The Kansas Board of Education on Tuesday tossed out science standards that were widely seen as promoting Intelligent Design (ID). The board, whose control slipped out from the hands of ID proponents after elections held in November (ScienceNOW, 8 November 2006), voted 6-4 to adopt new standards that scientists say will strengthen the teaching of evolution.
Kansas has been a battleground state in the war between scientists and anti-evolution activists for nearly a decade. After conservatives won a majority on the state board in 2004, they quickly moved to adopt standards that critics say were tainted with creationist ideology, including a definition of science aimed at allowing supernatural explanations for natural phenomena. Although those standards didn't really influence the science content taught by most schools across the state, many scientists and educators were itching to have them repealed.
Their wish was granted on Tuesday. "We're just glad that we got it done," says Sue Gamble, a Democratic board member who has been fighting intelligent design for years. "The new standards will help to strengthen science education in Kansas and over time, help teachers to strengthen instruction of evolutionary content." This is the fifth set of science standards adopted by the board in 8 years.
ID advocates are not giving up. "I know this issue is not going to die on the vine," says John Calvert of the Intelligent Design Network in Shawnee Mission, Kansas, who helped write the standards that were thrown out. "What they've done is systematically delete any information that might be critical of evolution. This goes against the very mission of public education."
Steve Case, a biologist at the University of Kansas and the head of the committee that wrote the new standards, doesn't expect that opposition to evolution will subside any time soon. But he says teachers will not be affected because they have gotten used to navigating the difficult political environment the controversy has created over the years. "Little will change for teachers and students in Kansas, because teachers have been ignoring the State Board shenanigans. A bigger issue will be attracting and retaining science teachers in this environment," he says.