of the defect? What if the individual could reproduce, and the defect turned out to be beneficial? Isn't all evolutionary change made up of genetic "defects"?

I don't read teratogenic effects on embryos into that particular passage that I quoted. I'm not sure exactly what Gould is saying would cause such a change, and maybe it could indeed be a teratogen. I looked back on the web site but didn't see anything about teratogens. Did I miss something?

As to your comment on confusion, maybe I am, but at least I can admit it and take advantage of those opportunities for learning that you mention. At least I'm willing. Here's a quote I once found that I think applies to this whole discussion:

Begin quote: I fully realize that I have not succeeded in answering all of your questions.

Indeed, I feel I have not answered any of them completely. The answers I have found only serve to raise a whole new set of questions, which only lead to more problems, some of which we weren't even aware were problems.

To sum it all up:in some ways I feel we are as confused as ever, but I believe we are confused on a higher level, and about more important things. End quote, author unk.

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