Recently in Kansas Category

I do not know whether Cope will turn out to be the mouse that roared or the Energizer bunny – or maybe Don Quixote – but the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals heard oral arguments the other day in Cope’s appeal of a ruling in favor of the Kansas State Board of Education. I am inclined toward the Energizer bunny, but the Appeals Court rejected Cope’s attempt to file a surreply, which I gather is sort of a reply to a rejoinder to a response and is generally prohibited. At any rate, the lawsuit against the Kansas State Board of Education (hereinafter, as your lawyer might say, Kansas) was dismissed in December of last year.

PT first reported on Cope here; you may learn more about them here. According to Charity Navigator, their annual income is less than $50,000 per year, so they do not have to file Form 990 with the IRS. Americans United for the Separation of Church and State quoted Steven Case, director of the science center at the University of Kansas, to the effect that their lawsuit was “about as frivolous as lawsuits get.” Evidently, the Judge, Daniel D. Crabtree, agreed; he dismissed the case in large part because the plaintiffs (Cope and a number of others including parents of children in Kansas schools) lacked standing. You may find the documents in the case here.

Standing seems like a concept that only a lawyer could love, but all it says is that you have to be harmed or imminently harmed in order to sue someone (“injury in fact”). Additionally, if you are harmed, you must sue the entity who harmed you, not a third party. And finally (a new one to me), the harm that was done to you must be redressable by a favorable decision by the Court. Taxpayers, not incidentally, do not have standing to sue a government agency merely because they are taxpayers.

Cope, chugging along tirelessly, appealed Judge Crabtree’s ruling in March of this year, and Kansas replied in June. The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals heard oral arguments last Wednesday morning, so I hopped on a bus and went down to Denver. To no one’s surprise, John Calvert represented Cope. Kansas was represented by Dwight Carswell, an assistant solicitor general for Kansas. I frankly thought that Calvert was somewhat more effective in his presentation than Carswell.

The discussion centered largely on the harm that may have been done to the plaintiffs. Much of the Judges’ questioning concerned the fact that the standards (Next Generation Science Standards) adopted by Kansas are only advisory, and local school districts are not required to adopt them. Indeed, school districts are required to teach science, but not instructed how to do so. The Judges questioned Carswell closely on the content of Kansas law and the discretion of local school boards on implementing standards adopted by the State Board of Education. Additionally, no evidence has been presented to suggest that any school district has adopted the standards, nor that any plaintiff has been harmed by the standards. I think one of the Judges remarked that the school teaches children, and the children are not the plaintiffs. On another occasion, a Judge rhetorically asked Calvert whether he had jumped the gun, filing his lawsuit before any district had actually adopted the standards. Calvert was also asked why he sued Kansas and not a school district. What precisely does he want the Court to enjoin?

Calvert argued that the NGSS adopted by Kansas establish a religious preference - a nontheistic religious worldview - because they support methodological naturalism, which he described as an orthodoxy. He further opined that “origins science” should not be taught at all to children in K-8, because they are too young to engage in such discussions, which Cope considers to be inherently religious. Asked whether he would be satisfied with a clause requiring creationism to be taught in addition, Calvert replied, “No,” and argued that an objective view of science that included “critical thinking” and provided alternatives to methodological naturalism would suffice.

Other questions posed to Calvert: What is the injury in fact? Is a nontheistic religious worldview really being taught? Where do we find methodological naturalism in the standards? Do not local school districts have discretion whether to adopt the standards? What areas of Kansas law are pertinent? Precisely what do you want us to enjoin? Would you be satisfied with a declaratory judgment?

Carswell, who was somewhat hard to understand, was asked what normative standard the NGSS might establish. Asked whether the law precluded alternate theories, he responded that the law recognized that the curriculum may be extended and school districts may teach alternative scientific theories. Asked whether any districts had actually implemented the NGSS, Carswell responded that he did not know of any. There was also some discussion about whether (presuming that harm had in fact been done) a declaratory judgment would redress that harm.

Other questions posed to Carswell: Why do we have standards if districts have discretion about them? Is not this whole case speculative because NGSS has not been implemented? Does not injury depend on actual implementation of the standards, as opposed to their adoption?

