Trouble on the Kansas horizon?

"Kansas is headed toward another debate over how evolution is taught in its public schools," the Associated Press (June 6, 2012) reports, "with a State Board of Education member saying Wednesday that science standards under development are 'very problematic' for describing the theory as a well-established, core scientific concept." The standards in question are the Next Generation Science Standards, a first draft of which was released for public comment in May 2012. Evolution is prominent throughout the relevant portions of the NGSS: in life sciences, for example, Natural Selection and Evolution is one of five main topics at the high school level, and Natural Selection and Adaptations is one of five main topics at the middle school level.

Kansas is among the twenty-six "lead state partners" of the NGSS development process, officially assisting in the development, adoption, and implementation of the standards; although the lead state partners are not required to adopt the standards, they have agreed to give them "serious consideration" for adoption when they emerge in their final form — which may be as soon as the end of 2012. But Kansas state board of education member Ken Willard told the Associated Press that the draft embraces naturalism and secular humanism, which he described as "very problematic" and as "preferring one religious position over another"; he intends to raise the issue on June 12, 2012, when the board is scheduled to hear a presentation on the present status of the NGSS.

"In the past," the Associated Press noted, "Willard has supported standards for Kansas with material that questions evolution; guidelines that he and other conservatives approved in 2005 were supplanted by the current ones." As NCSE reported, in November 2005, the Kansas state board of education voted 6-4 to adopt the draft set of state science standards that were rewritten, under the tutelage of local "intelligent design" activists, to impugn the scientific status of evolution — a decision roundly condemned by state and national scientific and education groups. After the antievolution faction on the board, which included Willard, lost its majority in the 2006 elections, the board reversed the decision in February 2007; the antievolution version of the standards was not in place long enough to be felt in the classrooms.