With misinformation about evolution and the nature of science at issue in proposed Kansas science education standards, AAAS strongly supports two national science organizations that announced today they are unable to allow use of their copyrighted material in the standards.
AAAS also said it would be more than willing, through its Project 2061 science-literacy initiative, to help the Kansas State Board of Education improve the pending standards.
“AAAS is extremely concerned that the proposed standards misrepresent both the content and the standing of evolution as a scientific organizing principle,” said Alan I. Leshner, the association’s chief executive officer.
AAAS, which provided advice during the drafting of the standards, is eager to help craft appropriate language on evolution so the state’s schoolchildren are not confused about the subject and the nature of science.
For many months, national science groups have been urging Kansas officials to revise the draft standards. The standards both single out evolution as a controversial theory, despite the wealth of evidence supporting it, and delete a previous reference to science as a search for natural explanations of observable phenomena.
AAAS has long held that students are ill-served by any effort in science classrooms to blur the distinction between science and other ways of knowing, including those concerned with the supernatural.
After carefully reviewing the latest version of the standards, the leadership of the National Academies’ National Research Council and the National Science Teachers Association have decided they cannot grant the Kansas State School Board permission to use substantial sections of text from two standards-related documents: the research council’s National Science Education Standards and Pathways to Science Standards, published by NSTA. The organizations sent letters to Kansas school authorities on Wednesday, Oct. 26 requesting that their copyrighted material not be used. The letters and a joint statement are at www.nationalacademies.org/morenews/20051027.html and www.nsta.org/pressroom&news_story_ID=51167.
Leshner said AAAS backs the decision on copyright permission. “We need to protect the integrity of science education if we expect the young people of Kansas to be fully productive members of an increasingly competitive world economy that is driven by science and technology,” he said. “We cannot allow young people to be denied an appropriate science education simply on ideological grounds.”
AAAS’s Project 2061 published the widely influential Benchmarks for Science Literacy in 1993. The content of many state and national standards documents is drawn from the AAAS document.
The current version of the Kansas Science Educations Standards does not include material from Benchmarks, but the committee that drafted the Kansas standards did use the document during its deliberations.
Leaders of AAAS and Project 2061 are committed to helping Kansas bring its proposed science standards in line with the views on evolution held by the overwhelming majority of scientists. “We stand ready to work with them,” said Jo Ellen Roseman, the director of Project 2061.
Among the problems with the current draft of the Kansas standards, according to Roseman:
* An introduction to the standards document singles out evolution as being controversial, indicates there are legitimate scientific concerns about the theory and overstates the number of scientists who disagree with the theory. The introduction also refers to “intelligent design,” the dogma that some biological structures are irreducibly complex and could only be the result of intervention by an intelligent agent, as simply a “scientific disagreement” with evolution. It leaves open the option of teaching the non-scientific concept of intelligent design in science classrooms, a step scientists vigorously oppose.
* Language in one section states that “biological evolution postulates an unguided natural process.” The use of the word “postulates” makes it sound as though evolution lacks evidence, Roseman said, and that the theory relies on assumptions rather than solid scientific evidence from thousands of peer-reviewed papers.
* Several modifications to a section of the standards on “patterns of cumulative change” make it appear that evolutionary theories have more uncertainty associated with them than other well-accepted scientific theories such as plate tectonics in geology.