Science

Update: Kansas Approves Standards Critical of Evolution

By Sean Cavanagh — November 09, 2005 3 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

The Kansas state board of education on Nov. 8 overhauled its state science standards in a way that encourages more criticism of the theory of evolution, in a much-anticipated decision that appalled many of the nation’s leading scientific organizations.

By a 6-4 vote, the board approved a draft of the document that says, among other things, that certain aspects of the theory used to explain changes in living things are “controversial.” It references a “lack of natural explanations for the genetic code,” and “discrepancies in the molecular evidence,” which scientists cite as evidence for evolutionary theory.

See Also

Many scientists strongly dispute those and similar statements made in the standards, saying that board members exaggerated supposed holes or unanswered questions in the theory. Evolution is the scientific concept that living things, including humans, have evolved over time through a process of random mutation and natural selection.

Over the past year, attempts to promote “intelligent design”—the belief that an unnamed creator may have had a role in shaping life’s development—have gained traction in states around the county. The vast majority of scientists reject that view as untestable, nonscientific belief, and possibly a version of biblically based creationism in disguise.

But the chairman of the Kansas board, Steve Abrams, who supported the newly redrawn standards, said those complaints were unfounded. Too many scientists, he said, seek to squelch any criticism of evolutionary theory.

“Science has always been about freedom of speech and open discussion—except in the area of evolution,” Mr. Abrams said in an interview. “Evolution has always been treated as dogma.”

Evolution-Theory Battleground

Kansas has long been a battleground in the teaching of evolution. In 1999, the state board voted to strip most references to the theory from the state’s science standards. After a number of members were ousted in a subsequent election, a new board in 2001 overhauled the standards to give the theory the stronger treatment many scientists argued it deserved.

Yet another round of more recent elections, however, again changed the composition of the panel, and several newly elected members repeatedly stated their intention to revise the science standards to allow for more criticism of evolutionary theory. On Nov. 8, they followed through on their intentions in a vote that generally followed an expected division on the board, with self-described conservatives favoring the revision.

Kansas’ revised standards do not specifically mention intelligent design, Mr. Abrams noted. In fact, the introduction to the document says that the standards do not mandate the teaching of the design concept.

But many scientists have noted that the language in the standards mirrors the stated views of intelligent-design advocates. Critics also say the board has altered the definition of science in a way that could open science classrooms to nonscientific ideas and religious belief.

“They’ve done what we expected them to do,” said Harry E. McDonald, a member of a local organization, Kansas Citizens for Science, which opposed the new standards. “It’s just unfortunate for Kansas.”

State standards are guidelines for what students are expected to know in various subjects. The treatment of evolution in state standards varies enormously, with some of those documents failing to mention the term and others describing it specifically and in great detail at several grade levels. Kansas officials have noted that school districts are given broad discretion over their curricula in science and other areas, despite the language in state standards.

Related Tags:

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
Webinar
Stronger Together: Integrating Social and Emotional Supports in an Equity-Based MTSS
Decades of research have shown that when schools implement evidence-based social and emotional supports and programming, academic achievement increases. The impact of these supports – particularly for students of color, students from low-income communities, English
Content provided by Illuminate Education
Classroom Technology Webinar Building Better Blended Learning in K-12 Schools
The pandemic and the increasing use of technology in K-12 education it prompted has added renewed energy to the blended learning movement as most students are now learning in school buildings (and will likely continue
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
A Whole Child Approach to Supporting Positive Student Behavior 
To improve student behavior, it’s important to look at the root causes. Social-emotional learning may play a preventative role.

A whole child approach can proactively support positive student behaviors.

Join this webinar to learn how.
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

Science Here's How to Make Science More Relevant for Students of Color
Students get more out of science class, these teachers say, when the lessons are linked to their own lives and communities.
5 min read
Chemistry teacher Nina Hike poses for a portrait in her classroom at George Westinghouse College Prep on Friday, Nov. 5, 2021 in Chicago, IL. Through her curriculum, Hike highlights scientific discoveries by women and people of color, and also teaches students about environmental racism.
Chemistry teacher Nina Hike poses for a portrait in her classroom at George Westinghouse College Prep on Friday, Nov. 5, 2021 in Chicago, IL. Through her curriculum, Hike highlights scientific discoveries by women and people of color, and also teaches students about environmental racism.
Taylor Glascock for Education Week
Science COVID-19 Is a Science Lesson Waiting to Happen
Teachers have more information about the virus now than in March 2020, but barriers remain to focusing on the pandemic in class.
8 min read
Conceptual illustration of sectioned off people studying a Covid-19 Virus
Vanessa Solis/Education Week and Jorm Sangsorn/iStock
Science Finding Hope in the Face of Climate Change: Why Some Teachers Focus on Solutions
Learning about climate change can make students feel anxious or hopeless. A solution-focused teaching approach gives them a reason for hope.
11 min read
Conceptual illustration of hand reaching into an atom and picking the planet earth
Vanessa Solis/Education Week and Frances Coch/iStock
Science 5 Ways to Teach Climate Change and COVID-19 During Polarized Times
Rampant misinformation and politics have made science teachers' jobs harder. Teachers share five strategies to teach sensitive topics.
9 min read
Linda Rost, a finalist for the 2020 National Teacher of the Year and a high school science teacher, teaches at Baker High School in Baker, Mont. on Nov. 3, 2021.
Linda Rost teaches a science class at Baker High School in Baker, Mont., earlier this month. She has received some pushback for teaching about COVID-19.
Leslie Bohle for Education Week