Standards

Draft Ohio Standards Allow Debate on Evolution

By David J. Hoff — October 23, 2002 2 min read

The draft of Ohio’s science standards now includes language that encourages teachers to explain to high school students that scientists are still debating aspects of the theory of evolution.

Teachers should “describe how scientists continue to investigate and critically analyze aspects of evolutionary theory,” according to a sentence added last week by the committee of state board of education members that wrote the latest draft.

The addition slightly changes the treatment of evolution in the state’s draft standards. Supporters of instruction in evolution have said that the draft considered by the committee gave a thorough and accurate explanation of the theory that started with the ideas of Charles Darwin. They still consider the Ohio draft to be a solid set of standards, even as they acknowledge that the new sentence gives teachers who want to criticize evolution an opening to do so.

“Evolution is in the standards,” said Eugenie C. Scott, the executive director of the National Center for Science Education, an Oakland, Calif.-based group that supports the teaching of evolution. “The kids are going to be tested on the standards, so evolution will be taught.”

The latest addition, adopted by the state board committee on Oct. 14, opens the door for teachers to discuss the “intelligent design” theory, which suggests that some evolutionary changes happen so suddenly that they could be the work of a force such as God.

“The board should be commended for insisting that Ohio students learn about scientific criticisms of evolutionary theory as a part of a good science education,” said Stephen Meyer, the director of the Center for Science and Culture at the Discovery Institute, a Seattle organization that promotes intelligent-design theory.

“Such a policy represents science education at its very best, and it promotes the academic freedom of students and teachers who want to explore the full range of scientific views over evolution.”

Center of Controversy

Over the past year, Ohio has been at the center of the long- running debate over how to teach evolution, as its state board of education completes a revision of science standards mandated by state law.

More than 1,000 people filled a Columbus auditorium last spring for a debate between advocates of evolution and intelligent design staged by the state board. In recent weeks, both sides of the debate have pointed to polls that they say show public support for their positions.

Throughout the process, a small band of scientists has been promoting intelligent design as an alternative to evolution. They say that the state should teach the controversy over whether evolution is the best explanation of biological diversity.

The National Academy of Sciences and other prominent science groups have urged Ohio to adopt standards that describe evolution as “the central unifying concept of biology” and “a critical component of many related scientific disciplines.” (“Eminent Science Group Reiterates Importance of Teaching Evolution,” April 28, 1999.)

Now that the science-standards committee has finished drafting its standards, the state board will listen to public comment on them at its meeting next month. The board has scheduled a vote on the standards at its December meeting. State law requires the board to adopt new science standards by the end of the year.

Since Ohio gives districts the final say over curriculum, local educators will decide how much emphasis to put on the debate over evolution, according to Patti Grey, a spokeswoman for the Ohio Department of Education.

Events

Classroom Technology Webinar Making Big Technology Decisions: Advice for District Leaders, Principals, and Teachers
Educators at all levels make decisions that can have a huge impact on students. That’s especially true when it comes to the use of technology, which was activated like never before to help students learn
Professional Development Webinar Expand Digital Learning by Expanding Teacher Training
This discussion will examine how things have changed and offer guidance on smart, cost-effective ways to expand digital learning efforts and train teachers to maximize the use of new technologies for learning.
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
The Social-Emotional Impact of the Covid-19 Pandemic on American Schoolchildren
Hear new findings from an analysis of our 300 million student survey responses along with district leaders on new trends in student SEL.
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

Standards Opinion How the Failure of the Common Core Looked From the Ground
Steve Peha shares insights from his on-site professional-development work about why the common core failed, in a guest letter to Rick Hess.
4 min read
Image shows a multi-tailed arrow hitting the bullseye of a target.
DigitalVision Vectors/Getty
Standards Opinion Common Core Is a Meal Kit, Not a Nothingburger
Caroline Damon argues Rick Hess and Tom Loveless sold the common core short, claiming the issue was a matter of high-quality implementation.
5 min read
Image shows a multi-tailed arrow hitting the bullseye of a target.
DigitalVision Vectors/Getty
Standards How New Common Core Research Connects to Biden's Plans for Children and Families
A study of national test scores indicate the early phase of the Common Core State Standards did not help disadvantaged students.
5 min read
results 925693186 02
iStock/Getty
Standards Opinion After All That Commotion, Was the Common Core a Big Nothingburger?
The Common Core State Standards may not have had an impact on student outcomes, but they did make school improvement tougher and more ideological.
3 min read
Image shows a multi-tailed arrow hitting the bullseye of a target.
DigitalVision Vectors/Getty