VICTORY FOR EVOLUTION
I wanted to spread this great news to everyone ASAP, especially in light of the dismal events in Kansas and Kentucky of late. It seems it really does pay to fight for science, for evolution, and for one's education.
By the way, this is the same Emily Rosa who published her 4th grade science project in the Journal of the American Medical Association debunking Therapeutic Touch. She's a remarkable young lady.
Congrats to Emily, Linda, and Larry, and to all the children in Emily's school who will be taught one of the half dozen greatest ideas in history.
By a unanimous 7-0 vote, the Board of Education of the Poudre School District (Fort Collins, CO) Monday night declared that Liberty Common School (LCS) had breached its contract as a charter school when the latter adopted a policy that prohibited teaching human evolution and failed to emphasize the importance of "macro-evolution" (speciation).
The Board vote was in response to a complaint filed by Linda Rosa and Larry Sarner on behalf of their daughter, Emily Rosa, who is an eighth-grader at the school. They complained LCS's policy denied Emily a full education including a complete discussion of evolution. As a charter school, the school had obtained its charter by pledging to teach the full Core Knowledge Sequence (CKS), "supplemented and aligned" with the Benchmarks for Science Literacy of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), both of which have emphases on evolution, including human evolution. Rosa and Sarner had protested that the anti-evolution policy was a "bait and switch" and went back on the pledge given when LCS was granted its charter.
The Board agreed that the policy violated the contract to fully teach CKS in evolution. The resolution was adopted after a one-hour closed door session where the full Board heard from a "fact-finding subcommittee". The fact-finders cited the work of AAAS President Stephen Jay Gould which explained that a curriculum that included only "micro-evolution" (only intra-species change is considered and taught) was in and of itself inadequate. They also had the LCS policy reviewed by the head of a committee of the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) that had reacted to the Kansas State Board of Education's recent decision not to require the teaching of evolution in that state. Dr. Gerald Skoog said his committee had recommended that NAS "disassociate itself" from the Kansas decision as being "contrary to modern science." After reviewing the LCS policy, Scholl declared that policy "paralleled" that of Kansas and warranted "the same disassociation".
The Board subcommittee, which included a lawyer, had also said that it deemed several provisions of the policy to be unconstitutional. It singled out that part of the policy which declared some part of evolutionary theory would not be taught because it might lead to religious discussions in the classroom. "To refuse to teach parts of evolution because it might offend the religious beliefs of some students is contrary to the constitution and the policy of this District," declared subcommittee members Garth Rogers and William Wawro. Two other Board members repeated this reason before voting on the final resolution.
One Board member noted the fears of some in the community and elsewhere that charter schools "are private schools in public school clothing." Robert Bacon said that it was thought "other forces might take over" a charter school, but the Board's decision would allay these fears by showing that there is accountability in the system.
Board members also dismissed LCS's contention that it did not have to teach some evolutionary theory because it is not required to do so by Colorado State Model Content Standards (which deliberately ignores human evolution) or Poudre School District requirements. "That it's not mentioned [in those standards] is not sufficient reason for not teaching human evolution or the origin of life," said Rogers. "Those policies do not restrict the teaching of evolution as Liberty Common's does," he added.
The adopted resolution finally declared that the LCS policy was "inappropriate and contrary to contract."
"This is a happy day for science," a gleeful Linda Rosa told reporters afterwards. She and Sarner will return to the school's headmaster and board of directors to push for formal repeal of the policy and for remedial courses in evolution for their daughter and other children at the school.
----------------------------------- Michael Shermer Publisher -----------------------------------Copyright 1999 by Michael Shermer and the Skeptics Society. Copies of this internet posting may be made and distributed in whole without further permission. Credit: This has been another edition of SkepticMag Hotline, the internet edition of Skeptic magazine and the cyberspace voice of the Skeptics Society. For further information about the magazine and society, contact P.O. Box 338, Altadena, CA 91001; 626/794-3119 (phone); 626/794-1301 (fax); firstname.lastname@example.org and www.skeptic.com or send your message telepathically and we will respond in kind.
For those of your not familiar with the Skeptics Society or have not seen Skeptic magazine, see our web page: www.skeptic.com