Politics & Policy

What’s the Matter with Kansas?

Dishonest Darwinists -- coming to a state near you.

State school-board elections don’t normally receive much national media attention. Yet the school-board primary race in Kansas on Tuesday, representing a key front in the Darwin wars, was an exception.

Will Darwinism be taught as unquestionable dogma? That’s the question that voters decided. In Kansas, it seems it will.

Kansas has been one of five states with biology curricula that include instruction about the evidence both for and against neo-Darwinism, requiring that students learn about the “critical analysis” of evolutionary theory. Darwin advocates worked hard to defeat the majority on the education board and eliminate this requirement. On Tuesday they succeeded in this first objective, and the second will follow in due course.

The current “controversial” Kansas Science Standards very clearly do not mandate that students learn about intelligent design. On the contrary, as the board explained, “We also emphasize that the Science Curriculum Standards do not include Intelligent Design.”

Can’t get much clearer than, can you? Yet an outfit called Kansas Citizens for Science argued exactly the reverse — that the Kansas Science Standards do indeed mandate instruction about ID. It ended up convincing the voters. Or rather, deceiving them.

It was all part of a campaign, on behalf of liberal candidates for the education board that included other bold falsehoods. For example, the Darwin faction scared Kansas educators with the prospect of being sued on the basis of the 2005 Kitzmiller v. Dover decision in Pennsylvania. In fact, Kitzmiller is irrelevant to a curriculum in Kansas that does not advocate teaching about ID.

Opponents of the school board’s majority also argued that the science standards represented “science-bashing” by an “anti-science cabal” –- in the words of an editorial in the Witchita Eagle. Hardly. The Kansas standards simply mandated that young people be exposed to a full range of mainstream views from respected scientists.

The silliest objection to be raised was that the Kansas standards — get ready — hurt poor children. As a political-action committee, the Kansas Alliance for Education, put it during the lead-up to the election, “the best chance children, especially those in poverty, have to experience economic self-sufficiency and become tax-paying citizens is to receive a quality education.” According to this PAC, learning to critically analyze scientific evidence is incompatible with a “quality education.”

You would have thought that being able to understand both sides of a scientific issue would be a valuable intellectual experience for anyone to have.

Unfortunately, scare tactics like these persuaded voters to unseat key members of the Kansas board of education. Well, perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised. Much the same thing happened in Ohio.

In February, Darwinists succeeded in pressuring that state’s board of education to repeal the Ohio science standard requiring that students, “Describe how scientists continue to investigate and critically analyze aspects of evolutionary theory.” In Ohio, too, the media warned of the danger to “the future of the nation” from a policy that they said encouraged scientific illiteracy.

The dogmatism and dishonesty of some orthodox Darwinists is simply breathtaking. Yet, having prevailed in Ohio, they triumphed in Kansas and further victories elsewhere may be expected. So it seems increasingly likely that students will be kept in the dark after all about an issue with not only scientific ramifications but critically important moral ones too.

David Klinghoffer is a senior fellow at the Discovery Institute and the author most recently of Why the Jews Rejected Jesus: The Turning Point in Western History.


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