Tuesday, June 11, 2002

Proposal: science standards should stress evolution only a theory

Associated Press Writer

        COLUMBUS, Ohio — The latest changes proposed to Ohio's school science curriculum would emphasize that evolution is only a theory and that it is about how life developed over time.

        The proposal does not include “intelligent design,” a concept some members of the state Board of Education's standards committee want added. It's the idea that life is so complex that it must have been designed by a higher power.

        The 19-member board has been struggling over whether to include such alternative concepts to evolution, based on Charles Darwin's theory of natural selection, in new guidelines for what students should learn about science.

        At a board meeting on Monday, standards committee co-chairmen Tom McClain and Joe Roman released a proposal of suggested changes that they will ask the 41-member team writing the final draft of the standards to consider at its meeting June 24-26.

        The proposal was crafted from feedback that McClain, of Columbus, and Roman, of Fairview Park, received from the five other committee members.

        McClain said he doesn't believe any committee members specifically asked for intelligent design to be included.

        “These aren't final recommendations in any way,” McClain said. “These are just an idea of what we thought we heard, and we're curious about how the writing team feels about this.”

        McClain said the proposal is not a compromise among committee members, a majority of whom support broad standards that could include intelligent design. The full board, which must approve the standards by year's end, is more evenly divided.

        Critics of evolution have pressed the board to soften strong statements about evolution included in two drafts of the new guidelines to allow for classroom instruction on other views.

        The committee's proposal waters down some of the language regarding evolution.

        For example, the latest draft of the standards says students must know about the “origin” of the universe and that life on Earth began about 4 billion years ago. But the committee proposed dropping the word “origin” in the standards and eliminating the Earth's age.

        The proposal also suggests replacing the phrase “evolution of life” with “the process of evolution” to reflect that evolution is a theory only. And, in several places, the word “evolution” would be replaced with “speciation.”

        Committee member Deborah Owens Fink, of Richfield, said she is pleased the proposal presents evolution as a theory and does not include discussion of how life originated.

        “I see an increased sensitivity in this proposal. It's a start,” said Fink, a supporter of broad standards. “I hope the writing team takes some of that input and makes some significant changes.”


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- Proposal: science standards should stress evolution only a theory
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