New science standards may be added to graduate
by Scott Kraus (North Penn Reporter Harrisburg Bureau)
Harrisburg: Move over Kansas. Pennsylvania could be the next state to deal with a controversy over requiring public schools to teach evolution.
The State Board of Education is mulling new science standards that require for the first time that students understand the theory of evolution by the time they graduate from high school.
On Aug 11th, the Kansas State Board of Education voted 6-4 to exclude evolution from a list of topics students will be assessed on the state- wide exams. The tactic was seen by opponents as a creationist tactic to get around a 1987 US Supreme Court ruling that said schools cannot promote creationism - the theory[sic] that a higher power created the universe and life on Earth.
Published in draft form on Aug 27th, the PA standards have already begun to draw opposition from conservative lawmakers.
"The primary reason is that we would be attempting to make as an official aim of public education the teaching of evolution - an undocumented and unproven hypothesis," said Rep Samuel Rohrer, R-Berks.
At least one member of House Republican leadership, Appropriations Committee Chairman, John Barley, R-Lancaster, said he, too, has some concerns.
"Creationism ought to be listed," Barley said. "There are a lot more people in our state and country who believe in creationism."
Rohrer, who is known for his conservative stands on social issues, said he will try to block the adoption of the standards when they face review by the House Education Committee.
The Dept of Educ thinks students should learn the Theory of Evolution, which is accepted as a basic building block of modern biology.
"The reason evolution was included was that we think students in PA need to know and should be tested on it," Biddle said.
The current standards allow schools to include the discussion of other theories in their curricula, but if a state assessment is developed based on the standard, it will only test students on their knowledge of evolution.
The PA Board of Educcation has already received several letters opposing the required teaching of evolution, including one from the Blue Mountain School District in Berks County.