Darwin's Theory of Evolution Returns to Kansas Classrooms

July 7, 2008 - 8:03 PM

(CNSNews.com) - The Kansas Board of Education voted Wednesday to return the teaching of evolution to the state's public schools. The 7-3 decision capped the latest battle in an ongoing cultural war in Kansas over whether students should be exposed to Charles Darwin's Theory of Evolution.

Supporters of the theory believe that by ignoring it, school officials are depriving their students of knowledge. Religious conservatives argue the theory stamps out the story of creation portrayed in the Bible.

Wednesday's decision reverses a controversial 1999 vote in which the board decided to omit references to evolutionary concepts from the state's education standards and to eliminate references to Darwin's theory on the state's standardized tests.

Kansas Gov. Bill Graves called that decision an "embarrassment," some schools protested by stepping up evolution education and three board members who voted for the standard lost re-election bids in November.

John Bacon, one of the three board members who voted against restoring the old standard, told reporters Wednesday he felt that by ordering the teaching of evolution in the classrooms, the board was dismissing the scientific doubts revolving around Darwin's theory.

"These standards are too restrictive, in allowing only one view of man's origin to be taught," he said.

However, one of the members who voted to restore the evolution curriculum said Wednesday's action was for the greater good.

"There is no doubt that we are strengthening science by our action," said Sue Gamble, one of those newly elected to the board in November.

Dick Kurtenbach, Executive Director of the American Civil Liberties Union in Kansas, opposed the 1999 decision but says Wednesday's vote rectified that mistake.

"From the outset of the board's decision, where they decided to de-emphasize the teaching of evolution, we objected strongly to that action," said Kurtenbach. "However, we felt that after the election, the issue would go the opposite way and we felt the board would do the right thing and correct the mistake made a couple years ago."

Kurtenbach added that the 1999 decision empowered members of the "religious right" to convey their views in the classroom.

"I think it empowered those teachers who may have philosophical difficulties in teaching evolution, most likely because of their own religious beliefs," he said.

Sonny Rundell, chairman of the Kansas Board of Education said the controversy cannot end too soon as far as he's concerned.

"I want to get past this. Badly do I want to get past this," he said. "There's a lot of other things we need to be working on."