Sunday, May 20, 2007

Julie's New and Hot (week 8)

"Evolution Opponent Is in Line for Schools Post" by Cornelia Dean
May 19, 2007 New York Times

In July, the National Association of State Boards of Education (NASBE) will be electing new officers. NASBE is a nonprofit organization of state board schools with the objective of improving leadership in educational policymaking. The only candidate for president in this election is Kansas Republican, Kenneth Willard. In 2005, Willard voted for changing Kansas' science curriculum to permit intelligent design to be taught in schools. There was another candidate for the presidential NASBE position, but he had dropped out due to personal reasons.

Scientists involved in this educational policy debate hope that states will write in other nominees instead of accepting Willard by default. Some are concerned that if Willard is elected, then the issue of teaching evolution or intelligent design will be taken to the national level, rather than be left up to states to decide. Others feel that science education is at a crucial period so "any situation that provides an opportunity for the opponents of science education to advance their agenda is a matter of concern."

Willard said that while he does believe students should be taught about alternatives to evolution, such as intelligent design, that the purpose of NASBE is not to set school curriculum but to deal with other issues such as promoting academic success for disadvantaged students. He also commented, "Some people are mindless about their attacks on anyone questioning anything Darwin might have said."

While I agree that it is concerning that an intelligent design proponent may hold this presidential office, should we really be worried? How much will Willard's opinions on evolution affect NASBE if this organization does not make decisions about what is actually taught in school? It seems that Willard's conservative background would affect the organization more than his specific thoughts on evolution. I also thought that the quote I included from him was an interesting role reversal. I normally don't think of scientists as mindless. Instead, I can imagine an evolution advocate making this comment about a creationist.

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