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
Law & Courts Webinar
Future of the First Amendment:Exploring Trends in High School Students’ Views of Free Speech
Learn how educators are navigating student free speech issues and addressing controversial topics like gender and race in the classroom.
Content provided by The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation
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
Start Strong With Solid SEL Implementation: Success Strategies for the New School Year
Join Satchel Pulse to learn why implementing a solid SEL program at the beginning of the year will deliver maximum impact to your students.
Content provided by Satchel Pulse
Jobs Virtual Career Fair for Teachers and K-12 Staff
Find teaching jobs and other jobs in K-12 education at the EdWeek Top School Jobs virtual career fair.

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 Some States Want to Lock in Universal Free School Meals as Federal Waivers End
The pandemic-era waivers let students regardless of income get free school meals and drew wide use nationally.
4 min read
Norma Ordonez places a tray of grilled cheese sandwiches into an oven to warm as she prepares take-away lunches for students kept out of class because of the coronavirus at Richard Castro Elementary School early Friday, Dec. 18, 2020, in west Denver.
Norma Ordonez places sandwiches into an oven to warm as she prepares take-away lunches for students at Richard Castro Elementary School in Denver in 2020.
David Zalubowski/AP
States Governors Divided on How to Keep Schools Safe From Gun Violence
The Associated Press asked governors across the U.S. how to reduce mass shootings and gun violence.
4 min read
Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf speaks during a rally to end gun violence, Friday, May 27, 2022, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)
States Opinion Searching for Common Ground: The Parental-Rights Bill, aka the 'Don’t Say Gay’ Bill
Rick and USC dean Pedro Noguera discuss Florida's law curbing gender and sexuality talk and its impact on students, teachers, and parents.
6 min read
Image shows a multi-tailed arrow hitting the bullseye of a target.
DigitalVision Vectors/Getty
States Texas Governor Sparks Backlash With Talk of Rolling Back Free School for Immigrant Kids
Critics assailed Republican Gov. Greg Abbott's idea as “hare-brained” and “cruel.”
Robert T. Garrett, The Dallas Morning News
5 min read
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott speaks at a news conference in Austin, Texas, on June 8, 2021.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott speaks at a news conference in Austin, Texas, on June 8, 2021.
Eric Gay/AP