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2 Districts Apply Blue Pencil And Glue to Science Books

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The big-bang theory has been under intense academic scrutiny recently--but not from eminent scientists.

Kenneth Shadowen, the superintendent of the 5,500-student Marshall County, Ky., schools, decided last month that the discussion of the theory in the district's 5th- and 6th-grade science books was one-sided and that it shouldn't be part of lessons. He ordered district officials to confiscate the books and glue together the two pages that dealt with the theory that the universe began with the explosion of an atom and has been expanding ever since.

"We're not going to teach one theory and not teach another," such as the biblical account of the origin of the universe, Mr. Shadowen said in a recent interview with a local newspaper.

Even though the original version of the textbook already had met local and state curriculum guidelines, the superintendent's alterations were permissible, the Kentucky education department said.

'Theory, Not Fact'

In Clayton County, Ga., meanwhile, the school board voted unanimously last month to insert a disclaimer on the origins of life in 140,000 science textbooks used in all grades.

Students returning to school this month will see a three-paragraph message in their textbooks that reads: "No human was present when life first appeared on Earth. Therefore, any statement about life's origins should be considered a theory, not fact."

The board borrowed the language from the Alabama state school board, which last fall approved an insert in high school biology textbooks that states that evolution is only a theory.

"We have Buddhists, Hindus, and others who could have different views," said Linda Barrett, the Clayton County school board chairwoman, who pushed for the change.

The state legislatures in Georgia, New Hampshire, Tennessee, and Ohio each tried this year to pass measures to regulate the teaching of evolution in public schools. None of the bills succeeded. ("Lawmakers Put Theory of Evolution on Trial," June 5, 1996.)

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