NCSE Evolution and Climate Education Update for 2012/06/15
(by NCSE Deputy Director Glenn Branch)
Dear Friends of NCSE, Evolution is under attack again in Kansas but is scheduled to come to the primary national curriculum in England. Plus a new issue of RNCSE and a new publication on Thinking Evolutionarily.
UPDATE FROM KANSAS As expected, when the Kansas state board of education heard a presentation about the current status of the Next Generation Science Standards on June 12, 2012, evolution was in the crosshairs. The Associated Press (June 13, 2012) reports that Ken Willard, a member of the board, described the draft as "flawed" and "distributed a nine-page letter criticizing the draft multistate standards from the group Citizens for Objective Public Education Inc., which lists officers in Florida and Kansas. The letter suggested that the draft standards ignore evidence against evolution, don't respect religious diversity, and promote secular humanism, which precludes God or another supreme being in considering how the universe works." Willard said of the letter, "I hope that it will be taken seriously and not as just information from a bunch of crackpots." But Citizens for Objective Public Education is not exactly a well-known or a well-established group; its vice president Anne Lassey told the Associated Press that it was founded only in March 2012. Lassey is the wife of Greg Lassey, who was one of the authors of the so-called minority report of the committee that revised Kansas's state science standards in 2005; the report systematically deprecated the scientific status of evolution. The group's president, Jorge Fernandez, is a self-proclaimed young-earth creationist, with publications to his credit in Journal of Creation and on the True.Origin Archive website. The letter claimed that Citizens for Objective Public Education represents "children, parents and taxpayers who share our views"; Lassey told the Associated Press that the group has members across the nation. "The draft multistate standards and Kansas' existing standards reflect mainstream scientific views that evidence supporting evolution is overwhelming," the Associated Press noted, and NCSE's Joshua Rosenau agreed, saying that evolution is "the center of modern biology." Rosenau observed that the letter criticizing the NGSS included hackneyed criticisms of evolution from creationists, explaining, "This is a long-standing creationist strategy. You can muddy the waters around evolution and make it seem controversial." The letter's warnings that the draft standards promote humanism or atheism are reminiscent of warnings issued by the Kansas-based Intelligent Design Network, which was active during the last controversy over Kansas's science standards, helping to draft the minority report and lobby for its adoption by the board. As one of the "lead state partners" of the NGSS development process, Kansas is committed to giving the standards "serious consideration" for adoption when they emerge in their final form. According to the Associated Press, the chair of the board, David Dennis, "said he'd like to have the board consider the new science standards by the end of the year. Under that timetable, the board would likely adopt evolution-friendly guidelines because Democrats and moderate Republicans, including Dennis, have a majority. ... But state Department of Education officials said the standards probably won't be ready for a board vote until early next year." With five of the ten seats on the board up for re-election in November 2012 and with Willard leaving the board to run for the state legislature, as many as six seats on the board may change hands by then. For the Associated Press story (via the Salina Journal), visit: http://www.saljournal.com/news/story/k5440-BC-KS-Evolution-Kansas-5thLd-Writethru-06-13-1340-clone For information about the NGSS, visit: http://www.nextgenscience.org/ And for NCSE's previous coverage of events in Kansas, visit: http://ncse.com/news/kansas EVOLUTION COMING EARLY TO ENGLAND Evolution is to be added to the primary national curriculum in England, gratifying scientists and educators who have been campaigning for its addition over the last three years. In 2009, the British Humanist Association coordinated a letter from top scientists and science educators in Britain calling for the addition of evolution to the primary curriculum. Although the government indicated in 2009 that evolution would indeed be added as part of the reform of the primary national curriculum called for by the Children, Schools, and Families bill, the relevant part of the bill was tabled in Parliament in 2010. Then in September 2011, as NCSE reported, a group of scientists renewed the call for evolution to be taught "at both primary and secondary levels in the National Curriculum and in all schools." Now, in the new draft of the primary national curriculum for science, posted at the Department of Education's website on June 11, 2012, students in year 4 (ages 8 and 9) are introduced to the ideas of adaptation, inheritance, and evolution, and students in year 6 (ages 10 and 11) are introduced to the fossil record as evidence