I Think We’re in Kansas Again, Toto

| 34 Comments | 2 TrackBacks

The balance of power has shifted again in Kansas, as Jack Krebs reported earlier here that it might. Kathy Martin, a conservative advocate of teaching creationism in science classes, defeated Bruce Wyatt, a moderate proponent of teaching science in science classes, shifting the board from a 5-5 split to a simple 6-4 conservative majority. Expect revisions to the state science standards in 2005 to “de-emphasize” evolution again. Whether the board will go so far as to insert “creationism” brazenly by name remains to be seen.

See these news reports:

http://www.thestate.com/mld/thestat[…]/9313423.htm

http://www.kansas.com/mld/kansas/ne[…]/9315092.htm

2 TrackBacks

We come away from the Democratic convention with some hope. I'm not a raving Kerry supporter, but it seems to me that when you've got a choice between boring but sensible and barking mad hateful lunacy, it's not hard to be at least a lit... Read More

Apparently, we'll be fighting over evolution again. The Kansas state school board will be split 6-4, with a conservative majority, rather than tied 5-5. Oy. Read More

34 Comments

Besides the obvious implications for the science standards, the other discouraging thing about Martin’s victory (and quite a few other winners in Kansas yesterday) is that she campaigned on a “no tax increase, no more money for education” platform. Increases in aid for public education have been flat for years, falling behind inflation rates. The situation has become so bad that a judge has declared the Kansas school finance formula so insufficient that it is, in his opinion, unconstitutional because it fails to provide for an adequate education for all students.

And yet the conservative community in Kansas (which obviously is predominate and got out the vote) believes that education is adequately funded, and many buy into the inaccurate perception that public education funding is padded, over spends on administrators, etc. (rather than understanding that, among other things, unfunded mandates such as the No Child Left Behind act have put large additional overhead cost stresses on education.)

And furthermore, these perceptions about education are part of larger negative (and quite inaccurate) perceptions about other aspects of public education - the old “secular humanism” slant, wishy-washy discipline, etc., that is being used by the conservative right to push home-schooling, vouchers, and other ways to undercut public education.

It’s really quite depressing, I’m afraid.

“Creationism? We’re All ID Theorist Scientists around here.”

As a Biology teacher in Kansas, I am embarrassed to know that Kathy Martin was once the “Lead Science Teacher” for her school district. Her campaign website proves that she does not have a clue about how science really works. (Brace yourself, this link made me feel a bit queasy.)

Kathy’s Position on Science Education

This points to a major underlying problem with science education in our country–too many science teachers know nothing about the nature of science. In Martin’s case, a likely explanation for her ignorance is that she has had very little exposure to actual science. According to her campaign website, Martin’s undergraduate degree is in elementary education and her Master’s degree is in Special Education (Gifted). This means she likely had one or two science classes in her entire college career. Yet this woman was once considered qualified to be the lead science teacher for an entire school district!?!

Even worse, she’s now on the KSBOE where her scientific ignorance has to potential to damage science education for the entire state.

Oh no, not again…

This is why state boards need to be appointed. That was one reason why in Georgia we were able to quickly reverse the decisions of our state superintendent to remove modern science.

Reed wrote

This is why state boards need to be appointed. That was one reason why in Georgia we were able to quickly reverse the decisions of our state superintendent to remove modern science.

That’s not an unalloyed blessing, though. In Ohio, 8 members of the State BOE are appointed by the Governor, while 11 are elected. The 8 appointed Members voted as a block to support the crappy Model Lesson Plan on “Critical Analysis of Evolution.” Robert Lattimer, leader of Ohio’s ID Creationist movement, told DDD-4 (an ID creationist convention in Minneapolis last November) that

“And finally the Governor responded and the result was that the ‘teach the controversy’ language that we’d been proposing was adopted by the State Board of Education by a vote of 18 to nothing.

“That does not mean that all members of the State Board of Education supported our viewpoint. Actually, only 5 supported our viewpoint.

“Most politicians do not care about this issue. They think it’s superfluous, it doesn’t mean anything. But they do react to public opinion because that’s what keeps them in office. So that’s why they got an 18-0 vote. The public opinion was so strong in our favor. And the Governor was twisting some arms. He appoints 8 of those members, but he has pretty much influence on the whole Board.”

That vote was on the Standards, which explicitly said the Standards did mandate the teaching or testing of ID.

