Philosophy of Science Association

The Testing of Evolution in Kansas Schools

The American Association for the Advancement of Science requested that their constituent societies (which includes PSA) write letters of protest to the Governor of Kansas regarding the State Board of Education's decision to de-emphasize the testing (and thereby, presumably, the teaching) of evolution and cosmology. After discussion, the Officers of the Association composed and sent the following message to the Governor. As of the present date (1 Feb 00), the Governor has not seen fit to respond to our message.

George Gale
Executive Secretary
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The Honorable Bill Graves, Governor
State Capitol, 2nd Floor
Topeka, KS 66612

Dear Governor Graves:

The President and Governing Board of the Philosophy of Science Association deplore the recent decision by the Kansas State Board of Education to remove references to evolution and cosmology from its state education standards and assessments. In our judgment, this decision is likely to decrease the quality of education in Kansas in three important ways.

First, the omission of important and well-established parts of science from the curriculum directly affects the ability of future citizens to understand questions that will affect the well-being of their families and communities. In addition, the students of Kansas will not be given our best answers to questions about the history of our species, the history of life on our planet, and the history of the universe, questions that are of concern to all thoughtful people. There is no more reason to deny them these answers than to leave them with the belief that the Earth is flat.

Second, by pretending that there are serious controversies in areas where a massive body of evidence supports contemporary scientific views, and insisting that this evidence should not be presented and assessed, students are deprived of the opportunity for open critical discussion. An educational system should foster habits of inquiry by giving a fair account of the evidence for rival points of view, and by showing how important questions can be resolved.

Third, by allowing the religious beliefs of a particular group to dictate the form of the science curriculum, the recent decision gives notice to those teaching in Kansas High Schools that they are not to be allowed to impart what they know. They will also understand that they are likely to encounter further pressure to conform to the demands of a very specific faith. Under these circumstances, it is probable that Kansas schools will fail to attract the most thoughtful and dedicated teachers, so that Kansas students will be further disadvantaged.

For these reasons we align ourselves with the AAAS resolution, and urge that this ill-conceived decision be reconsidered.

Yours sincerely,
Richard Jeffrey, President

Originally printed in the PSA newsletter, February 2000