Archive for Sunday, October 26, 2008

State BOE race slips below radar

Science standards depend on new group’s makeup

October 26, 2008


Voter Education Coalition forum: District 4 State Board of Education

Carolyn Campbell and Robert Meissner give their opening statements.

Election 2008

In-depth coverage of the candidates and the issues, all leading up to the Aug. 5 primary and the Nov. 4 general election.

State Board of Education races at a glance

¢ District 2, based in Johnson County. Republican Mary Ralstin faces Democrat Sue Storm. Both are considered moderates. Current officeholder is Sue Gamble, a Republican moderate, who is not seeking re-election.

¢ District 4, which includes most of Lawrence. Democrat Carolyn Campbell faces Republican Robert Meissner. Current officeholder is Bill Wagnon, a Democratic moderate, who is not seeking re-election.

¢ District 6, which includes northern Kansas. Republican Kathy Martin, who is a conservative, faces Democrat Christopher Renner, a moderate. Martin is the incumbent.

¢ District 8, which includes Wichita. Democrat Walt Chappell, a moderate, faces Republican Dennis Hedke, a conservative. Current officeholder is Carol Rupe, a moderate Republican.

¢ District 10, which includes south-central Kansas. Republican David Dennis faces Democrat Paul Casanova. Both are considered moderates. Current officeholder is conservative Republican Steve Abrams, who did not seek re-election.

Way below the noise of a historic presidential campaign and an epic economic meltdown are the low-key battles between moderate and conservative candidates vying for the Kansas State Board of Education.

Five positions on the 10-member board are up for grabs, and the results of those elections will decide whether moderates maintain their majority, or even increase it - or conservatives gain ground to produce a 5-5 standoff.

Historically, the see-saw battle between moderates and conservatives for control of the board has produced fights over teaching evolution in schools that have attracted international attention.

Currently, the 6-4 moderate majority has established science standards that subscribe to evolution being taught in science classes.

Local face-off

The issue of evolution came up last week during a Lawrence debate in the SBOE, District 4 contest between Republican Robert Meissner and Democrat Carolyn Campbell.

Campbell supports the current science standards.

She said Meissner had a hidden agenda, implying he would be open to allowing the teaching of intelligent design or some other idea about life's origins in science classes.

Meissner stated: "As far as other theories of origin, the litmus test for me is scientific credibility. When the science community can come to a consensus as to the scientific credibility, then at that point and only that point should we consider including those other theories in our science curriculum."

Evolutionary history

Steve Case, a Kansas University research professor, has had a front-row seat as the state board has gone back and forth over education and evolution.

In 2005, he was chairman of the science standards-writing committee that favored teaching evolution, but those standards were rejected by the then 6-4 conservative majority on the board, which put in place standards that questioned evolution and were supported by advocates of intelligent design.

The 2006 election put moderates back in control, and they quickly put in the evolution-friendly standards.

Case said it is possible that conservatives could make gains in this election because people have been focused on other issues.

"The economy is dominating the news and people's thinking these days," he said. The SBOE races, he said, "have faded to the background. People need to pay attention."

The political landscape

The 6-4 moderate majority that supports the current science standards, which include evolution, is tenuous.

Of the five positions on the board up for grabs, three are held by moderates and two by conservatives. Of the moderate seats, all three incumbents are not seeking re-election.

Campbell and Meissner are running for a seat currently held by Democrat Bill Wagnon, a moderate. Wagnon defeated Meissner in 2004 in a close election.

In District 8, based in Wichita, Republican Dennis Hedke and Democrat Walt Chappell are running for a seat held by Republican Carol Rupe, who is a moderate.

Chappell supports the present science standards, but Hedke said he is open to considering changes and supports private school vouchers.

On his Web site, Hedke stated: "In the interest of academic integrity, we must remain open to consideration of adjustments of any 'standards' we attempt to define at any given moment."

Hedke has been endorsed by board members Kathy Martin, Kenneth Willard and Steve Abrams, all of whom voted for science standards critical of evolution. And he is endorsed by the conservative Kansas Republican Assembly.

In the District 2 race, which includes Johnson County, both Republican Mary Ralstin and Democrat Sue Storm are considered moderates. They are running for a seat to replace a moderate.

In the District 10 race, Republican David Dennis and Paul Casanova have said they both support the standards. One of them will replace the conservative Abrams, who is running for state Senate.

And in the District 6 race, Republican incumbent Martin, who is critical of evolution, faces moderate Democrat Christopher Renner.

If Meissner and Hedke win and Martin wins re-election, the board would be tied 5-5. If Campbell, Chappell and Renner win, the moderates would have an 8-2 majority.