A year later, the vote on a motion to delete the crappy Lesson Plan failed by 7-10-1, with 7 of the 10 votes to keep the crappy Plan coming from the appointed Members. All 7 of the votes to delete were from elected Members. So the appointed Members voted as a bloc to keep the crappy Plan.

But then, of course, there’s Kansas this week. I guess there’s no general case to be made either way. Lattimer was right when he also told DDD-4 that

“This is basically a political struggle. It is in any state, it’s a political struggle. Science will have very little to do with the arguments on what science standards will look like. Education will have little to do with it. It’s basically how the politics will work in a particular state.”

RBH

Correction:

That vote was on the Standards, which explicitly said the Standards did not mandate the teaching or testing of ID.

RBH

I thought that the appointed board members in Ohio voted against the ID stuff.

Also in Georgia, board members serve seven-year terms while the Governor serves four-year terms.

Reed Cartwright Wrote:

This is why state boards need to be appointed

I respectfully disagree here - this is a two edge sword. What if you have a creationist appointing the school board? Educating the voters is a lot more difficult and time consuming, but ultimately more fruitful.

G3 Wrote:

What if you have a creationist appointing the school board? Educating the voters is a lot more difficult and time consuming, but ultimately more fruitful.

This is true. However, I think it easier to combat such appointee than to combat such candidates. With appointees buisness interests, who depend on good science education, can and do have a strong input. This input is lost in elections.

I think state school boards are too specialized to be left to deciding between individuals via a popular vote. The masses are just not knowledgeble enough to vote well. Do you really want the make up of a state school board to be decided by whose name is first on the ballot?

Yeah, the problem with appointing them is that sometimes you get people like the (ex!) Minnesota commissioner, Cheri Yecke. Yucky.

But Yecke was eventually tossed out, quite easily IIRC. Do you really think that she would have lost an election?

I should also add that I’m not necessarilly arguing for appointing state commissioner/superintendents, the executive head of state school systems.

I just like the system Georgia has. Most (all?) of our state boards are appointed, this includes the regents who oversee the university system and the board members who oversee the state school system.

Reed remarked

I thought that the appointed board members in Ohio voted against the ID stuff.

Nope. The appointed members consistently supported whatever ID-supportive motion that was on the table. The only exception was the one abstention on the motion to delete the crappy Model Lesson Plan, IIRC.

RBH

Whoa. Yecke wasn’t tossed out easily at all. It took quite a lot of activism to get her evicted, and she was maneuvering cunningly right up to the last minute.

Our problem, I think, was that she was appointed at the whim of the governor (who, I must note, was elected by a majority) without much thought for consensus of the electorate, and she was something of an extremist crank.

Checks and balances, people, checks and balances. Minnesota ditched its (governor-appointed) ed commissioner who was an IDC-er when the State legislature refused to confirm her.

Reed Cartwright Wrote:

This is why state boards need to be appointed

I respectfully disagree here - this is a two edge sword. What if you have a creationist appointing the school board? Educating the voters is a lot more difficult and time consuming, but ultimately more fruitful.

oops - ignore #6074 - accidental repost

Reading Kathy Martin’s websites indicates that she will adopt the “teach the controversy” strategy rather than the previous, failed attempt at eliminating evolution from science classes.

However, apparently the fact that there is no controversy matters little.

According to her campaign website, Kathy Martin believes that “Darwin’s theory of macroevolution” (whatever that means) is not a “plausible theory.” At the same time, she says it should continue to be taught in science classrooms along with “all possible theories.”

To me, this means one of two things:

1. Kathy Martin supports the teaching of “implausible theories” in Kansas science classrooms.

2. Kathy Martin knows that her own “implausible theory” cannot be taught in science classrooms, so she resorts to distorting the truth about science.

In either case, “teach the controversy” is synonymous with “distort the truth.”

Text of email to Kathy Martin:

Your website says “Scientific discoveries made over the last decades, such as the DNA code in every living cell, have proven Darwin’s theory of macroevolution not to be a plausible theory.”

Whoever wrote that doesn’t have any business teaching anyone else science. Among professional biologists, the fringe who doubt evolution is no larger than the fringe of physicists who advocate cold fusion. I suggest you seek out biology professors at the various universities in Kansas, and listen to what they tell you about evolution, because you’re saying some pretty stupid things on your site.

best wishes, Steve Story

It would have been nice if, somewhere along the way, we at Panda’s Thumb could have been directed to a website where we could have donated money to Bruce Wyatt’s campaign (assuming he ran one).

