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Major developments over the period 1987 to 1999:

bullet1987: National: The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that public schools cannot teach creationism in science classes.
bulletLate 1990's: State school boards in Arizona, Alabama, Illinois, New Mexico, Texas and Nebraska have tried to either
bulletno longer mandate the teaching of evolution, or
bulletde-emphasize the teaching of evolution 1
bullet1998: North Carolina: The North Carolina House passed a bill which mandated that evolution be presented as a theory, not as a fact.
bullet1999-AUG-11: Kansas: The Kansas Board of Education went one step further. They established new state science standards which allow local 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 decisions:

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 organizations.


It is possible that some students who run into difficulties in college will sue the state for providing them with an inadequate education.

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. Were 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 didnt 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, and
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.

bullet1999-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 teach creationism.
bullet1999-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.
bullet1999-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 were 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. Its either a scientific theory or its not. Why dont we just stop calling the sunrise the sunrise?"
bullet1999-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 Times
bullet1999-NOV-8: Kansas: A newspaper poll showed that most adults in Kansas reject their Board of Education's decisions:
bullet52% disagreed with the elimination of questions on evolution on state tests; 32% agreed; 16% were undecided. 
bullet52% 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

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  1. David Miles, "Kansas drops evolution," Associated Press, at: http://abcnews.go.com/sections/science/DailyNews

  2. Bill Brewster & Kenneth Chang, "Latest evolution battlefield," ABCNEWS at: http://abcnews.go.com/sections/science/DailyNews 

  3. Robert Greene, "NAS: Evolution must be taught," Associated Press, at: http://abcnews.go.com/sections/science/DailyNews

  4. "Most Kansans for evolution: Majority polled think kids should study, be tested,"  Associated Press, 1999-NOV-9. 

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Site navigation: Home > "Hot"  topics > Evolution/Creation > News > here

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Copyright 1999, by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Extracted from essay ev_school.htm on 2001-JAN-14
Latest update: 2002-JAN-27
Author: B.A. Robinson

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