Kansas Creationism Is National News

As we pointed out in “We’re Not Crackpots”, Kansas is considering new, evolution-friendly science standards proposed by the National Research Council, which are intended as voluntary guidelines to be adopted by all states for use in their public schools.

One faction on the Kansas State Board of Education wants to approve the standards now, before the November elections — which could swing the Board back to a creationist majority. Between 1999 and 2007, the state had five sets of science standards, oscillating back and forth between creationism and evolution. See (see Kansas Flashback: The Crazy Days).

Five of the 10 Board seats are on the ballot this fall. Kathy Martin, the queen of the Kansas creationists, won’t be running for re-election, so it’s all up for grabs this year. Evolution is the big issue, because Kansas is on the cutting edge of science — Tenth Century science.

Today, the Los Angeles Times has this story: Kansas’ evolution debate just keeps evolving. Here are some excerpts, with bold font added by us:

The great Kansas debate over teaching evolution continues to, well, evolve. Consider Jack Wu, candidate for the Kansas state Board of Education. Perhaps the most relevant qualification on his bio is that he attends the Westboro Baptist Church. … “The current public educational system in Kansas and the United States is preparing its students to be liars, crooks, thieves, murderers and perverts,” he says on a statement on his campaign site.

He’s as whacked as they come. Well, maybe not — he could be mainstream in Kansas. We wrote about him here: Meet Jack Wu. On with the story:

All this is just a way of saying that the evolution debate once again is rearing its head as Kansas considers new science standards that would firmly entrench evolution as a core scientific principle.

[...]

Once the Next Generation Science Standards are finished by the end of this year, it’ll be time for Kansas to review its own science standards. The state’s current education board members would be expected to adopt the national standards they are helping to draft. For some creationists, that makes November’s upcoming election for half the seats on the 10-member board huge.

Huge indeed. Let’s read on:

“It’s not a bunch of Kansas crazies that has brought this up,” said Kenneth Willard, one state education board member who questions teaching evolution, according to the Lawrence Journal-World. “It’s broader.”

Actually, Willard, although there are loads of creationists around, in your case it really is a bunch of Kansas crazies. We continue:

Creationist advocates outside of Kansas, such as Answers in Genesis in Kentucky, have distanced themselves from the most strident calls to ban teaching evolution.

Too embarrassing, even for AIG. Here’s more:

Add to that list the Institute for Creation Research. “Teachers who don’t believe the Bible shouldn’t be forced to teach something they don’t believe,” Lawrence Ford, director of communications for the Institute for Creation Research, told the Christian Post.

Both organizations supported standards that would allow students to critically challenge evolution, however, so expect the debate to go on — maybe just more gently.

Professional creationists have had their heads handed to them so many times in court that they’ve adopted a kinder, gentler approach to suppressing rationality. But they’re not fooling anyone. Nevertheless, Kansas creationists like Willard and Wu aren’t interested in such subtleties. They want Kansas schools to teach full-blown creationism.

The election is a few months away and we’re expecting lots more fun from Kansas. Stay tuned to this blog.

Copyright © 2012. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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22 responses to “Kansas Creationism Is National News

  1. Cheryl Shepherd-Adams

    Brian Cole, the Sabetha physics/chemistry teacher mentioned in the LA Times article, was an outstanding student teacher in my classroom years ago. Devoutly Christian, he nonetheless understands the importance of limiting the science classroom to science. [/namedropping]

    According to my (numerous) family members in the Topeka area, Jack Wu’s affiliation with the Phelps cult is already known and has made his campaign toxic. Not that he won’t get a few votes anyway . . .

    Kansas Citizens for Science has distributed and is posting the responses from candidates to their questionnaire at http://www.kcfs.org/questionnaire.html .

    Strangely, the AP article was headlined “Evolution big issue in Kan. school board races” while the article itself quoted candidates who explained that the evolution issue isn’t as important as other issues this year. Why?

  2. Cheryl Shepherd-Adams

    Aw crud I suppose the links did me in again.

  3. Cheryl Shepherd-Adams says: “I suppose the links did me in again.”

    No problem, I rescued it from the spam-catcher.

  4. Awesome Curmudgeon.
    A major development is occurring in Louisiana today as well on the voucher schools eligibility. Good stuff .. Grin grin.
    Thanks for the continuing quality commentary. Its a highlight of the day for me.