Or was that done and I missed it somehow?

by the way, i sent that email to [Enable javascript to see this email address.]. Just so you know

Bruce Wyatt is a nice guy in a dorky midwestern Republican sort of way. He was truly incensed by the screwing with science and now he lost. My in-laws attended the same church as Bruce. How depressing.

An extremely interesting political development, imo.

(Some interesting PT responses too, to say the least. If only we had some violin music to accompany these assorted gloom-and-doom posts! One is tempted to chuckle softly.)

Personally, I think folks will have to just wait-and-see what happens. Sure, the balance of power has shifted, but exactly what will that shift translate into–or not–regarding new science standards for Kansas?

Too early to tell, though I would hope that some form of “teach the controversy” would in fact wind up receiving serious consideration and discussion (and even acceptance) by both the board and the public.

If modifications to the current science standards are carefully, thoughtfully crafted and presented and supported, that may well happen. Maybe. FL :-)

Science is under attack from both the extreme left and extreme right. They try to play on people’s notion of fairness by promoting the view that any way of thinking is as good as any other. On the extreme left, you have the alternative medicine, astrology, psychic phenomena. On the extreme right you have creationists. Thinking of ways your ideas could be wrong and testing them is the best way we have found to increase our knowledge of the world. I would say this country is going downhill, but other countries have just as much pseudo-science belief, in one form or another. Also, if you look at history, it is not like this age has any more psuedo-science belief than any other. I say the best thing to do is keep promoting a scientific worldview and explaining why it is such an effective way of learning.

-G3

I would say this country is going downhill, but other countries have just as much pseudo-science belief, in one form or another.

Agreed. If Americans didn’t fear the French so much, I’m sure we’d have more homeopathy here than we do already.

Does the sort of pseudoscience we see from Kansas, and seemingly all over the place, mean things are in decline? Looking at more than recent history, I say no. 50 years ago a school could make it compulsory for your kids to recite an official prayer. 100 years ago Genesis was treated as a reliable science textbook in many places. And the further back you look, the worse it gets. While there are often setbacks, the general trend since the Enlightenment has been toward secularism, intellectual freedom, and real scientific knowledge. I’m resigned to the fact that dolts will be saying “Evolution violates the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics” long after I’m dead, but I take heart in the overall trend, and am happy to live in a time when religion’s brutal hold has been weakened enough that I don’t have to live in fear for making fun of the Invisible Friend in the Sky nonsense.

FL wrote

Too early to tell, though I would hope that some form of “teach the controversy” would in fact wind up receiving serious consideration and discussion (and even acceptance) by both the board and the public.

Interesting, since it’s a matter of science, that FL doesn’t mention scientists. It’s a matter of biology and FL doesn’t mention biologists. Science really doesn’t have much to do with it, as Robert Lattimer (Ohio ID Creationist leader) said, and education has very little to do with it. It’s purely a political struggle. Who cares whether the kids learn good science?

RBH

I include scientists among the public, RBH. Sorry for not making that clearer.

I notice that evolutionists have no problem with public pro-evolution advocacy coming from non-biologists (and quite a bit does, btw), so I see no reason for them or anyone to have any similar problem with public advocacy of “teaching the controversy” coming from non-biologists.

Sauce for the goose.

FL

FL: I see no reason … to have any … problem with public advocacy of “teaching the controversy” coming from non-biologists.

Indeed, especially since “the controversy” has nothing to do with biology anyway!

Oy, indeed. (someone got a bit impatient with the Post button, methinks)

My Oy refers to the trackbacks, for clarification…

In Nebraska the SBOE is elected. We successfully ditched our creationists. Our current governor would appoint creationists if given the chance. As some of you know governor’s aren’t necessarily smarter than the population at large.

Check out this radio interview for an in-depth look at the Kansas situation. (Beware of the fact you’ll have to get past the extended theme music before you get to the talk.)

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Wesley R. Elsberry published on August 4, 2004 4:32 AM.

New Contributor: Jim Foley was the previous entry in this blog.

Icons of ID: Privileged Planet Authors respond to ‘unnamed’ critic is the next entry in this blog.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.

Categories

Archives

Author Archives

Powered by Movable Type 4.381

Site Meter