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Kansas Board of Education in Its Own Words: Students should “learn about the best evidence for modern evolutionary theory, but also … about areas where scientists are raising scientific criticisms of the theory.”

John G. West

Much of the reporting on the new science standards adopted by the Kansas Board of Education this week has been remarkably thin on substance. For one thing, the reports have all but ignored the Kansas Board’s own statement as to why its new science standards cover the scientific debate over evolution. As a public service, I thought I’d reprint here the excellent explanatory statement the Board included at beginning of the standards:

Rationale of the State Board for Adopting these Science Curriculum Standards

We believe it is in the best interest of educating Kansas students that all students have a good working knowledge of science: particularly what defines good science, how science moves forward, what holds science back, and how to critically analyze the conclusions that scientists make.

Regarding the scientific theory of biological evolution, the curriculum standards call for students to learn about the best evidence for modern evolutionary theory, but also to learn about areas where scientists are raising scientific criticisms of the theory. These curriculum standards reflect the Board’s objective of: 1) to help students understand the full range of scientific views that exist on this topic, 2) to enhance critical thinking and the understanding of the scientific method by encouraging students to study different and opposing scientific evidence, and 3) to ensure that science education in our state is “secular, neutral, and non-ideological.”

From the testimony and submissions we have received, we are aware that the study and discussion of the origin and development of life may raise deep personal and philosophical questions for many people on all sides of the debate. But as interesting as these personal questions may be, the personal questions are not covered by these curriculum standards nor are they the basis for the Board’s actions in this area.

Evolution is accepted by many scientists but questioned by some. The Board has heard credible scientific testimony that indeed there are significant debates about the evidence for key aspects of chemical and biological evolutionary theory. All scientific theories should be approached with an open mind, studied carefully, and critically considered. We therefore think it is important and appropriate for students to know about these scientific debates and for the Science Curriculum Standards to include information about them. In choosing this approach to the science curriculum standards, we are encouraged by the similar approach taken by other states, whose new science standards incorporate scientific criticisms into the science curriculum that describes the scientific case for the theory of evolution.

We also emphasize that the Science Curriculum Standards do not include Intelligent Design, the scientific disagreement with the claim of many evolutionary biologists that the apparent design of living systems is an illusion. While the testimony presented at the science hearings included many advocates of Intelligent Design, these standards neither mandate nor prohibit teaching about this scientific disagreement. Finally, we would like to thank the Science Standards Committee for their commitment and dedication in their work toward the standards.
Finally, we would like to thank the Science Standards Committee for their commitment and dedication in their work toward the standards.

By the way, you can download a copy of the entire Kansas Science Standards here.

John G. West

Senior Fellow, Managing Director, and Vice President of Discovery Institute
Dr. John G. West is Vice President of the Seattle-based Discovery Institute and Managing Director of the Institute’s Center for Science and Culture. Formerly the Chair of the Department of Political Science and Geography at Seattle Pacific University, West is an award-winning author and documentary filmmaker who has written or edited 12 books, including Darwin Day in America: How Our Politics and Culture Have Been Dehumanized in the Name of Science, The Magician’s Twin: C. S. Lewis on Science, Scientism, and Society, and Walt Disney and Live Action: The Disney Studio’s Live-Action Features of the 1950s and 60s. His documentary films include Fire-Maker, Revolutionary, The War on Humans, and (most recently) Human Zoos. West holds a PhD in Government from Claremont Graduate University, and he has been interviewed by media outlets such as CNN, Fox News, Reuters, Time magazine, The New York Times, USA Today, and The Washington Post.

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