Tuesday, February 13, 2007


Reason Prevails in Kansas

The Kansas Board of Education voted 6-4 this afternoon to restore evolution to the state's science curriculum. In doing so, the board removed pseudo-scientific criticisms long pushed by anti-science creationists from the curriculum.

Voting for the new standards were Board Chair Bill Wagnon, Janet Waugh, Sue Gamble, Carol Rupe, Sally Cauble, and Jana Shaver. Voting against: Steve Abrams, Kathy Martin, Ken Willard, and John Bacon.

Today's victory was won because a diverse group of Kansans -- deeply embarrassed by the damage done to the state's reputation and outraged at the harm to our public schools, once thought to be among the best in the nation -- have worked tirelessly over the past two years.

In particular, Harry McDonald, former president of Kansas Citizens for Science and a candidate for the state school board, and Jack Krebs, the current president of KCFS and a member of the science standards committee, worked non-stop to bring Kansas back into the 21st century.

Dr. Steve Case and Carol Williamson the co-chairs of the curriculum committee have worked for years now to keep the committee focused on the standards -- not the politics -- and despite the impediments put in their way by the board to develop a set of standards Kansas can be proud of.

Science faculty from the state's secondary schools and universities mobilized to testify at hearings on the science curriculum held in February 2005. Many made themselves available to the media to counter claims by intelligent design "experts" during the board's sham science hearings in May 2005.

Pedro Irigonegaray volunteered to defend science at those hearings, and did so ably. While Kansas taxpayers footed the bill for "experts" supplied by the Discovery Institute, Irigonegary, one of Kansas' highest profile attorneys, worked for free.

During the election, though she was not up for election herself, moderate board member Sue Gamble seemed to be everywhere at once working to elect pro-science candidates in every contested district in the state. Janet Waugh, Sally Cauble, and Jana Shaver won hard fought election victories. Bill Wagnon and Carol Rupe and the other members of the moderate minority never flinched from fighting the good fight to defend science even though they were outnumbered and lost every vote.

Don Weiss ran a campaign that was both aggressive and wise for the seat held by right-winger John Bacon. He didn't win, but it was not for lack of trying. Weiss is now running for Johnson County Community College Board of Trustees. He deserves the support of all those who want to see the wonderful work of JCCC go forward.

A number of organizations -- MAINStream Coalition, the Kansas Alliance for Education, Kansans for Lifesaving Cures, Kansas Action for Children, and Kansas Families United for Public Education -- mobilized to build a nonpartisan, collaborative campaign called "Take Back Kansas" to restore evolution to the state's science curriculum and defend public schools against attempts by the religious right to privatize them.

Hundreds, perhaps thousands, of others donated their time, wrote letters to the editor, contributed money, and attended meetings and rallies. In the end, Kansas voters decided they'd had enough and elected a moderate pro-science majority to the board.

It was citizen action at its best.

In less than two years there will be another school board election. In 2008, three of the six moderates on the board will be up for election. The religious right will be ready for that election. You can be sure they are making preparations for it now.

We should expect they'll use well-honed tactics such as running stealth candidates and setting up shell political action committees to skirt campaign finance laws just as they have in past elections. We can also expect a barrage of misinformation from the right-wing outfits such as the Kansas Republican Assembly, the ID Network, and the Discovery Institute.

In 2004 pro-science moderates went to sleep and right-wing candidates re-took the majority they lost in the 2000 election. Many of us thought the issue of creationism had been put to rest.

We know now -- as Abrams, Willard, Bacon, and Martin demonstrated at the board meeting today -- it will never be put to rest. We will have to be ready with money and candidates.

I spoke with Jack Krebs after the board took its vote today and he's already making plans for the future. He knows better than anyone that evolution is just one part of the right's larger agenda.

"We know it will be back," he says. "Science is not, as John Calvert claims, atheistic. Today's vote gives us two years to educate the public about evolution and the nature of science."

Stay tuned.


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