  5. NeonNoodle

    Just visited Wu’s website. The guy’s barking mad! Still laughing, but I wouldn’t be if I was a taxpayer raising children in Kansas.

  6. I actually think this “students must be allowed to critique evolution,” is a very clever spin from the Creationists. After all, who could possibly oppose students being allowed to question what they’re taught? That’s the cornerstone of thought, and it’s how science is improved. If you oppose it, it sounds totalitarian.

    Of course, Creationism has no useful critique to offer evolution (and it’s difficult to imagine what useful critique tenth graders are going to be able to offer), but it’s difficult to explain succinctly to the uninitiated why the Creationists’ strategy is a weaselly one.

  7. jonnyscaramanga says: “it’s difficult to explain succinctly to the uninitiated why the Creationists’ strategy is a weaselly one.”

    Not really. Should students be encouraged to critique the theory of the spherical Earth, or the solar system? That doesn’t teach them how to think, it teaches them to be idiots.

  8. Cheryl Shepherd-Adams

    jonnyscaramanga, one might ask the creationists to show where, exactly, the NGSS forbids the questioning of evolution.

    One might also ask them why they’re ignoring the thousands of peer-reviewed published experiments that have questioned evolution every which way, yet have yielded the same result: evolution remains the best scientific explanation for how life has changed on this planet.

    And one could ask them why they’re trying to butt in line by avoiding the peer-review process that every other concept in the NGSS has had to endure. What, are they expecting a gubmint handout here?

  9. Well, it’s not quite that straightforward, is it? There are aspects of the mechanisms of evolution which are still up for discussion. It’s just that the students need to learn a lot before they know enough to contribute anything useful to the discussion.

  10. jonnyscaramanga says: “There are aspects of the mechanisms of evolution which are still up for discussion.”

    That’s also true of astronomy. But we don’t encourage the kiddies to challenge it with astrology, because astrology has never had any answers that had any scientific value. Ditto for creationism.

  11. We are not in any disagreement here. That’s exactly the point I was making. The Creationists no longer say specifically that evolution should be challenged with Creationism; only that it should be open to question. It’s just that, in practice, there is no useful purpose in challenging evolution, because it’s so well established. But as a soundbite on a radio interview, the Creationist case sounds reasonable.

  12. Ceteris Paribus

    jonnyscaramanga says: “[t]he Creationist case sounds reasonable.”

    Not intending this to be a cheap case of piling on, but making a creationist case sound ‘reasonable’ happens best when the intended audience does not possess sufficient power of reasoning to see the scam.

    The creationists carefully target their messages at well intentioned and honest folk who think they are only doing the fair thing to accommodate diverse views.

    But the creationists don’t operate by the same rules, and know full well that just by making evolution controversial, even the most dedicated science teachers will simply skip over or minimize the subject of evolution in their classrooms.

  13. retiredsciguy

    Ceteris Paribus asserts, “…just by making evolution controversial, even the most dedicated science teachers will simply skip over or minimize the subject of evolution in their classrooms.”

    Maybe true for the “science teachers” who are coaches first and teachers as a distant second, but not for truly dedicated science educators. A true science teacher understands the controversy, and understands the importance of explaining all the observational evidence that supports evolution as the unifying concept behind biology and paleontology.

    Unfortunately, there aren’t enough of the dedicated science teachers to go around.

  14. Ceteris Paribus

    @retiredsciguy,

    Well and truly said, and agreed. There can never be sufficient dedicated science teachers to go around as long as many of the college students now majoring in science education selected their major specifically to increase their chances of landing a high school teaching job that will morph into a coaching position after they are hired.

    The estimate of one source in Kansas is that 25% of science education majors fit that description. The small numbers of physics ed majors bring the percentage down, so perhaps 33% of biology ed majors are in that category. And given that math does not require the time to prepare and set up labs, an estimated 50% of the math ed majors are actually hoping to use their major as their entry into a job with coaching duties.

    If you are familiar with the Bart Simpson “zone of ignorance” syndrome, you can appreciate how a handful of coach/teachers whose real passion is outside the classroom can inflict pain and suffering on the academic performance of an entire school.

