Monday, February 13, 2006


Ohio: School Board to Reconsider ID Lesson Plan?

The Ohio School Board is expected to discuss state science standards, which include a controversial lesson plan that scientists and educators describe as a "pointed attempt to insert old and discredited creationist content in Ohio’s science classrooms," when it meets tomorrow.

In January, the board vote 9-8 not to re-open debate on the standards, which were first adopted in December 2002 and include an intelligent design inspired critical analysis statement that singles out the theory of biological evolution.

Since the January vote, Ohio Gov. Bob Taft, who appoints eight of the 19 members on the school board, has suggested the board seek a legal opinion about whether the state could be open to a lawsuit over its standards.

In addition, on February 7, 23 of the 32 members of the board's Science Standards Advisory Committee wrote a letter to the governor recommending repeal of the creationist and intelligent design influenced portions of the science standards and lesson plans.

Here's the text of their letter:

Dear Governor Taft:

In 2001 Superintendent of Public Education Dr. Susan Tave Zelman asked us to serve on a committee to advise in the preparation of Ohio’s K-12 science content standards.

The Ohio Board of Education accepted those standards in December 2002. The Board, however, added an indicator-benchmark singling out biological evolution from the rest of science by requiring students to “describe how scientists continue to investigate and critically analyze aspects of evolutionary theory.”

Many of us warned then that in singling out this one scientific theory that has historically been opposed by certain religious sects, the Board sent the message that it “believes there is some problem peculiar to evolution.” This message was unwarranted scientifically and pedagogically. We also noted that such wording created an opportunity to teach creationist misrepresentations of science to Ohio’s students. Indeed, such a lesson tied to this indicator was prepared and accepted by the Ohio Board of Education in March 2004.

Within the last six weeks Federal Judge John E. Jones III has determined that similarly motivated efforts by the Dover, PA school board are unconstitutional. At the same time the Ohio Department of Education released documents associated with the development of this lesson.

These show that ODE’s own staff scientists repeatedly called portions of this lesson “a lie,” “wrong,” “inaccurate,” “oversimplified” and based on references they described as “highly religious,” “horrible,” and “non-scientific.” One reference was an outright creationist fabrication.

Our own review of the lesson finds it to be a pointed attempt to insert old and discredited creationist content in Ohio’s science classrooms. The pedagogy is weak at best, of negative, misleading and debilitating educational value. This lesson is devoid of scientific thinking or the scientific method. It is wholly without merit. And while the lesson’s authors assiduously avoided using the words “intelligent” and “design,” the lesson embodies intelligent design creationism poorly concealed in scientific sounding jargon. Such cheap ploys are a disservice to Ohio’s children and an insult to the intelligence of its good citizens. Nonetheless, this lesson, along with the associated science indicator, has passed because of overwhelming support by your appointees to the Ohio Board of Education.

Documents released by your office show that a member of the Ohio Board of Education worked “behind the scenes” and made threats “to bring the state down” on your office and the Board if this indicator-benchmark-lesson combination was not supported. The ODE documents show this threat was carried out and was effective.

Governor Taft, we compliment for your recent support of science-only standards and Model Curricula for Ohio’s children. Thank you for your efforts to improve education in Ohio and for all the efforts and hope you have placed in the “Third Frontier” and development of a high technology economy in Ohio, especially in the broad areas of biotechnology. However, we cannot envision how such development efforts can succeed when such blatant attempts to misuse and subvert the quality of public education in Ohio are permitted to stand.


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