Thursday, September 8, 2005

Evolution in the Oregon classroom: Special "back to school" edition

Update: Greetings to guests from William Bragg's blog. If you're interested in this topic, you might also--maybe--be interested in this post as well. Drop by again.

I've written off states like Kansas and Texas, when it comes to keeping the creation science-types (and their new three-piece-suited spawn, Intelligent Design) away from the classroom. But I was stunned to learn, from the American Institute of Biological Sciences, that a full one-half of the country (25 states and DC) has had some sort of challenge to teaching evolution in the classroom.

As you'll see from AIBS's state-by-state breakout, some of these challenges have died as quickly as they were hatched, but every one represents time and energy that legislators and educational leaders have had to spend dealing with anti-science, as well as another opportunity for local media to keep the cause alive with more of their patented "two sides to every story" coverage.

On the bright side, while Oregon's once-excellent public education system is woefully underfunded, thanks to 15 years of diligent work by the anti-tax fetishists, at least what our kids are managing to learn is from the 21st century, not the 14th.

I'm proud to pass along this statement, which (as you'll see from the nested trail of forwardings) comes from the Oregon Department of Education, and has made its way to all science teachers in the state public education system (emphasis added).

-----Original Message-----
From: [deleted]
Sent: Mon 8/22/2005 9:22 AM
To: HHS Staff
Subject: FW: [Super] Evolution, Creation, Intelligent Design

-----Original Message-----
From: [deleted]
Sent: Thursday, August 18, 2005 4:26 PM
To: [distribution list deleted]
Cc: [deleted]
Subject: FW: [Super] Evolution, Creation, Intelligent Design

It is a good idea to review this with your science teachers: teaching creationism and/or "intelligent design" in public school science classes in Oregon is against the law. This isn't a concept open to interpretation or debate, it's the law.

-----Original Message-----
From: [Oregon Department of Education, Director of Communications]
Sent: Wednesday, August 17, 2005 10:19 AM
To: [distribution list deleted]
Cc: Management Team
Subject: [Super] Evolution, Creation, Intelligent Design

I have been getting a number of questions about the teaching of "creationism" and "intelligent design," and I expect you and your school boards are getting them, too. These questions have increased since the President's comment to reporters this month that "intelligent design should be taught along with evolution, so people can understand the debate."

FYI - Here's the state's position:

The Oregon Science Content Standards adopted in April of 2001 clearly require the teaching of evolution. All content standards are adopted through the legislative process and are required in the public schools in Oregon. In addition, each of these standards has underlying benchmarks and eligible content that can be addressed in statewide testing.

The following Oregon Common Curriculum Goals (CCG) and Content Standards (CS) relate most directly to evolution:
Life Science
* CCG: Heredity and CS: Understand the transmission of traits in living things.
* CCG: Diversity/Interdependence: Understand the relationships among living things and between living things and their environments.

o CS: Describe and analyze diversity of species, natural selection and adaptation

Earth and Space Science
* CCG: The Dynamic Earth: Understand changes occurring within the lithosphere, hydrosphere, and atmosphere of the Earth.

o CS: Explain and analyze changes occurring within the lithosphere, hydrosphere, and atmosphere of the Earth.

The Oregon Department of Education's reference handbook, Science Teaching and Learning to Standards, includes the Oregon science standards and provides resources for science educators. In the section on Teaching Evolution in Oregon Classrooms (pages 21-23), we include the following excerpt from the document, "Religion in the Public Schools: A Joint Statement of Current Law," published by the U.S. Department of Education.

"Schools may teach about explanations of life on earth, including religious ones (such as "creationism"), in comparative religion or social studies classes. In science class, however, they may present only genuinely scientific critiques of, or evidence for, any explanation of life on earth, but not religious critiques (beliefs unverifiable by scientific methodology). Schools may not refuse to teach evolutionary theory in order to avoid giving offense to religion nor may they circumvent these rules by labeling as science an article of religious faith. Public schools must not teach as scientific fact or theory any religious doctrine, including "creationism," although any genuinely scientific evidence for or against any explanation of life may be taught. Just as they may neither advance nor inhibit any religious doctrine, teachers should not ridicule, for example, a student's religious explanation for life on earth."

The full text of the report can be found on the Internet at The Teaching and Learning to Standards: Science reference handbook is published annually and available to the public on the Oregon Department of Education website at

There are no plans to incorporate Intelligent Design in the Oregon science standards. The current Oregon science standards were adopted by the State Board of Education in April 2001. Student accountability on statewide assessments for these standards began in 2002-03.

We plan to have a conversation with the Oregon State Board of Education regarding a policy statement this fall.

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