Evolution Debate in Maryland (3-4-05)
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)
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
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