Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Kansas Changes Education Stance. Will Begin to Warm Up to Evolution!

In what I hope is a positive change, the Kansas state Board of Education went against last year's capitulation to the religiously insane, and voted today to reinstate realistic science guidelines in their public schools. Yahoo News AP wire excerpt:

TOPEKA, Kan. - The Kansas state Board of Education on Tuesday repealed science guidelines questioning evolution that had made the state an object of ridicule.

The new guidelines reflect mainstream scientific views of evolution and represent a political defeat for advocates of "intelligent design," who had helped write the standards that are being jettisoned. The intelligent design concept holds that life is so complex that it must have been created by a higher authority.

The state has had five sets of standards in eight years, with anti- and pro-evolution versions, each doomed by the seesawing fortunes of socially conservative Republicans and a coalition of Democrats and moderate Republicans.

The board on Tuesday removed language suggesting that key evolutionary concepts — such as a common origin for all life on Earth and change in species creating new ones — were controversial and being challenged by new research. Also approved was a new definition of science, specifically limiting it to the search for natural explanations of what is observed in the universe.

"Those standards represent mainstream scientific consensus about both what science is and what evolution is," said Jack Krebs, a math and technology teacher who helped write the new guidelines. He is also president of Kansas Citizens for Science.

The state uses its standards to develop tests that measure how well students are learning science. Although decisions about what is taught in classrooms remain with 296 local school boards, both sides in the evolution dispute say the standards will influence teachers as they try to ensure that their students test well.

John Calvert, a retired attorney who helped found the Intelligent Design Network, said under the new standards, "students will be fed an answer which may be right or wrong" about questions like the origin of life. "Who does that model put first?" he said. "The student, or those supplying the preordained 'natural explanation'?"

Is Mr. Calvert serious? If HIS model prevailed, the answer to his question would clearly be "those supplying the preordained 'creationist' explanation", which is exactly what he and his followers want. That is because under Mr. Calvert's scenario there would be no need to ask questions or to conduct experiments - all would be as God wills it.

Unfortunately, under these constraints, there would be none, or almost no progress of any kind in any human endeavor. Is that also what Mr. Calvert wants? I hope not, and the rest of us should be glad that the educators in the state of Kansas have awakened to that fact and given their children a better chance to successfully navigate their lives in this increasingly complex world. I just hope I'm not typing another screed mocking these folks next year of they happen to flip back to the side of ignorance and superstition.

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