State board dumps anti-evolution standards

The science standards that brought Kansas ridicule when they were adopted 14 months ago are no more. On Tuesday, the State Board of Education voted on the fifth set of science standards for public schools in only eight years.

In 1999, a conservative-controlled board struck most references to evolution from the standards. In 2001, a new board returned to evolution-friendly standards, that all life has a common origin.

In 2005, concepts critical of evolution were allowed to be taught in school. But, now that the board has a 6-4 moderate majority they returned to evolution-friendly standards.

The previous standards were controversial, because they rejected mainstream scientific views. Teachers were encouraged to teach concepts critical of evolution. For example, questions could be discussed freely in the classroom about whether changes over time in one species can create a new one.

People on both sides of the issue addressed the board before they voted.

“Why should students be expected to learn a version of science that isn’t consistent with the way science is actually done?” said Dennis Shephard, evolution proponent.

“It’s equipping the students to try to figure out what it is and whether this is true or this isn’t true,” said Rebecca Hogland of the previous standards. “Let’s have an open mind.”

The decision about what concepts are taught in schools is left up to the 296 local school boards in the state. Educators say the guidelines are influential, because teachers and administrators want their students to do well on tests which are written from the state standards and indicate a school’s performance.

To read the new science standards, log on to the Kansas State Department of Education.