UPDATE: There are now indications that the Kansas Board’s action on science standards (and the evolution issue) could come as early as February, but it seems to me that March may be more likely. See here.
Results from the November elections means that starting January 8, the new Kansas Board of Education will be controlled by a majority that supports changing the state’s science standards. “But,” reports John Hanna of the Associated Press (Topeka Capital-Journal; Lawrence Journal-World),
board members and scientists who want to rewrite the standards also want to take at least several months to do it. They hope to reconvene a panel of educators whose evolution-friendly work fell by the wayside last year when the board’s conservative majority decided to adopt language suggested by intelligent design supporters.
From the vantage point of Curriculum Studies, this looks like good news to me.
I have been concerned that in Kansas, as in Ohio, the Dover trial, and other places (as in the vast print and Internet literature on this controversy), questions about what to teach in science classes have been argued over by politicians, preachers, philosophers, journalists, and scientists, without noticing that these are questions of curriculum, questions that need to be informed by an understanding of curriculum.
As the Capital-Journal quotes Steve Case, associate director of The University of Kansas’ Center for Science Education:
There’s no real, compelling reason that they have to be adopted in January.
I don’t want the board to do anything in haste in a reactionary sort of way. They need to do it right.
The extended process provides an opening for input informed by curriculum consciousness. The Kansas Citizens for Science has been promoting evolution-friendly “Recommended Standards” as an alternative to the standards adopted by the outgoing Board, which purported to establish its own definition of “Science” as not limited to explaining natural phenomena on the basis of natural principles.
My expectation was that these Recommended Standards would be adopted swiftly to replace the old board’s standards. The Recommended Standards would be a great improvement over the standards in place now; and opening up the process could risk some erosion of the progress that these standards represent. There is also room for improvement, though, so now it’s up to us to share what we have to contribute in this ongoing controversy.
Stay tuned …