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Ohio is not Dover, PA: Important differences on the science standards debate
AUTHOR: Melanie Elsey
February 10 2006

SUMMARY

Comparison of Misinformation and Fact:

FALSE: The Dover’s decision renders Ohio’s policy as illegal.

FACT: Ohio’s scientific investigation and analysis standard does not mandate or require the teaching or testing of intelligent design. The model lesson plan is a voluntary lesson – not a required lesson. Immediately prior to the vote of intent in October 2002, one board member specified: “I think it is important to state what this is not. This is not ID. ID is specifically not mentioned and will not be tested. This is not about religious perspectives. This is only about scientific perspectives. So, in summary, what does this really mean? It means very simply, to present differing views together - the scientific evidence that supports and does not support each of those views…” [transcribed from audio tape of State Board of Education meeting, October 15, 2002; resolution #18] FALSE: The voluntary model lesson includes material “lifted” from a “religious text,” Of Pandas and People. Davis, Percival, and Dean H. Kenyon. Of Pandas and People. Dallas: Haughton Publishing Co., 1993. [ISBN 0-914513-40-0]

FACT: There are no particular religious doctrines outlined in the textbook, Of Pandas and People.

FACT: In comparing the text of the model lesson with Of Pandas and People, there are no specific overlaps of text. There are some of the same topics covered, i.e. fossil record, peppered moths, and homology. However, these are the same topics covered in ALL high school biology textbooks. Research of public records for the Ohio curriculum writing team and additional inquiries indicate the textbook Of Pandas and People was never even mentioned in the development of Ohio’s model lesson.

FALSE: The voluntary lesson is full of references to creationist websites.

FACT: The model lesson includes a bibliography list of 37 citations. NONE of the citations include any websites. The board made a policy decision in the review of the lesson that the state could not control the future content of websites and it would, therefore, be sound policy to not include any internet references whatsoever.

FALSE: It is unconstitutional to single out evolutionary theory for scientific analysis (according to Judge Jones)

FACT: The U.S. Supreme Court has repeatedly acknowledged the value in presenting students with all scientific theories regarding the origins of humankind. In Edwards v. Aguillard, 482 U.S. 578 (1987) Justice Brennan in writing for the majority stated, “A law intended to maximize the comprehensiveness and effectiveness of science instruction would encourage the teaching of all scientific theories about human origins.” In striking down a Louisiana state mandate to teach “creationism” alongside the theory of evolution, Justice Brennan also stated that the ruling does NOT imply “that a legislature could never require that scientific critiques of prevailing scientific theories be taught.”

Ohio’s policy is consistent with the views of the majority of U.S. Supreme Court justices in the Edwards case. Critics claim Intelligent Design is not science. This point is completely irrelevant. The Ohio standard does not promote Intelligent Design, it simply affords academic freedom to discuss ongoing investigation/analysis of evolutionary theory.

FALSE: Some State Board of Education members are using the standard and model lesson as a “thinly veiled attempt” to sneak Intelligent Design into the classroom. Some are even on record as being advocates of Intelligent Design.

FACT: The Standards Committee of the State Board of Education was presented with the concept of Intelligent Design in formal presentations in January 2002 and a public debate in March 2002. The Committee and full board made a conscious decision to NOT mandate Intelligent Design in order to foster academic and intellectual freedom and avoid potential entanglements with legal challenges. Individual board members, who had previously been on record as supporting the concepts of Intelligent Design, showed respect for this policy decision of the full board. Individual board members do not set board policy. It takes a majority of the 19 members to establish policy.

FACT: Some individual board members have publicly stated their belief in “theistic evolution.” This is clearly a religious perspective. Does this negate their meaningful input to the board’s policy on evolution? All 19 board members have their own individual religious beliefs. No one should be discredited in the discussion of policy based on their personal religious views.

ACTION

Citizens who wish to encourage the Governor and members of the State Board of Education to stand by their 2002 vote on the State Science Standard and their 2004 vote on the model lesson should contact: Governor Taft: 614-466-3555 or http://www.governor.ohio.gov/contactinfopage.asp. State Board of Education members: A general email can be sent to Catherine.Clark-Eich@ode.state.oh.us. She will make sure your correspondence is sent to each board member.

Please be respectful and stay on the topic of fostering academic and/or intellectual freedom for Ohio students.

Please feel free to copy Ohio Roundtable & Freedom Forum on any pertinent communications at melsey@aproundtable.org.

BACKGROUND

I. Ohio's science standard, approved by the State Board of Education in December 2002, states: Students will "describe how scientists continue to investigate and critically analyze aspects of evolutionary theory. (The intent of this indicator does not mandate the teaching or testing of intelligent design.)"

II. One voluntary model curriculum lesson was approved by the State Board of Education in March 2004, which supports the scientific investigation analysis standard. This lesson has been targeted for elimination by a few board members and a minority of Ohio citizens who want to ban any non-Darwinian thought in the classroom.

Link to lesson for your review: “Critical Analysis of Evolution – Grade 10” http://ims.ode.state.oh.us/ODE/IMS/Lessons/Content/L10H23_Critical_Analysis_of_Evolution.doc.pdf

This lesson allows students to conduct their own background research on five areas of evolutionary theory and makes a distinction between evolutionary changes / adaptations within species (not controversial) and evolution from one species to another. The five aspects reviewed in the lesson are homology, fossil record, anti-biotic resistance, peppered moths, and endosymbiosis.

III. A single U.S. District Court Judge John E. Jones, III issued an opinion on December 20, 2005 that the local school board policy in Dover, Pennsylvania requiring instruction in Intelligent Design and suggesting the use of the textbook, Of Pandas and People, violated the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. He permanently enjoined the defendants from maintaining the ID Policy in any school within the Dover Area School District. [Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District]