Jack Krebs posted Entry 2347 on June 6, 2006 10:13 PM.
Trackback URL: http://www.pandasthumb.org/cgi-bin/mt/mt-tb.fcgi/2342

Yesterday (June 5, 2006) Kansas Citizens for Science sent an open letter to the superintendents of Kansas public schools explaining why the current 2005 KBOE standards are seriously flawed, and suggesting that districts adopt the Recommended Standards developed by the science standards writing committee instead. We have asked that each superintendent distribute the letter to the district’s Board members also. I have included the whole letter below: see Recommended Standards on the KCFS News site for related information.

Read more of the story here.

Our understanding is that most districts have no intention to implement the KBOE standards. On the other hand, I imagine most districts will wait until the elections this August, at the least, before thinking about whether they want to do anything official about adopting the alternative Recommended Standards from the Board-disavowed science standards writing committee.

Four of the six creationist Board members (out of ten total Board members) are up for re-election. (Actually, one, Iris Van Meter is not running, being replaced as a candidate by her son-in-law). Each of those candidates has high-quality, pro-science Republican opponents in the primary and an equally-qualified Democrat waiting for the general election in November. Most of those opponents have openly stated that they would replace the KBOE standards if elected.

Therefore, the pro-science community in Kansas is primarily working politically this summer (as well as the pro-education, pro-sex-ed, and pro-qualified leaders at the Department of Education community: the current Board has alienated a lot of different groups.) Only if the creationists retain their control of the Board will other next steps be necessary – official rejection of the standards by school districts and possible legal action being two of the possibilities.

A story in the Hutchinsin News (published in other western Kansas newspapers also) can be found here.

For the record, here’s the letter we sent:

An Open Letter to Kansas Public School District Superintendents

from Kansas Citizens for Science (KCFS)
June 5, 2006
(downloadable copy here.)

The 2005 KBOE science standards are seriously flawed, but there is an alternative!

In November 2005, the Kansas State Board of Education (KBOE) adopted, by a 6-4 majority, a set of science standards that Kansas Citizens for Science (KCFS) regards as seriously flawed. The KBOE

  1. changed the definition of science in order to include supernatural causes as acceptable scientific explanations,
  2. inserted numerous statements into the biology standards that have been rejected by mainstream science and are only found in Intelligent Design creationist literature, and
  3. cast unwarranted doubt upon the methodology and validity of science.

The majority Board members, their appointees on the Science Standards Writing Committee, and the official spokesperson for those appointees have all made clear their motivations for these changes. Not only do they reject strongly supported scientific conclusions, such as common descent among species or the ancient age of the earth, they also firmly reject the religious beliefs of those Christians who accept the mainstream theory of evolution, calling them “confused” and “illogical” for believing that Christianity and evolution are compatible.

The KBOE standards have been rejected by numerous professional organizations of scientists and science teachers. The majority of the Science Standards Writing Committee voted to have their names removed from the KBOE standards, and national science organizations withdrew copyright permissions they had granted for language taken from their documents. Subsequently, the Manhattan-Ogden Board of Education, USD 383, voted to formally reject the state science standards.

The KBOE standards are so flawed that they may be unconstitutional, and if endorsed by a local school district could lead to serious legal difficulties. One way to avoid such difficulties is to continue using your current standards, based on the 2001 science standards, rather than incorporating the 2005 KBOE standards. Better yet, as explained below, you could adopt the Science Standards Writing Committee’s Recommended Standards, the completed product of the writing committee originally empowered by the Board to revise the 2001 standards.

The alternative: the Science Standards Writing Committee’s Recommended Standards

A large majority (21 out of 25) of the Science Standards Writing Committee continued to meet privately after their version of the standards was rejected by the KBOE. The committee improved on the draft they had submitted to the Board in March by responding to suggestions made by external reviewer MCREL (the Mid-Continent Research for Education and Learning) and by the Fordham Foundation. The committee’s final version of the Recommended Standards is now available for districts to use as an alternative to the KBOE standards.

KCFS believes that Kansas’ school children would be far better served by these standards. We urge your district to consider adopting the Recommended Standards. See the KCFS News page on the Recommended Standards for a complete copy of the Recommended standards and other information about adopting the Recommended Standards in your district.

Here are a few of the reasons why KCFS encourages local school districts to officially adopt these Recommended Standards rather than the KBOE standards:

  1. Kansas students should be taught science that corresponds to the consensus view of the community of scientists. They should not be taught assertions from the creationist anti-evolutionists that are held by the scientific community to be incorrect.
  2. Kansas schools should not be used to promote one particular view of religion. Presenting religious arguments in the guise of science does harm not only to our students, but also to religious communities.
  3. Kansas science teachers are already under pressure to teach bad science or to omit “controversial” science. School districts need to send their teachers a clear message that they support the teaching of mainstream science.
  4. Districts using the state standards may leave themselves open to costly lawsuits, such as the one in Dover, Pennsylvania. The lawsuit over their Intelligent Design-inspired policy cost the Dover district over a million dollars. Should such a lawsuit occur in Kansas, it is not the state that will be sued – it is the local district that will be sued.

