Wednesday, August 03, 2005

COM: Kansas anymore?

Via, in my mind, one of the heroes of the Kansas battle, Red State Rabble, this report from the Science Writing Committe to the Kansas State Board of Education:

And Josh Rosenau at Thoughts from Kansas has the complete document, including the specific dissents and rationales here. Josh, of course, is another of those heroes.

The Board and the Commissioner have outlined a process for the development of curriculum standards in science and other subject areas. This process is not being followed. The Science Standards writing committee is a broad cross section of Kansas citizens that includes experts in science and science education who are working with community members. The expertise of the committee and State wide representation, along with following a well-tested process, gives validity and credibility to the work of the committee. The committee should be allowed to finish its work, with the committee’s final recommendations going to the Board, before the Board begins its standards process. At this point the committee is looking for the feedback of the external review to finish its process of providing Draft three to the State Board for consideration.
Committee recommendations for standards do not include scientific theories on the origin of life. While the subject of life's origins is within the province of biology, the scientific community does not consider the subject as part of evolutionary theory, which assumes the existence of life and is directed to an explanation of how life evolved after it originated. The committee feels that the introduction of life’s origins and the scientific explanations for the origin of life are not a fundamental part of K-12 student’s education and should not be included in the K-12 Content Standards. However, evolution is one of the core theories of science and should be clearly defined and included in the K-12 Content Standards.

The changes made by the Board (July 12, 2005) and the Board subcommittee are consistent with the language and concepts of the minority report that emerged from the writing committee in December 2004. Each of the suggestions from the minority report was discussed at length and voted on by the full committee as a part of the writing process. The committee discussion of each of these changes with a complete response to each of the changes suggested was reported by Dr. Posny in her summary of the January 27, 2005 writing committee meeting. In each case, a two-thirds majority of the expert panel of Kansans feels these changes were not appropriate for inclusion in the State Science Standards.

The minority report comes directly from the language of the Intelligent Design Network and Discovery Institute. Critical analysis of evolutionary theory is a repeated theme of both organizations’ web sites and literature. This critical analysis has no basis in science or science education. The suggested critical analysis has no scientific credibility, yet this ID-inspired language is used repeatedly in the minority report and throughout the Board Subcommittee draft.

Critical analysis, as it is understood by the science community, is the constant and ongoing testing of scientific knowledge – all scientific knowledge. Scientific critical analysis occurs within well developed and very specific rules and guidelines. As a part of the ordinary process of science this critical analysis and the rules and guidelines are included in Standard 1: Inquiry and Standard 7: History and Nature of Science. Understanding science in this way is an important understanding for students. To single out one particular concept or scientific explanation for special treatment is confusing and inappropriate.

The changes to the Kansas Science Standards parallel the language of the Intelligent Design Network and Discovery Institute. As clearly articulated by these groups, their strategy is to create an opening so that “alternative” theories to evolution can be introduced in the science classroom. They do not try to introduce Intelligent Design or creationism into public school curriculum, but just create the opening for the introduction of this philosophy. The Intelligent Design supporters are attempting to disguise this philosophy with marginally acceptable language. It is clear Intelligent Design promotes a particular religious doctrine over mainstream religious views. The Courts have held that the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution does not permit a state to require that teaching and learning must be tailored to the principles or prohibitions of any particular religious sect or doctrine. (Epperson v. Arkansas (1968) 393 U.S. 97, 37 U.S. Law Week 4017, 89 S. Ct. 266, 21 L. Ed 228) Public schools and particularly science classrooms should not be a forum for any kind of evangelism. There is an important role for religion in the education of a literate society, but not in the guise of science.

The committee requests that the dedication of the writing committee and the listing of the names of the writing committee be deleted from the July 12, 2005 KSES revision document.


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