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Evolution Debate in Maryland (3-4-05)

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Recent Action

On February 14, 2005, the school board in Cecil County, Maryland unanimously approved the 10th grade textbook "Biology: The Dynamics of Life," a McGraw-Hill Cos. standard text that treats evolution as the prevailing theory about life's origins. The decision was made despite the reservations of one board member, William W. Herold, who said that the text book did not adequately mention the controversey about evolution. According to a local news channel, certain members of the board agreed to approve the textbook if school administrators agreed to disucss with the state board of education a change to the science curriculum that would allow students to be exposed to alternatives to evolution. They also suggested materials be available for those students who want to learn about conflicts in Darwin's theories. School Superintendent Carl D. Roberts, who recommended the text, said that the science curriculum must remain guided by "state academic standards and consensus views of leading scientific organizations," according to a February 15th article in the Washington Post. "We are teachers. We are educators. We are not scientists. And we are not equipped to make those decisions," he said. (3/4/05)

Previous Action

In October, the Charles County Board of Education in Maryland ignited a firestorm of criticism when they published a proposal to: 1) censor reading lists for "immorality" or "foul language," 2) to invite an outside organization to hand out Bibles in schools and 3) to teach the theory of creationism in science classes. At a public forum, more than 200 people passionately expressed their views, and according to the Washington Post, their resounding sentiment was that the Board should not focus on religious and moral lessons in the public schools.

Evan West, a ninth-grade teacher at McDonough High School said, "Proposals to censor book lists will put Charles County students at a disadvantage in a very competitive collegiate world and are in direct conflict with our own goals of raising Advanced Placement scores…Diluting the science curriculum with philosophically and religiously motivated pseudo-science will not change what the State Board of Education has said our students should learn." A Washington Post editorial stated, "The proposals in Charles County, taken together, seem more about advancing a secretarian agenda than reinforcing the diversity to which the Board of Education pays lip service."

No action has been taken on the proposals. The seven board members have split into small groups to decide which items should come back before the full board for more discussion. They said the meeting was a chance for the public to weigh in on the issues before anything is decided. (10/18/04)

Sources: American Association for the Advancement of Science, American Insitute of Biological Sciences Public Policy Report, Associated Press, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, CNN, National Center for Science Education, National Science Teachers Association, Georgia Department of Education Performance Standards Curriculum Revision website, Washington Post, WJC Channel 13 (wjc.com).

Contributed by Emily Lehr Wallace, AGI Government Affairs Program; 2004 AGI/AAPG Fall Semester Intern David Millar; Katie Ackerly, 2005 AGI/AAPG Spring Intern.

Please send any comments or requests for information to AGI Government Affairs Program.

Last updated on March 3, 2005


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