Bible gainsA state Board of Education committee yesterday opened the door to the teaching of creationism -- the biblical version of the origin of mankind -- as an alternative to the theory of evolution currently taught in public school science classes.
ground at BOE
A committee instigates changes
to standards that now require
students to know about 'multiple
theories' of origin, not just evolution
By Crystal Kua
The move came after board member Denise Matsumoto complained that proposed state performance standards for science, which came before her Regular Education Committee for approval, presented Charles Darwin's theory of evolution as fact rather than opinion.
"In other states that have dealt with this ... some districts say we're just not going to talk about origins because it's not pertinent. Others have said we're going to teach both. Others have said we're going to stick with evolution and teach our kids that opinion is fact," said Matsumoto, the committee chairwoman.
That prompted board member Karen Knudsen to ask, "When you say 'both,' what's the other?"
Matsumoto replied, "The other theory is creationism. They're both theories. They both have scientific data that go with them."
State Department of Education staff agreed to add language to the standards that would have students identify "multiple theories of origin." The word "creationism" was not specifically mentioned.
In another paragraph, a reference to having students explain the basic idea of "biological evolution" was replaced with students having to explain "the basic idea of the multiple theories of origin."
After the changes were suggested, the performance standards for science were approved by the committee along with performance standards for 11 other content areas: math, social studies, world languages, health, physical education, educational technology, career and life skills, music, dance, drama and visual arts.
Language arts performance standards were approved last month.
All the performance standards are slated to be voted on by the full board on Aug. 2.
The board two years ago approved revised standards for academic content, which set out what a child should know. Performance standards would gauge how well the students learn the subjects. Tests will be given to see if the students are meeting those standards.
"Evolution" is often times confused with "adaptation," Matsumoto argued.
"So many times in our textbooks and our science classes, adaptation gets replaced with the word evolution," she said. "Adaptation is a change within a species to adapt to their survival rather than evolution, which is changing from one species to another species such as ape to man."
Matsumoto suggested that such changes between species are not possible.
Other board members at the meeting did not object to Matsumoto's position nor to the changes in the science standards language as long as evolution was not left out.
"I want to be careful that we don't get into censorship," board member Donna Ikeda said.
DOE spokesman Greg Knudsen said the theory of evolution is taught in the public schools as "a foundation of scientific thinking."
The department, however, does not preclude the discussion of creationism if it should come up, for example, during a debate on evolution, he said.
He also pointed out that Hawaii's Department of Education received a grade of "A" from the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation in December for the treatment of evolution in the Hawaii Content and Performance Standards.
The report says that Hawaii was among 10 states receiving that grade because "they introduce at least some of the basic processes of biological evolution early, building on them later, and they make evolution the centerpiece of the life sciences."
That same report gave an "F" to Kansas after its state Board of Education in August 1999 voted to remove evolution from state school standards. In February the board reversed its decision. The reversal came after three board members who voted for the removal of evolution were ousted in November elections.