AAAS Statement on Changes to Kansas Science Education Standards
[The Kansas State Board of Education has come under national scrutiny and broad criticism from scientists, science organizations and others for its efforts to compromise the teaching of evolution in the state's public schools. AAAS Fellow John Staver delivered the following statement on Tuesday 13 September at the monthly meeting of the Kansas State Board of Education in Topeka. The board is expected to give final approval to the new standards in a vote in October.]
Thank you for giving me time to speak today.
My name is John Staver and I am a professor of science education and the director of the Center for Science Education at Kansas State University. However, I am here today as a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science to express AAAS's very strong concern about recent changes in the proposed Kansas Science Education Standards. AAAS is the world's largest general scientific society, and publisher of the journal Science. The association fulfills its mission to "advance science and serve society" through initiatives in science policy; international programs; science education; and other programs. AAAS's more than 600 members in Kansas include researchers, professors, health professionals, industry leaders, students, teachers, parents and many other interested individuals.
AAAS is deeply concerned about the changes that have been made in the Kansas Science Education Standards in order to discredit the theory of evolution. The most troubling aspect of these changes is the redefinition of science. The "Nature of Science" section in the most recently proposed version of the standards says that science is a process that produces "explanations of natural phenomena." This implies that science is just one of many explanations of natural phenomena, including supernatural causes, and removes a defining principle of science which was present in the previous version of the standards-that science is restricted to natural explanations of the natural world. This restriction, which has been one of the cornerstones of scientific practice for more than three centuries, is one of the primary reasons that science has been fruitful in producing useful knowledge.
The latest version of the proposed standards also contains examples of facts that supposedly provide evidence against evolutionary theory, and statements that encourage students to distrust science. Some of these are inaccurate, and others are simply irrelevant or misleading. For example, the fact that the fossil record shows new species appearing at a highly variable rate does not discredit the theory of evolution, because evolution does not require a constant rate of change. Although scientists continue to make new discoveries about the processes of evolution, there is no doubt that evolution does occur.
The cumulative effect of proposed standards is to confuse students about the nature of science. In order to prepare our children to make informed decisions as adults on topics ranging from their own health to national security, we must equip them with a sound understanding of the science that will underlie these decisions. The latest version of the Kansas Science Education Standards does not serve our children well.
13 September 2005