Science wars brewing again in Kansas schools

first_imgTOPEKA, Kan. – Kansas’ long-running war over the teaching of evolution is headed for another showdown this week between science and the advocates of intelligent design. The state Board of Education plans to vote Tuesday on academic standards that will direct the development of student tests used to measure how well Kansas’ public schools teach the sciences. Six of the 10 board members have previously endorsed language sought by advocates of intelligent design, a theory that says the universe is so complex it must have been created by a higher force. Advocates of the theory say the state should give students a more balanced view of evolution. President George W. Bush has even weighed in on the issue, saying schools should present both concepts when teaching about the origins of life. AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREWalnut’s Malik Khouzam voted Southern California Boys Athlete of the Week Opponents of teaching intelligent design as science argue that it’s largely creationism – a literal reading of the Bible’s story of creation – camouflaged in scientific language. The state’s new academic standards won’t dictate what classroom teachers actually teach, that will be left to the local school boards. But some educators worry the state standards will encourage evolution opponents to pressure their local boards. “At some point, teachers in some districts are going to say it’s not worth the hassle,” said Ken Bingman, who teaches biology at Blue Valley West High School in the Kansas City area. Others states have also dealt with conflicts over the teaching of evolution and intelligent design. In Pennsylvania, a federal judge is expected to rule soon in a lawsuit against a school district policy that requires students hear about intelligent design. But Kansas’ debate over evolution has drawn international attention – and ridicule – since it began in 1999. That year, the board struck most references to evolution from the standards. Two years later, a less conservative board rewrote the standards to treat evolution as well-established science that is crucial for students to understand. “It’s the one area that never gets settled,” said Mike Ford, who teaches astronomy and physical sciences at Holton High School, about 30 miles north of Topeka. “It’s like a game of pingpong.” Intelligent design advocates have found support among some parents and school board members. A recent statewide poll by news organizations suggested a slight majority of Kansans favored teaching intelligent design. “I want to you respect my side, and I will respect your side,” said Kent Swartz, a banker and creationist who serves on the South Barber County school board southwest of Wichita. Some students also want to discuss evolution and intelligent design in the classroom. Adam Fiedler, a 17-year-old Holton High senior, says a debate would make science more interesting. “I think students should hear the information and form their own opinions,” said Fiedler, who hopes to teach science and math after college. “We’re just in the infancy of evolution. We could spend another thousand years – or two – on research.” 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!last_img read more