Intelligent design OK'd in classroom

Kansas board approves new standards


TOPEKA, KAN. -- The state board of education yesterday approved science standards that question evolution and allow for the teaching of intelligent design in public schools.

"This is a great day for Kansas," board president Steve Abrams said. "This absolutely raises science standards."

The board, in a 6-4 vote, directed schools to teach the "considerable scientific and public controversy" surrounding the origin of life - a controversy that most scientists contend exists only among creationists.

The dissenters pointed out that some board members who backed the standards have been outspoken about their faith and have criticized evolution for being offensive to Christianity.

"I'm certainly not here to change anyone's faith, but I wish you were not changing science to fit your faith," board member Carol Rupe said to Abrams.

Added member Janet Waugh: "We're becoming a laughing-stock, not only of the nation but of the world."

Yesterday's vote makes Kansas the fifth state to adopt standards that cast doubt on evolution. A trial is under way in Pennsylvania over whether teaching intelligent design - a concept that holds life is too complex to have evolved naturally, without mentioning God - violates the U.S. Constitution's ban on state promotion of religion.

The Associated Press reported that all eight members of Dover, Pa.'s school board - defendants in the intelligent design case - were defeated in their bids for re-election.

The National Academy of Sciences and the National Science Teachers Association - two groups whose material makes up the backbone of Kansas' science standards - told the state in advance that they would revoke copyright privileges if the new standards were approved; the board said that its lawyers would rewrite the document to avoid any violation of the law.

The standards approved yesterday are not binding on local school districts, and few have said they plan to revise their lesson plans. But many educators said there would be pressure to teach intelligent design and creationism, because the standards are the basis for statewide testing.

And national science groups feared the vote would open the door to anti-evolution movements elsewhere.

"Intelligent design supporters and creationists will hold this up as a standard - go forth and do likewise," said Eugenie Scott, director of the National Center for Science Education.

Ohio, Minnesota, New Mexico and Pennsylvania have adopted standards that encourage questioning of evolution by local school districts. Kansas' present the most explicit challenge to evolution.

This is not the first time Kansas has altered its standards to move away from teaching evolution.

In 1999, the state approved standards that eliminated all references to evolution. Kansas became the butt of jokes on late-night television, the conservative majority on the board was swept out of office in the 2000 elections, and the anti-evolution standards were repealed.

But religious conservatives recaptured control of the education board last fall, and they quickly went to work on the new science standards.

Nicholas Riccardi writes for the Los Angeles Times.

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.