It is not possible to include all of the relevant information in this brief letter, but we encourage you to contact us or visit our website if you have any questions or concerns regarding this issue. We would be happy to have someone from our organization contact you or make a brief presentation to your school board should you so desire.

We would also appreciate it if you would distribute a copy of this letter to your Board members for your next Board meeting.

Sincerely,
Jack Krebs, President
On behalf of Kansas Citizens for Science

Contact information:
jkrebs@sunflower.com
785-840-5113 (cell)
785-863-2281 (work)
785-832-0739 (home)

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Comment #104152

Posted by steve s on June 6, 2006 10:29 PM (e)

It’s good that they managed to find some pro-science republican candidates.

Comment #104156

Posted by Jack Krebs on June 6, 2006 11:07 PM (e)

Pro-science Republicans are not hard to find in Kansas. We really have a sort of three or four party state: right-wing Conservative Republicans, moderate Republicans, Democrats, and independents. Sometimes it’s the conservatives against everyone else: that’s why we have a popular Democratic governor.

Most of the Republican candidates running for the Board are quite well-qualified - one is the former president of KCFS, Harry McDonald.

Comment #104198

Posted by csa on June 7, 2006 7:38 AM (e)

Thanks Jack. It’s impressive that the majority of those on the standards writing committee kept right on working, despite being officially ‘disbanded’ by the KS state department of education. *Big* kudos to them!

Comment #104201

Posted by Jack Krebs on June 7, 2006 7:52 AM (e)

Credit goes to our co-chairpersons for that: Steve Case and Carol Williamson, and of course all the committee members who put in the time and travel to attend the extra meetings necessary to complete the standards.

Steve and Carol felt strongly that we needed to complete the project for the sake of education. Of course our hope is that these completed standards will indeed be adopted at some point. Having them out there waiting (sort of like a government-in-exile) also makes the political point, as does our letter, that the education community does not accept the work of the Board.

Comment #104228

Posted by Corkscrew on June 7, 2006 11:43 AM (e)

Wyatt: your bold whistleblowing might garner more attention if you actually, you know, provided some evidence.

Comment #104234

Posted by AD on June 7, 2006 12:04 PM (e)

Wyatt: your bold whistleblowing might garner more attention if you actually, you know, provided some evidence.

I have a feeling he doesn’t bother with that pathetic level of detail…

Comment #104237

Posted by Bill Gascoyne on June 7, 2006 12:17 PM (e)

KCFS has become a site for promoting atheist bigotry toward all religion.

I’d dearly love to see an example of KCFS’s Zoroastrianism-bashing. Or does this commenter confuse “all religion” with “biblical inerrancy”?

Comment #104244

Posted by DimwittedHousewife on June 7, 2006 1:10 PM (e)

I especially like all the posts about how comets came into existense during the big flood!

Comment #104251

Posted by csa on June 7, 2006 1:45 PM (e)

Wayne/Wyatt urped:By the way, why does KCFS have a tax exempt status if it is promoting candidates.

Please show evidence that the KCFS organization has endorsed any candidates.

Comment #104256

Posted by Jack Krebs on June 7, 2006 1:56 PM (e)

Wayne is a troll who has been banned under numerous names from the KCFS forums. I’ll work with the PT admin to ban him here also.

Also, KCFS does not endorse candidates. We stand strongly for a position concerning the science standards.

I, as an individual, can endorse any one I want. I think I can keep separate when I am speaking for KCFS and when I am speaking for myself.

Comment #104260

Posted by Spike on June 7, 2006 2:43 PM (e)

Are KS school boards and administrators bound by the KBOE’s decisions? If so, then the KCFS is advocating that the school boards break the law!*

Are the decisions of the KBOE exempt from suit? If not, then when a school board -does- adopt the KBOE standards, the parents can name the KBOE collectively and individually in the Establishment Clause suit.

Anybody know the answers to these legal questions?

Breaking the law is not a bad thing, when it is a bad law and breaking it forces it into the courts.

Comment #104266

Posted by Jack Krebs on June 7, 2006 4:31 PM (e)

Districts are under no legal obligation to base their district standards on the state standards, so we’re not urging any form of civil disobedience. On the other hand, for the same reasons, the state probably can’t be sued, but a district could if they incorporated the state standards into their local standards. My understanding, to sue someone would have to have standing an dbe able to claim damage, which would probably be the parent of a student in a class that used the state standards in some way. That is why we are pointing out to district’s that they should be careful about legal liability. (And of course, IANAL.)