Fred Whitehead Jr. 9 years, 7 months ago

We seen to have to fight this issue over an over again. The right-wing loonies who think their view of religion should be taught in public schools is patently illegal, as has been upheld many times. These reactionary throwbacks continue to attempt to upstage science, math, and plain old common sense with their religious voodoo and it makes my blood boil that these idiots have any standing with anyone. But I guess in rural Kansas, the Jesus freaks manage to maintain a hold over the pinhead minds of voters. There ought to be some means of preventing this fraud on our education system, but the legislators that are elected by the religioous loonies are the ones who could make laws preventing the practice of religious doctrine in our school science classes. Maybe we ought to have a school board with an uneven number of members so we would at least have a chance at squashing this crusade against learning and education.

tangential_reasoners_anonymous 9 years, 7 months ago

"State BOE race slips below radar"Rumor has it that the race may have plunged into the western Kansas tar pits.

Hazel Ripstra 9 years, 7 months ago

Vote for Carolyn Campbell to ensure that we keep good science standards. If the conservatives, with whom Meissner is aligned, regain control of the Board we could once again have the embarrassment of creationist-influenced science standards, as well as other items on the conservatives agenda, such as abstinence only opt-IN sex ed and vouchers for private schools.Vote for Carolyn Campbell for quality public education.Thanks,Jack Krebsmember, state science standards committee, 2004-2006

bondmen 9 years, 7 months ago

Teach the controversy about evolution and how mathematics and physics are both huge obstacles to proving evolution true. Students deserve to know the weaknesses in the theory while they're still in government schools. Vote for BOE candidates who will allow full disclosure of all the scientific evidence. It's the right thing to do!

Ralph Reed 9 years, 7 months ago

TheOriginalCA (Anonymous) writes :Jack, you are a zealot"**TOCA, if I were Jack, I would thank you. I suppose you would place me in that same camp. Intelligent Design (Creationism) does not belong in the Science Classroom.I don't mind if it's taught in a Comparative Religions class. The question then is which creation story or belief would be taught: the "True Christian" creation story; the Islamic creation story; the Hindu creation story; that found in the Simarillion; and so on.Here's a quick definition to help you choose."A creation myth or cosmogonic myth is a supernatural mytho-religious story or explanation that describes the beginnings of humanity, earth, life, and the universe (cosmogony), usually as a deliberate act of "creation" by one or more deities.Many creation myths share broadly similar themes. Common motifs include the fractionation of the things of the world from a primordial chaos; the separation of the mother and father gods; land emerging from an infinite and timeless ocean; or creation ex nihilo (English: out of nothing)."( stories would you teach?****I'm me. Who are you behind your hood of anonymity?

bondmen 9 years, 7 months ago

I failed to include chemistry which is also a huge obstacle to proving evolution true.

LiberalDude 9 years, 7 months ago

"not all scientists do"Every scientist that I have ever met believes in evolution. I would say that well over 99% of scientists believe in it......and most would wonder about the few that don't. Do they also not believe in gravity? That the earth is round? That electricity exists?

sci4all 9 years, 7 months ago

"Teach the controversy about evolution and how mathematics and physics are both huge obstacles to proving evolution true."Bull. There you go again, claiming that you know more than 99.99% of the scientists in the world who actually do the research.The arrogance of the anti-science forces in this state is breathtaking. Even more arrogant is how those forces try to push their anti-science teachings down the throats of everyone else's kids.

elkwc36 9 years, 7 months ago

I have nothing against teaching evolution. But it is just a theory also and yet to be proven. One segment believes in it and not all scientists do. So I feel that the other theories also should be presented till one is proven the only answer. The evolutionists are scared that if the other theories are presented too many youth might see that it isn't fact. As a Christian I don't worry about that as I know the truth. And pary all the evolutionists figure it out before it is too late for them. God Bless to all. JD

texburgh 9 years, 7 months ago

If Kansas is serious about attracting high tech and bio science industries to this state then it is imperative that our state board not return to the anti-science majority we tossed out in 2006. Meissner is open to putting creationism back in our science classes - that was clear when he ran against Wagnon in 2006. This time he has taken the maximum contribution from the Free Academic Integrity and Research Committee - a group that supports putting "intelligent design" in science classrooms.He is their man; he took their money; he will seek to return Kansas to Leno, Letterman, and the national spotlight. Vote for Carolyn Campbell. Keep common sense in Kansas. Keep science in our science classrooms.

Strontius 9 years, 7 months ago

"I have nothing against teaching evolution. But it is just a theory also and yet to be proven"I would really like to know how many more times it has to be said that a scientific theory is basically fact, or the closest we can get to such a thing. Evolution is no more theory than Gravity, but I don't see people waving Gravity off as "just a theory". This is precisely WHY we need good science standards in our classrooms. People don't know the difference between a theory and a hypothesis, believing that the word "theory" used in the science context means the same as in the colloquial context of "Jane has a theory". Ignorance of this basic fact is no longer excusable, as this issue has long been explored and long been explained. If you don't believe in evolution, you are making the claim that millions of scientists in every country around the world, are all wrong. That's a pretty serious accusation, and I would take it further to say that it implies a belief in some massive conspiracy. "If you're approaching a cliff, I hope you would remember that gravity is just a theory, and consider all the possibilities." -Edward 'Rocky' Kolb

nobody1793 9 years, 7 months ago

"State BOE race slips below radar"I don't believe in radar because it is not in the bible. Being able to "see" things from miles away? Sounds like the work of the devil.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.