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Evolution Update

Missouri

Missouri teachers were dumbfounded by the introduction of a bill that would require "the equal treatment of science instruction regarding evolution and intelligent design." House Bill 911 was pre-filed December 19 by Rep. Wayne Cooper (R), a physician and president of Graceland Ministries, Inc. It is co-sponsored by six other Republican state representatives.

One of the numerous stipulations outlined in the bill requires that "If scientific theory concerning biological origin is taught, biological evolution and biological intelligent design shall be taught and given equal treatment."  The seven-page document also stipulates that new textbooks abide by requirements of the law and that every classroom in the state must post a copy of the law on the wall. Taking a hard line on the issue of enforcement, the bill states that “willful neglect of any elementary or secondary school superintendent, principal, or teacher to observe and carry-out the requirements of this section shall be cause for termination of his or her contract.”

In a January 9 article in the Kansas City Star, Rep. Cooper gives the bill a “50-50 chance of getting out of committee and onto the House floor.”

To view an entire copy of the bill, go to

http://www.house.state.mo.us/bills041/biltxt/intro/HB0911I.htm. To read the Jan. 9 article in the Kansas City Star, go to http://www.kansascity.com/mld/kansascity/news/local/7665979.htm (Free registration will be required). To read the NSTA position on the Teaching of Evolution go to http://www.nsta.org/159&psid=10. To view the latest NSTA resources on evolution, including the newest publication from NSTA Press, Evolution in Perspective; The Science Teacher’s Compendium, go to http://www.nsta.org/evresources/.

Minnesota

After months of work, Minnesota is preparing to bring new science standards before the state legislature for final passage, but several members of the science standards writing committee are concerned about the teaching of evolution.

The minority report on the science standards addressed to Minnesota Education Commissioner Cheri Yecke says that “with the exception of the treatment of evolution, we are confident these new standards will increase the quality of education for Minnesota students. However, we remain deeply concerned that the proposed standards fail to require students to learn enough information about evolution to be able to understand the theory’s weaknesses as well as its strengths. Unfortunately, this completely one-sided approach to evolution lowers the quality of science education and is more likely to polarize Minnesotans than unify them.”

The letter states that stakeholder input on the evolution issues was largely disregarded during the development of the standards and that the efforts to propose improvements to the evolution standards were blocked. Earlier this year, Commissioner Yecke had suggested that in the new standards, students should be exposed to different views on evolution. According to the Minnesota State Department of Education, the number of standards in the proposed science standards was reduced 21 percent, and benchmarks were reduced 35 percent. The committee responsible for drafting the new standards included 36 classroom teachers, 6 administrators, and 13 persons involved with higher education.

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