Kansas has been ground zero for the teaching of creationism in schools initiative since 1999, and this summer the state is again making headlines as the topic resurfaced.
The latest round of hearings was prompted at the urging of newly elected members of the Kansas Board of Education who wanted to "re-look" at the science standards. As a result, the Kansas Geological Society took a public stance, approving a statement in support of teaching evolutionary theory in schools and eschewing the teaching of non-science theories in science classes.
By a 77 percent to 23 percent vote of the membership, the KGS endorsed the statement: "As geologists, we recognize that evolution is a unifying theory that must be included in science education. We feel it improper to include non-science curricula such as religion, philosophy or politics into state science standards."
KGS President Fred James noted that none of the education board members "have scientific credentials," and that many distinguished Kansas scientists boycotted the board hearings.
The state board's standards determine what is on statewide tests, but local school boards decide what is actually taught and which textbooks are used.
In 1999, the board deleted most references to evolution in the science standards. An election later changed the belief slant of the board and standards were adopted to include evolution as a key education concept. An election last year switched the balance again back to an "intelligent design" bias and the review was ordered with a subcommittee conducting the review.
Leaders of the science groups say the three subcommittee members already have decided to support language backed by "intelligent design," advocates and are part of a conservative board majority critical of evolution.
The board's present stance doesn't require the teaching of creationism, nor does it forbid the teaching of evolution. The specific curriculum is left to the local school boards.
The board's decision will be announced later this summer.