A Shrewdness of Apes

An Okie teacher banished to the Midwest. "Education is not the filling a bucket but the lighting of a fire."-- William Butler Yeats

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Sic Semper Stulti: the strange intersection of Topeka and Dover

Waayall, (as my grandpa would say) little girl, they gone and done it.

As explained here at the British newspaper The Independent,

The Kansas Board of Education voted 6-4 to adopt a new series of standards for the science curriculum taught in schools. Tuesday's vote will redefine "science" to say that it is no longer limited to the search for natural explanations of phenomena; in short, science no longer means scientific.

Kansas Board of Education chairman Dr. (sic!) Steve Abrams has been quoted as saying,”We can have an opportunity to have critical analysis of evolution. Prior, it was taught as dogma.” See, there you go mixing religious words with highfalutin' science words. Further causing cur-like cringing among intelligent Yanks everywhere wherever we can find them, the article as includes this bit of info to our cousins across the Pond (emphasis mine):

Critics of this theory say it is little more than a repackaged version of Creationism, which the Supreme Court decided in 1987 was a religious belief that could not be taught alongside evolution. While this ruling stands, current polls that suggest that up to 45 per cent of Americans believe that God made mankind in its current form at some point within the last 10,000.years.

Gaak! I hope our British friends are just engaging in a jolly bit of hyperbole, but I fear that I am kidding myself. (I mean, why do you think teachers are tired all the time? Because they know how much empty space there is to fill in so many heads.) But all is not lost, as the Kansas City Star notes:

The standards won’t go into effect until the 2007 school year. By then the school board could look dramatically different if moderates are successful in unseating conservatives in the November 2006 elections, both sides say. That could make the new standards moot, and start the whole debate over again. Both sides say the controversy has been too heated, and the implications for science, religion and education too great, for any easy solution.

The board’s conservative majority says it’s merely injecting criticism of what it calls a blindly accepted theory, and allowing students to decide for themselves. And they have their supporters. Polls indicate most Kansans have doubts about evolution and don’t dismiss the idea of teaching alternatives. Other states like Ohio and schools in Georgia and Pennsylvania have joined the debate as well.

Yes, this has happened before in Kansas, back in 1999, the last time they tried to Talibanize science education. Meanwhile, all the way across the continent, the Dover, PA school board is currently being sued over a policy they adopted in October of 2004 that required 9th graders to hear the following statement on intelligent design to be read aloud in science classes:

The Pennsylvania Academic Standards require students to learn about Darwin’s theory of evolution and eventually to take a standardized test of which evolution is a part.

Because Darwin’s theory is a theory, it continues to be tested as new evidence is discovered. The theory is not a fact. Gaps in the theory exist for which there is no evidence. A theory is defined as a well-tested explanation that unifies a broad range of observations.

Intelligent design is an explanation of the origin of life that differs from Darwin’s view. The reference book, “Of Pandas and People,” is available for students who might be interested in gaining an understanding of what intelligent design actually involves.

With respect to any theory, students are encouraged to keep an open mind. The school leaves the discussion of the origins of life to individual students and their families. As a standards-driven district, class instruction focuses upon preparing students to achieve proficiency on standards-based assessments.

And in what I believe to be proof of the Divine’s sense of humor, we have this little coincidence: yesterday, the Dover school board was resoundingly swept out of office. The eight Republicans who crafted this piece of voodoo were all replaced by Democrats. All of ‘em.

There’s a warning there, Kansas. Thus always to those who fear reason!


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