Major developments over the period 1987 to 1999:
1987: National: The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that public
schools cannot teach creationism in science classes.
Late 1990's: State school boards in Arizona, Alabama,
Illinois, New Mexico, Texas and Nebraska have tried to either
no longer mandate the teaching of evolution, or
de-emphasize the teaching of evolution 1
1998: North Carolina: The North Carolina House passed a bill which mandated that
evolution be presented as a theory, not as a fact.
1999-AUG-11: Kansas: The Kansas Board of Education
went one step further. They established new state science standards which
school boards to establish their own curriculum: they can teach only creation
science, or only evolution, or some combination of both, or neither. The board largely rejected the
report of their own committee of science educators, by a 6 to 4 vote. The words:
creation, God, and Genesis do not appear in the new standards. "Evolution"
does appear: microevolution (transformations within a species) can be taught;
but macroevolution (development of new species from the old) is not mandated.
The age of the earth and the rest of the universe is not mentioned. "Studies
of data regarding fossils, geologic tables, cosmological information are
encouraged. But standards regarding origins are not mandated." 2
There may be a number of interesting repercussions from the state board's
Since state exams will not contain any questions on the
origin of life or development of the species, then teachers will not be
motivated to teach these topics. As Harry McDonald, president-elect of
the Kansas Association of Biology Teachers said: "Why spend our
time teaching something that isn't going to be assessed?"
The content of science classes will be left as a local
option. Individual school boards will be allowed to decide whether to teach
creation science, or evolution or some combination of both. Conceivably some
religious minorities may attempt to get their faith's creation or origin
stories taught as well. The result will be many intense battles at the local
level that will divide communities and generate animosity and hatred.
High school graduates from those districts that do not teach
evolution will have a great deal of difficulty taking college introductory
biology, geology, astronomy, nuclear physics and other courses. As the
science educators' report said, evolution by natural selection is "a
broad, unifying theoretical framework in biology." Evolution in
other fields of science is equally foundational.
Graduates will also have problems taking college
entrance exams; some will be asked questions on topics that they have
never learned in class.
John Staver, a Kansas State University science education
professor commented: "Science teaches collaboration, inductive and
deductive logical reasoning, controlled experimentation, reasoning backwards
through time to determine cause and effect...and kids need to develop those
thinking skills in school." He apparently believes that these
skills will be lost if creation science is taught.
Many legal challenges to local school
boards' decisions are expected from first amendment and separation of church and state
It is possible that some students who run into
difficulties in college will sue the state for providing them with an
Some responses to the board's decision:
John Morris, president of the Institute for Creation
Research commented: "I think the evolutionist
elitist will squeal like a stuck pig and they will not allow it to be
implemented. Weíre a long way from any real victory."
Kansas Governor Bill Graves referred to the boards
report as "a terrible, tragic, embarrassing solution to a
problem that didnít exist."
In 1998, the National Academy of Sciences said that if
students are to understand anything about biology, then evolution must
be taught. Their guidebook for parents and school personnel states:
"There is no debate within the scientific community over whether
evolution has occurred, and there is no evidence that evolution has not
occurred...Many students receive little or no exposure to the most
important concept in modern biology." 3
Three national science groups (the National Research
Council, the American Association for the Advancement of Science,
the National Science Teachers Association) will now not permit State
Board of Education to use their copyrighted materials in classrooms.
Gerald Wheeler, executive director of the National Science Teachers
Association commented: "We do have to defend good science
from bad science," he said. "Evolution is the unifying
principle in science. To pervert it or modify it or eliminate it
destroys the very nature of science..." On another occasion,
Dr. Wheeler stated: "Our teachers tell us that if it [evolution]
is not in the state framework, then it puts a very big burden on the
local science teacher to do what we would call 'good science,'...
Everything is a theory, but it's [evolution] probably the biggest
unifying theory that exists in all of science."
Half of the 10 seats on the State Board of Education come up
for election in the year 2000. The terms of four of the six members who
voted against evolution wiIl end. It should be an interesting competition.
1999-AUG-26: National: Vice-president Al Gore's office announced that he
favors the teaching of evolution in public school science classes, but would not oppose
instruction in creationism if taught as part of a religious course. On
AUG-27, a White House spokesperson said that President Clinton accepts the
ruling of the U.S. Supreme Court in 1987 that public schools are not free to
1999-OCT: New Mexico: Reuters reported that the New Mexico Board of
Education plans to vote on a change to the state teaching guidelines.
The change would make it clear that evolution is to be taught in state
science classes. The guidelines currently read: "Discuss the
evidence for and against and
employ the concept of evolution. Describe evolution as a series of
cumulative changes." The proposal is to delete the first phrase.
This change has been planned for nearly three years; they felt moved to act
now because of the recent decision in Kansas. Board president Flora Sanchez
commented: "Everything in biology falls out from this [evolution]
so we really can't ignore it or leave it to children to figure out on their
own." She noted that creationism does have a place in the school
system: "It should be taught in social studies alongside the Native
American [view of the] origin of the world and that of other cultures."
1999-OCT-5: Kentucky: The Kentucky State Education Department substituted
the term "change over time" for "evolution" in their
curriculum. Deputy Commissioner Gene Wilhoit explained: "The word is
a lightning rod that creates a diversion from what weíre teaching, and we
did not want to advocate a particular doctrine or a specific view."
Ken Rosenbaum, director of the Kentucky Science Teachers Association
commented: "A lot of teachers are upset about this. They know it was
done for political reasons. Itís either a scientific theory or itís not.
Why donít we just stop calling the sunrise the sunrise?"
1999-OCT-24: Illinois: The Chicago Tribune reported that the Illinois
State Board of Education met with two very conservative Christian
groups: the Illinois family Institute (IFI), an affiliate of the Family
Research Council, and the Illinois Christian Coalition. The
groups were successful in removing the mandatory teaching of evolution, and
certain sexual education material from the curriculum. In 1999-AUG, the
Kansas Board created "the most antievolution science education
standards in the country." according to the Washington
1999-NOV-8: Kansas: A newspaper poll showed that most adults in
Kansas reject their Board of Education's
52% disagreed with the elimination of questions on evolution on
state tests; 32% agreed; 16% were undecided.
52% said that they are more likely to vote in the next board
election; among those who disagreed with the board action, 64%
said that they were more likely to vote. 4