Kansas evolves â€“ An election gets Darwin ready for comeback
Evolutionary theory is to Kansas school board politics what the weather is to the stateâ€™s long-suffering farmers. Thereâ€™s always something in the air to be upset about, but if a farmer waits long enough the weather will change.
Last week the intellectual winds buffeting Kansasâ€™s state Board of Education began blowing in a moderate direction, again. In a closely watched primary, moderate Republicans captured one seat from a conservative incumbent and replaced another who was retiring from the board. Both departing members had been advocates of the stateâ€™s anti-evolution science standards.
At stake is a board of education majority that, after Novemberâ€™s election, will determine whether 2005 guidelines subjecting Darwinâ€™s theory of evolution to critical review is implemented in the 2007 state curriculum.
The Kansas Board of Education has swung between moderate and conservative majorities since 1999. During these cycles, each faction has managed to roll back the progress of its rival, usually the slimmest of margins. Doesnâ€™t anyone think of the impact on students?
The Kansas electorate, mocked as ground zero for the â€śintelligent designâ€ť movement, has apparently wearied of the issue. The turnout for last weekâ€™s primary was the lowest in recent years. Energized conservative voters could just as easily restore intelligent design â€“ the belief that nature is so complex that it must have been created by a higher intelligence â€“ to the centre of Kansasâ€™s curriculum in a future election. For now, analysts believe 6-4 moderate majority will take hold after November.
This is good news to anyone who takes science education seriously. Kansas students have suffered enough as their curriculum took a back seat to the politics of intelligent design believers. Fortunately, the movement received a reality check last year in a case when a judge ruled that teaching a religious theory dressed up as science was unconstitutional.