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Sunday, November 23, 2003

Response to Yecke by George Dawson

Posted on Mn Politics Discuss

You should know that creationism cannot be taught in American public schools. In 1987, the Supreme Court ruled that it was unconstitutional for Louisiana to require that the teaching of creationism accompany the teaching of evolution (Edwards vs. Aguillard). Strident proclamations that Minnesota is introducing creationism in the schools are thus completely false. To introduce creationism in our schools would be unconstitutional.

Teaching creationism in parallel with science is not necessarily the tact that is taken. For example, in 1999 the Kansas Board of Education voted to eliminate evolution and any references to the age of the earth from Kansas science texts. They went on to politically modify scientific theory by allowing genetic but not macroevolution, eliminated the big bang theory, and references to geological time scales. Eugenia Scott described the neocreationist approach as one that balances evolution with evidence against evolution. She points out that the evidence against evolution curriculum is essentially a creationist curriculum.

Following the evidence suggests that this type of tactic has been used in a number of states where disclaimers are introduced into texts suggesting that evolution is "only" a theory. Many in the scientific community point out that some specific wording about critical thinking opens the door for the use of nonscientific criticism from neocreationists. I wonder for example, how much time is going to be devoted to distinguishing between science, religion, and philosophy. I would suggest that most American students don't have that kind of time and when there is a lot of room for interpretation - interpretation occurs. I would also suggest that the majority of students and probably undergraduates for that matter are ill equipped to explain how scientific theories will be challenged by new scientific evidence. That is what most scientists focus their professional careers on.

These political controversies in science education do not occur in a vacuum. They occur against a much larger backdrop of a lack of scientific literacy and rigor in American culture.

Are Bachmann, Edwatch and Commissioner Yecke Bearing False Witness?

From a post by yours truly to Mn Politics Discuss

Speaking of the Bachmann half of these marginal pols, Susan Rego writes:

Both Commissioner Yecke and Sen. Michelle Bachmann have made statements in the press recently that indicate they believe that the Santorum amendment was included in Public Law 107-110 (The No Child Left Behind Act). It is true that Santorum inserted a version of his amendment in the explanation of the conference committee report, but that language is not part of the official Act which was signed into law by Pres. Bush.

EY: So did Edwatch, Bachmann and Yecke bear false witness on this one? Inquiring minds want to know. (Thanks to Julie Quist from Mr Ed for directly posting the EdWatch position - straight out of the horse's mouth so to speak).....

Seems like the Commissioners push for "Intelligent Design theory" in biology curriculums might be one reason the moderate republican panelist on Almanac said that Yecke might be in trouble with moderate Republican legislators. The last thing suburban parents are going to want is science curriculum which will put Minnesota Students at a disadvantage with various Subject SAT or ACT tests for college admission.....

Commissioner Yecke on Creationism in the Science Standards

You should know that creationism cannot be taught in American public schools. In 1987, the Supreme Court ruled that it was unconstitutional for Louisiana to require that the teaching of creationism accompany the teaching of evolution (Edwards vs. Aguillard). Strident proclamations that Minnesota is introducing creationism in the schools are thus completely false. To introduce creationism in our schools would be unconstitutional.

Congress debated this issue during the discussions on the No Child Left Behind legislation. Language introduced by Senator Rick Santorum was placed in the conference committee report that articulated the legislative intent of the No Child Left Behind bill. It states:

The Conferees recognize that a quality science education should prepare students to distinguish the data and testable theories of science from religious or philosophical claims that are made in the name of science. Where topics are taught that may generate controversy (such as biological evolution), the curriculum should help students to understand the full range of scientific views that exist, why such topics may generate controversy, and how scientific discoveries can profoundly affect society.

There is a benchmark on page 22 of the first draft of the proposed science standards that addresses your concern: “Students will be able to explain how
scientific innovations and new evidence can challenge accepted theories and models, including cell theory, atomic theory, theory of evolution, plate tectonic theory, germ theory of disease, Big Bang theory.”