Local school district rejects Kansas's antievolution standards

From our friends at the NCSE, we hear how a local school district has rejected Kansas’s antievolution standards.

The Manhattan-Ogden school district (USD 383) became the first local school district in Kansas to reject the state science standards adopted by the Kansas state board of education in November 2005. At its meeting on February 15, 2006, the USD 383 board of education voted 6-0 to adopt a resolution that endorses the original writing committee’s description of science as “a human activity of systematically seeking natural explanations for what we observe in the world around us.”

Seems that once again the Dover ruling, although not legally binding in Kansas played its role in the decision

USD 383 superintendent Bob Shannon told the Kansas State Collegian (February 16, 2006) that it is unlikely that the adoption of the resolution will have any financial or legal ramifications for the district. Board member Beth Tatarko added that in fact accepting the state standards might be financially and legally precarious, citing the outcome of Kitzmiller v. Dover: “If we had someone in our district teaching Intelligent Design right now, those costs would come back to us.”

It all started early february when K-State faculty and staff endorsed a resolution presented to USD 383

One hundred fifty-seven K-State science departments staff and faculty members endorsed a resolution that was presented to the USD 383 Manhattan-Ogden Board of Education at Wednesday’s school board meeting.

In addition the board received a letter from Nobel Luareate Robert Horvitz who in September 2005, together with 38 Nobel Laureates had written a letter to the Kansas State Board of Education.

As reported on Evolution NextStep

Now, if you’re not from Kansas, you might think it strange that local school boards don’t have to adopt educational standards recommended by the State. Local control of school boards is a fundamental precept of the Kansas Constitution. Article VI sec. 6 of the Kansas Constitution says that “Local public schools under the general supervision of the state board of education shall be maintained, developed and operated by locally elected boards.” Additionally, under Kansas law (KSA 72-8205), each district board can adopt whatever courses of study, textbooks, materials, etc. it sees fit.

What were the main concerns expressed in the resolution?

The K-State resolution stated five primary concerns:

  • Adoption of these standards will diminish the quality of science teaching in USD 383.
  • The Kansas State Board of Education standards have created enormous negative publicity, which threatens the efforts of K-State and local businesses to recruit qualified professionals.
  • The standards singled out evolution for criticism, while excluding other scientific theories for such criticism.
  • Concern exists that U.S. students are falling farther and farther behind in world norms.
  • The changes made to science standards are based on the belief that evolutionary science is based on an atheistic philosophy.

Students expressed their worries about teaching supernatural explanations for natural phenomena and what it would do for their scientific futures.

“The recent change in the state science standards threatens the very heart of what scientific study is about: observable and testable questioning of nature,” Alan Schurle, senior at Manhattan High School, said. “Offering supernatural explanations for natural phenomena would be taking an extraordinary step backward.”

Schurle was recently named a semi-finalist in the Intel Science Talent Search, and he said his success is due to his excellent science education and his teachers.

“I am concerned with offering future generations the same opportunities that have been granted to me,” he said.

That local communities are willing to stand up for solid science education is quite encouraging and I hope that the leadership of USD 383 may be a guiding light for other school districts. The cost of ignoring science has not only an impact on the future of our children but may very well open up districts to costly litigation.

Richard B Hoppe, a regular contributor to Pandasthumb, has described this Dover Trap.