After the hearing, I met Clare Leonard, an education activist and fellow Colorado Citizens for Science member, in the hall. Calvert was holding, um, court surrounded by a half-dozen or more of his minions. If the decision is based on acting ability, Calvert wins. But I had the impression that the Court was much more skeptical of his position than of Carswell’s, particularly of his claim that there was an injury in fact.

Cope takes the position that science is a religion. They may be tilting at windmills; but they can still do real damage.

Acknowledgments. Thanks to Glenn Branch for inciting this whole expedition; to Deanna Young and Clare Leonard for pertinent discussion following the hearing; to Clare Leonard for the coffee; and to all three for numerous emendations, including many of the questions posed by the Court..

Anyone who relies on the Supreme Court to guarantee that creationism will not be taught in public school or that the Ark Park’s threatened lawsuit will necessarily fail might want to read an article by Erwin Chemerinsky in the January 1 issue of The Washington Spectator. In that article, which I take to be a longish abstract of his book, Chemerinsky argues that the Court has generally not lived up to its “lofty expectations” and indeed has more often “upheld discrimination and even egregious violations of basic liberties.” The Chemerinsky article does not appear on the Spectator website, so I will abstract it very briefly below the fold.
Update, January 5, 2015. The article is now available here, so you may read it for yourself and not take my word for what Chemerinsky says.

Creationists sue Kansas over Next Generation Science Standards


Most PT readers doubtless already know that an organization called “Citizens for Objective Public Education” (COPE) has sued a range of Kansas defendants (PDF of complaint), including the Kansas State Board of Education, alleging that the Next Generation Science Standards are unconstitutional, in that they “…will have the effect of causing Kansas public schools to establish and endorse a non-theistic religious worldview … in violation of the Establishment, Free Exercise, and Speech Clauses of the First Amendment, and the Equal Protection Clauses of the 14th Amendment” (pp. 1-2)” (quoted in the NCSE article linked below).

NCSE has the full story here. I note with parochial interest that Robert Lattimer, a chemist, is involved in COPE. Lattimer was a leading light in SEAO, the American Family Association project to shove intelligent design creationism into the Ohio science standards in the early 2000’s.

jackwu.jpg reported today that

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) – Carolyn Campbell lamented that she didn’t court enough voters in northeast Kansas in seeking her second term on the State Board of Education.

Her opponent, Jack Wu, was outspoken on teaching evolution and has ties to an anti-gay Topeka church notorious for picketing military members’ funerals. Campbell, a Democrat, worried GOP voters would simply follow Wu’s Republican party affiliation.

In the end, Campbell, a Topeka Democrat, received more than enough votes in Tuesday’s election, easily defeating Wu, according to unofficial results.

“I’m happy I have four more years to work for our children. That’s all I wanted to do,” Campbell said.

Wu, a Topeka computer programmer, made opposition to teaching evolution the centerpiece of his campaign. He described evolution as “Satanic lies” and said on a website that public schools were preparing students to be “liars, crooks, thieves, murderers, and perverts.”

Wu also raised eyebrows by saying that he was lured to Kansas from California in 2008 by Westboro Baptist. The Topeka church, led by the Rev. Fred Phelps Sr., is known internationally for picketing with anti-gay slogans and proclaiming that American soldiers’ deaths are God’s punishment for the nation’s tolerance of homosexuality. Wu is not formally a member, but he’s attended services regularly.

Here’s a bit more from Jack Wu’s own website:

My mission, in running for the Kansas State Board of Education, is to throw out the crap that teachers are feeding their students and replace it with healthy good for the soul knowledge from the holy scriptures.

Let’s be specific. Evolution should never be taught in public schools as science. Evolution is false science! God made the heaven and the earth and created humans from the dust of the earth! The very bad teachers that teach that men descended from apes via evolution need to have their teaching licenses revoked. Yes, students should be taught that God created everything.

Congratulations, Kansas!


Florida Citizens for Science points to the existence of a new group, Citizens for Objective Public Education, and says,

I have an assignment for you folks. The national science standards that many states, including Florida, are considering adopting are predictably under fire due to the prominence of evolution in the draft document. Kansas has hit the news first, firing the initial shot: Kan. official wants evolution concerns considered,

referring to an AP release which is posted in somewhat longer form here. According to an AP release datelined Topeka,

Free documentary, Kansas vs. Darwin


According to NCSE, in honor of Darwin Day, 2011, the documentary movie Kansas vs. Darwin is available free on the web through March 14 – that is, for the 30 days following Darwin’s birthday.