Comment #104270

Posted by RBH on June 7, 2006 5:08 PM (e)

Jack wrote

On the other hand, for the same reasons, the state probably can’t be sued, but a district could if they incorporated the state standards into their local standards. My understanding, to sue someone would have to have standing an dbe able to claim damage, which would probably be the parent of a student in a class that used the state standards in some way. That is why we are pointing out to district’s that they should be careful about legal liability.

During the recent Ohio debates revisiting (and rejecting) the ID-inspired benchmark and model lesson plan in Ohio, during the public comments period I told the Ohio State Board of Education that they had set a “Dover Trap” for every local district in the state. The effect of the ID-inspired standard was to inveigle local boards into engaging in unlawful behavior. The State Board wouldn’t suffer for it, but some poor local district in Vinton County or Coshocton County would interpret the Board’s retention of the offending standard as sanctioning teaching ID creationism and would get nailed for it. That message got through – the phrase was echoed by a State Board Member during the debate that resulted in an 11-4 rejection of the ID-inspired material.

The situation in Kansas is the same: the State Board there has set a Dover Trap for every district in Kansas. The State Board won’t suffer for it (at least not directly), but some poor local district may get nailed.

RBH

Comment #104280

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on June 7, 2006 6:36 PM (e)

KCFS has become a site for promoting atheist bigotry toward all religion.

But ID isn’t about religion. No sirree Bob. It’s just them lying atheist darwinists who say it is.

I love fundies. I really do. What other group of political activists are always so enthusiastically happy to shoot themselves in the head, in public, right in front of the whole world?

They KNOW, absolutely KNOW, that every time they preach, they lose in court. So what do they do? Yep – they preach anyway.

They are by far their own worst enemies.

Comment #104286

Posted by Bill Gascoyne on June 7, 2006 7:01 PM (e)

I love fundies. I really do. What other group of political activists are always so enthusiastically happy to shoot themselves in the head, in public, right in front of the whole world?

[Python_reference] Upper-class Twit of the Year contestants? [/Python_reference]

They KNOW, absolutely KNOW, that every time they preach, they lose in court. So what do they do? Yep — they preach anyway.

Well, the old canard about the definition of insanity (repeatedly doing the same thing while expecting different results) might apply.

Comment #104341

Posted by Ed Darrell on June 8, 2006 2:10 AM (e)

Spike wonders:

Are KS school boards and administrators bound by the KBOE’s decisions? If so, then the KCFS is advocating that the school boards break the law!*

Are the decisions of the KBOE exempt from suit? If not, then when a school board -does- adopt the KBOE standards, the parents can name the KBOE collectively and individually in the Establishment Clause suit.

Anybody know the answers to these legal questions?

Each school board and their appointed administrators is responsible for following the law. As RBH pointed out, the KBOE’s actions lay a trap for these people. But I’m not sure you realize why, Spike.

The actions of the KBOE are violations of the law. I suspect that, if someone could figure out a way to get standing, they could sue to stop the KBOE from further silliness, and to recover the costs of the extra-legal or illegal Kansas Kangaroo Kourt hearings last year. There are procedures established for setting science standards, and those procedures have some force of law. KBOE has failed to follow those procedures, however, and so violates administrative law, and probably assumes some liability for malfeasance and misfeasance. Scientists and educators are generally too polite to hold creationists to the law.

Each school board must uphold the Kansas constitution, which prohibits official state action in support of religion, such as that the KBOE urges. Each board must also uphold the U.S. Constitution, which has a similar ban, and which is usually the one tested in these cases.

So, KCFS advocacy is not only wholly within the law, it’s the moral stand for Americans (including Kansans) to take.

I do not take pleasure in noting, Spike, that the self-appointed “morals guardians” use immoral and illegal tactics – but there you are.

Comment #104444

Posted by AD on June 8, 2006 11:58 AM (e)

I wonder, if someone could either establish standing or civic interest, if someone could just start by serving some sort of “cease and desist” style notice.

The ultimate point should be to explore legal avenues for finding ways to make the creationist boards liable themselves for their conduct. We’d have a lot less pounding of bibles and manipulating standards if it came at a $1 million dollar per attempt fee to the creationists themselves.

Comment #104869

Posted by Jeff Hebert on June 10, 2006 10:09 AM (e)

Not to be a negative ninny or anything, but is there a reason this keeps getting updated ten times a day? I read the site through Bloglines and it keeps popping up as new throughout the day. It’s getting to the point where I’m going to remove Panda’s Thumb from my subscriptions list entirely.

I applaud the letter, both in spirit and in content, but is there some way to keep it from being updated constantly?

Comment #104925

Posted by Henry J on June 10, 2006 7:00 PM (e)

Well, if Bloglines updates every time somebody posts a reply on a thread, then it would be getting updates every few minutes.

Henry