  15. The estimate of one source in Kansas is that 25% of science education majors fit that description. The small numbers of physics ed majors bring the percentage down, so perhaps 33% of biology ed majors are in that category. And given that math does not require the time to prepare and set up labs, an estimated 50% of the math ed majors are actually hoping to use their major as their entry into a job with coaching duties.

    Ceterus, when you get a chance could you please provide a link to that source?

    Thanks!

  16. retiredsciguy

    Ceteris Parabus: “…you can appreciate how a handful of coach/teachers whose real passion is outside the classroom can inflict pain and suffering on the academic performance of an entire school.”

    Unfortunately, I’ve seen it first-hand. In my 27-year teaching career, I was a rare duck — a male science teacher who didn’t want to be a coach.

  17. retiredsciguy

    Oops — must have missed a “stop italics” mark. Oh, well.

  18. retiredsciguy

    Wait a second — the whole website’s now in italics!

  19. retiredsciguy says: “Wait a second — the whole website’s now in italics!”

    You have endangered the stability of the universe! But I have saved you.

  20. Ceteris Paribus

    @CSA: My source is merely a personal contact who has been involved in teacher ed programs at small private colleges for about 15 years. So my info is only anecdotal, but it might inspire others to ask similar questions in their own neighborhood.

    See if this scenario fits in your location: Start with the small rural consolidated high schools, where because of size nearly every student is involved in the ABCs: athletics, band, or choir. At graduation many who go on to college naturally seek out small private colleges, in the range of maybe 1,000 students, where they can continue their participation in the ABCs at the undergraduate level. In fact many small colleges and universities rely on the ABC students just to keep afloat.

    To get a handle on the effect in athletics, consider that at a private college of 1,000 students probably around 450 will be male, and 100 of them will be in the football program alone. Of the total 1,000 students, probably half will be involved in some kind of athletics.

    At these small colleges, athletics pervades the academic culture as much as athletics pervades Penn State. There are a lot of young people who aspire to grow up to be addressed as “Coach”, as if that were their original birth name.

    As rural school districts continue to decline in population, many no longer have full time math or science teachers. So new graduates with a math or science certificate continue to be a good fit for a school looking for a coach who can also teach a little math or science on the side.

    And urban high schools will continue to have a need for math and science teachers. The urban schools also have the most robust and prestigious athletic facilities. (Although recently one nearby rural school around here acquired a $400,000 team bus paid for by “boosters”.) So big high schools are a good fit for a math and science teacher who can leverage that qualification into a coaching opportunity after they have been on the faculty for a while.

    So, the market pretty much dictates that college students who want to coach, and are good enough to get into a science ed program, will select education certification in math or science. If they graduate in that program, they will have much better chances of landing a job than their fellow students who went into other ed certification in fields, where there is a continual over supply of graduates for the schools to choose from.

  21. Holding the line in FL

    retiredsciguy, I too am that rare duck, I avoid coaching responsibilites whenever possible. Of course. being a retired Infantry NCO, I value my time more than being “coach”. The only squad I coach now is the Academic Team. They are a cut above and you don’t have to worry about parents who think that their kid is the next A-Rod or Tebow. Fortunately at my middle school, our few male teachers are teachers first and coaches second. I do remember how in High Schools it can dreadful. Coach/Teachers tended to go into History/Social Studies, however. Things that make you go hummmmmm.. By the way, I enjoy the fight bringing the dreaded “E” concept to our kids! It is brought up from day one to the end of school. I guess I always thrived in a combat environment! Tenure helps too!!

  22. retiredsciguy

    @Holding the line in FL: What part of Florida? My wife and I spend some time in New Smyrna Beach during the winter (perks of retirement).

    I too taught in a middle school, and like you, I enjoyed enlightening the students about evolution. I taught in suburban Cincinnati, where just about any piece of native rock you pick up is loaded with fossils, so that provided a natural lead-in. The 450 million-year-old Ordovician layers of limestone and shale contain nothing but invertebrates, so I challenged every class to search for a fossil of a vertebrate in the exposed bedrock layers. Of course, they found none, so they were the ones to ask, “Where are the fish??” It was easy then for the students to grasp the concept of evolution, once they learned that no one anywhere had found evidence of vertebrates in rocks that old.

    to encourage the kids to get out and look, I handed out generous helpings of extra-credit for any fossils the students brought in. We had a fantastic museum-grade collection in each science classroom at the time I retired.