Thanks to Karen Spivey for the tip!

Just in from the New York Times:

The National Association of State Boards of Education [NASBE] will elect officers in July, and for one office, president-elect, there is only one candidate: a member of the Kansas school board who supported its efforts against the teaching of evolution.

Who would that be? Ken Willard, someone you may remember.

In 2001, evolution was poised to return to the the Kansas Science Standards. The Intelligent Design Network objected to them and proposed changes that would have left open the door to teaching creationism. Kansas Citizens for Science responded to their proposal, which was sent to all members of the state board. One might suspect the response to have been too parochial for anything other than Kansas creationism; one would be wrong: the response serves as a prototype response for many creationist arguments and works nicely as a reference for letters to the editor even today.

Find it below, after the fold. It is also available in PDF and RTF formats.

In 1999-2000, the Kansas State Board of Education was running their PR machine full-bore, trying to convince the public that the central organizing theory of modern biology and biotechnology was a dead idea. Creationist speaker after creationist speaker was flown into town to put on a dog and pony show. If you were a Young-Earth Creationist, you might have seen Duane Gish/Fred Whitehead nondebate. If you liked ID creationism, you might have seen Johnson or Wells. Back then, it was a very big tent.

Well, KCFS wasn’t going to take things lying down, so we thought we’d prepare a few flyers to inform the audience to help them be ready for the creationists when they arrived. One of those flyers, “Jonathan Wells: Who is He, What is He Doing, and Why?” turned out to be pretty important.

Fast forward to Spring 2005, after the creationists had taken over the state board of education again and ran roughshod over the accepted processes of curricular review. They rejected the recommendations of the experts who developed very good standards and held a show trial, in which evolution would be dragged before them to answer the tough ID creationists’ questions.

The details of the story are described elsewhere, but one of the “witnesses” was Jonathan Wells, who during his testimony claimed that he was not influenced by religion. Within the span of an hour, KCFS was able to print several copies of our Wells flyer to distribute to interested members of the press. The result was that in the following day’s newspapers, Jonathan Wells testimony and his quotations were seen in juxtaposition to each other, making of his credibility to journalists what those in the know had deemed of it for years.

Find the flyer on the flipside. It’s also available in RTF format. Please note that the DI has since changed their name from the Center for the Renewal of Science and Culture to simply the Center for Science and Culture. So clearly it’s no longer religious.

Odds and Ends from Kansas


Four little mini-posts:

1. Good standards have returned - what now?

2. The threat of suit?

3. The Intelligent Design network’s rejoinder to Dodos: “Kansas Science Hearings: Exposing the Evolution Controversy”

4. The Discovery Institute hits bottom

Good standards have returned - what now?

Well, as you all probably know, Kansas once again returned to having good science standards which properly describe the nature of science and the basics of evolution. On Tuesday, February 13 the state Board of Education voted 6-4 to adopt the standards written by the duly-appointed writing committee, thus throwing out the standards containing all the material inserted by the Intelligent Design advocates back in 2005.

However, we are not breathing too big a sigh of relief.

Note from Kansas


I received this note from a Kansan who asked that it be posted on PT. She said Jack Krebs (head of Kansas Citizens for Science) might be too modest (or maybe he is trying to return to normal life!).

On the day after Charles Darwins’ birthday, and the day before Valentines Day, the Kansas State Board of Education delivered its much-anticipated reversal of the anti-science standards adopted in November 2005.

Although this outcome was expected after the August 2006 primary election resulted in a guaranteed moderate majority on the board, conservatives fought to the end to amend the standards to include their non-natural definition of science and their bogus evolution criticisms. Each motion to amend was defeated. Ultraconservative Ken Willard of Hutchinson requested that the board go into executive session just before the standards discussion. According to the Topeka Capital-Journal, “He asked whether the state can endorse an idea that nature can be solely explained by material causes and whether the state can suppress information critical of evolution – two problems conservatives say the new standards would create, though opponents argue otherwise.” Willard never explained why no state includes supernatural explanations in its science standards, because he doesn’t like the answer: such topics are outside the domain of science.

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