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Kansas Board of Education Urged to Reject Proposal to Delete Tuskegee Experiment and Other Science Abuses from State Curriculum

John G. West

The day after “Darwin Day,” the Kansas State Board of Education plans to vote on whether to delete from its science curriculum standards the study of the abuses of science as well as the successes. This incredible proposal  to sanitize the real history of science shows the lengths to which some will go to promote their dogmatic views. We have just sent a letter to the Board protesting the proposed change. The proposal is part of a package of revisions to the science standards that will also delete any discussion of scientific data critical of Darwinian evolution. Below is the text of the press release describing what is going on:

TOPEKA—A national group is urging the Kansas State Board of Education to reject on Tuesday a plan to delete coverage of the historical misuses of science from state curriculum standards, including a reference to the infamous Tuskegee syphilis experiment targeting African-Americans. “The board’s plan to whitewash the history of science is shameful,” said Dr. John West, Vice President for Public Policy and Legal Affairs at Discovery Institute’s Center for Science and Culture. West sent a letter to the board on Monday opposing the change.

“Especially disturbing is the board’s proposal—during Black History month no less—to eliminate any mention of the infamous Tuskegee syphilis experiment from the state curriculum, as well as any reference to the eugenics movement that targeted the disabled,” added West.

The Tuskegee experiment, which took place from the 1930s to the early 1970s, left nearly 400 African-American men untreated during the late stages of syphilis in order to collect medical data from their autopsies. Conducted by the U.S. Public Health Service, the experiment is one of the most infamous examples of the abuse of human research subjects. President Clinton issued a formal apology for the experiment in 1997. The eugenics movement, meanwhile, was an attempt to breed human beings by applying the principles of Darwinian biology, and for decades it was championed as good science by America’s leading evolutionary biologists and scientific organizations. This year marks the centennial of the world’s first eugenical sterilization law, passed by the Indiana legislature in March 1907. Kansas passed its own sterilization law in 1913.

“It is only by studying these past abuses that students—our scientists of the future—can learn about the critical importance of science operating within ethical standards,” wrote West to the board. “As has often been said, ‘Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.'”

Kansas’ current standards call for students to understand that: “modern science has been a successful enterprise that contributes to dramatic improvements in the human condition,” but also that “modern science can sometimes be abused by scientists and policymakers, leading to significant negative consequences for society and violations of human dignity (e.g., the eugenics movement in America and Germany; the Tuskegee syphilis experiments; and scientific justifications of eugenics and racism).”

The latter language would be deleted under the proposal to be voted on Tuesday, which is part of a package of changes being championed by the new pro-Darwin majority on the state board.

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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