State Journal

June 19, 2002 1 min read

Keeping Mum

Ohio voters want to know Gov. Bob Taft’s thoughts on teaching evolution in public school science classes.

In a poll published last week by The Plain Dealer newspaper in Cleveland, 72 percent of the 1,500 likely voters surveyed said they want the governor, who is up for re-election in November, to weigh in on that state’s debate over whether schools should teach evolution or “intelligent design” theory.

Advocates of the latter view say that evolutionary changes occurred so rapidly that an intelligent designer, such as God, must have intervened. They want teachers to be allowed to introduce the concept in science classes alongside evolutionary theory.

The topic is hot in Ohio these days because the state board of education must decide on new science standards by year’s end. (“Debate Over Teaching of Evolution Theory Shifts to Ohio,” March 20, 2002.)

The poll results, however, haven’t changed the Republican governor’s mind about speaking out. He insists that the matter is for the board to decide.

But his Democratic challenger, Tim Hagan, a former Cuyahoga County commissioner, has not been shy in calling for teaching only evolution.

Like Mr. Taft, the five state school board members facing re-election are generally keeping mum. The poll suggests, however, that even more people—77 percent of those polled—want to know how the board members stand on the subject.

Half the voters surveyed also said the answers they get from politicians could influence their votes.

Conducted by Mason-Dixon Polling and Research of Washington, the poll also suggests that the idea of teaching both theories together is favored by 59 percent of those polled.

John Green, a University of Akron political scientist, says that may be because that option appeals to Ohioans’ innate sense of fairness.

“They may think it’s the civil and just thing to do,” he said.

—Debra Viadero

A version of this article appeared in the June 19, 2002 edition of Education Week