States

Evolution Restored to Kansas Standards, But Called ‘Controversial’ in Alabama’s

By Julie Blair & David J. Hoff — February 21, 2001 3 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

The Kansas board of education made good last week on its newest members’ promise to return the concept of evolution to the state science standards, a move that was applauded by scientists around the country.

Meanwhile, as policymakers in the Sunflower State affirmed their commitment to the teaching of evolution, their counterparts in Alabama gave the subject a less ringing endorsement. Included in the new science standards approved by Alabama education officials this month is a disclaimer that declares evolution to be a “controversial” theory.

In Kansas, the 10-member state school board voted 7-3 on Feb. 14 to replace controversial benchmarks set in 1999 with a version of the science standards that includes sections on the origin of the universe, the development of Earth, and dinosaurs and their fossils, said Val DeFever, a board member.

Such references had been removed a year and a half ago by the then-sitting board, many of whom objected on religious grounds to prevailing scientific explanations for the origins of the universe and species. Reversal of that action became a virtual certainty after four new members deemed more moderate on the issue were elected in November.

“We put the science back into science,” Ms. DeFever said. “I can now feel confident that we’re providing students of Kansas with world-class standards.”

While state tests cover material outlined in the standards, Kansas districts are not compelled to align their curriculum with them.

Praise for the Kansas decision came from the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the National Academy of Sciences, both based in Washington, and the Arlington, Va.-based National Science Teachers Association. After the 1999 change, the groups had revoked the copyright permission they had given Kansas to reprint sections of their science standards. (“Science Groups Deny Kansas Access to Their Standards,” Sept. 29, 1999.)

Comments Vary

“Students in Kansas will once again have the opportunities to explore and understand what have become important foundations of modern life, earth, and physical sciences and will be better prepared to be productive members of our increasingly scientific and technological world,” says a statement released by those groups following the vote.

But the decision was criticized in other circles.

“They’ve legislated censorship,” said John H. Calvert, the managing director of the Intelligent Design Network, an organization based in Shawnee Mission, Kan., that advocates the view that the world was created by a force other than nature. “We’ve told them what they’ve done is unconstitutional.”

But Mr. Calvert said that neither he, nor members of his organization, had plans to challenge the action in court at this time.

Alabama Move Debated

In Alabama, the state board of education unanimously approved a revised set of science standards at its Feb. 8 meeting after some debate over the disclaimer on evolution included in the preface, said Thomas E. Salter, a spokesman for the state education department.

“It is controversial because it states that natural selection provides the basis for the modern scientific explanation for the diversity of living things,” the preface to the standards says.. “Since natural selection has been observed to play a role in influencing small changes in the population, it is assumed, based on the study of artifacts, that it produces large changes, even though this has not been directly observed.”

Some members of the public complained about the preface’s characterization of the theory of evolution as “controversial,” but they did not object to the way the standards themselves treat the topic, Mr. Salter said.

Alabama already includes an insert in state-approved biology textbooks that says evolution and other explanations of the origins of life “should be considered as theory, not fact,” Mr. Salter noted. He said that statement would continue to be placed in those books.

Related Tags:

A version of this article appeared in the February 21, 2001 edition of Education Week as Evolution Restored to Kansas Standards, But Called ‘Controversial’ in Alabama’s

Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
School & District Management Webinar
Accelerate Learning with Project-Based Learning
Earlier this year, the George Lucas Educational Foundation released four new studies highlighting how project-based learning (PBL) helps accelerate student learning—across age groups, multiple disciplines, and different socio-economic statuses. With this year’s emphasis on unfinished
Content provided by SmartLab Learning
School & District Management Live Online Discussion Principal Overload: How to Manage Anxiety, Stress, and Tough Decisions
According to recent surveys, more than 40 percent of principals are considering leaving their jobs. With the pandemic, running a school building has become even more complicated, and principals' workloads continue to grow. If we
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Student Well-Being Webinar
Building Teacher Capacity for Social-Emotional Learning
Set goals that support adult well-being and social-emotional learning: register today!


Content provided by Panorama

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

States California Is Mandating COVID Vaccines for Kids. Will Other States Follow?
California's is the first statewide student requirement for COVID-19 vaccines. Will other states follow? And what about loopholes?
5 min read
Marcus Morgan, 14, waits to receive his Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine at Families Together of Orange County in Tustin, Calif., on May 13, 2021.
Marcus Morgan, 14, waits to receive his Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine at Families Together of Orange County in Tustin, Calif., on May 13, 2021.
Jae C. Hong/AP
States How Vaccine Loopholes Could Weaken COVID Shot Mandates for Kids
For years before the pandemic, states sought to tighten loopholes in school vaccine requirements. Those efforts may now be put to the test.
9 min read
Opponents of legislation that tightened  rules on exemptions for vaccinations demonstrate outside the office of California Gov. Gavin Newsom in Sacramento, Calif., in Sept. 2019. Medical exemptions in California more than tripled in the three years after they became the only allowable reason for a student to be unvaccinated.
Opponents of legislation that tightened rules on exemptions for vaccinations demonstrate outside the office of California Gov. Gavin Newsom in Sacramento, Calif., in Sept. 2019.
Rich Pedroncelli/AP
States To Quarantine or Not? Florida Is Letting Parents Decide
The choice to quarantine exposed students will be up to parents, not school districts, under a rule signed by Florida’s new surgeon general.
Scott Travis, South Florida Sun-Sentinel
6 min read
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, shown at a news conference last month, appointed a new surgeon general for the state who issued an emergency rule that the decision to quarantine students will be up to parents, not school districts.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, shown at a news conference last month, appointed a new surgeon general for the state who issued an emergency rule that the decision to quarantine students will be up to parents, not school districts.
Bob Self/The Florida Times-Union via AP
States During Site Visit From Cardona, Illinois Governor Defends Vaccine, Testing Policies
“The testing regimen is there in order to make sure that they’re not entering the institution where they work and spreading COVID-19.”
Karen Ann Cullotta, Chicago Tribune
3 min read
The Student Council lead the creation of “sensory hallways” at Western Branch Middle School in Chesapeake, Va.
U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona looks on as Gov. J.B. Pritzker speaks with reporters after touring Access Hawthorne Family Health Center, which is offering COVID-19 vaccines at 3040 S. Cicero Ave. in Cicero, as part of the Department of Education's "Return to School Road Trip" events in the Chicago area, Tuesday afternoon, Sept. 21, 2021.
Ashlee Rezin/Chicago Sun-Times via AP