for evolution. The British Humanist Association's Andrew Copson said, in a press release dated June 11, 2012, "We are delighted that evolution will be added to the primary curriculum -- something that we have long advocated. Teaching this core concept from an earlier age will give pupils a much stronger understanding of the life sciences and of how we came to be. The Government must be commended for making this change, and we look forward to working with them to ensure this proposal becomes reality." For the BHA's 2009 letter (PDF), visit: http://www.humanism.org.uk/_uploads/documents/BHA-Scientists-letter-to-DCSF-FINAL.pdf For Evolution not Creationism, the group launched in 2011, visit: http://evolutionnotcreationism.org.uk/ For the draft primary national curriculum for science (PDF), visit: http://media.education.gov.uk/assets/files/pdf/d/draft%20national%20curriculum%20for%20science%20key%20stages%201%202%20primary%20%20%20%2011%20june%202012.pdf For the BHA's press release, visit: http://www.humanism.org.uk/news/view/1048 And for NCSE's previous coverage of events outside the United States and Canada, visit: http://ncse.com/news/international RNCSE 32:3 NOW ON-LINE NCSE is pleased to announce that the latest issue of Reports of the National Center for Science Education is now available on-line. The issue -- volume 32, number 3 -- is a special book review issue, with a double helping of reviews of books on the evolutionary sciences. For his regular People and Places column, Randy Moore discusses the career of the pioneer of continental drift, Alfred Wegener (1880-1930). As for the reviews: Warren D. Allmon reviews Alan R. Rogers's The Evidence for Evolution; Daniel Fairbanks reviews Sherrie Lyons's Evolution: The Basics; Paul R. Gross reviews Mark S. Blumberg's Freaks of Nature; Joe Lapp reviews Leslie Brunetta and Catherine L. Craig's Spider Silk; David Leaf reviews David L. Stern's Evolution, Development, and the Predictable Genome; E. G. Leigh Jr. reviews Martin A. Nowak and Roger Highfield's SuperCooperators; Joseph S. Levine reviews Geerat Vermeij's The Evolutionary World; Larry Moran reviews James A. Shapiro's Evolution: A View from the 21st Century; Kevin Padian reviews George R. McGhee's Convergent Evolution; P. David Polly reviews J. David Archibald's Extinction and Radiation; Steve Rissing reviews Carl Zimmer's The Tangled Bank; and Erik P. Scully reviews Sehoya Cotner and Randy Moore's Arguing for Evolution. All of these articles, features, and reviews are freely available in PDF form from http://reports.ncse.com. Members of NCSE will shortly be receiving in the mail the print supplement to Reports 32:3, which, in addition to summaries of the on-line material, contains news from the membership, a regular column in which NCSE staffers offer personal reports, a regular column interviewing NCSE's favorite people, and more besides. (Not a member? Join today!) For the table of contents for RNCSE 32:3, visit: http://reports.ncse.com/index.php/rncse/issue/current/showToc For information about joining NCSE, visit: http://ncse.com/join THINKING EVOLUTIONARILY How can evolution be integrated throughout life science education? Thinking Evolutionarily, a new publication from the National Research Council and the National Academy of Sciences, reports on a recent meeting that addressed this vital question. According to the National Academy Press's description of the book: *** Evolution is the central unifying theme of biology. Yet today, more than a century and a half after Charles Darwin proposed the idea of evolution through natural selection, the topic is often relegated to a handful of chapters in textbooks and a few class sessions in introductory biology courses, if covered at all. In recent years, a movement has been gaining momentum that is aimed at radically changing this situation. On October 25-26, 2011, the Board on Life Sciences of the National Research Council and the National Academy of Sciences held a national convocation in Washington, DC, to explore the many issues associated with teaching evolution across the curriculum. Thinking Evolutionarily: Evolution Education Across the Life Sciences: Summary of a Convocation summarizes the goals, presentations, and discussions of the convocation. The goals were to articulate issues, showcase resources that are currently available or under development, and begin to develop a strategic plan for engaging all of the sectors represented at the convocation in future work to make evolution a central focus of all courses in the life sciences, and especially into introductory biology courses at the college and high school levels, though participants also discussed learning in earlier grades and life-long learning. Thinking Evolutionarily: Evolution Education Across the Life Sciences: Summary of a Convocation covers the broader issues associated with learning about the nature, processes, and limits of science, since understanding evolutionary science requires a more general appreciation of how science works. This report explains the major themes that recurred throughout the convocation, including the structure and content of curricula, the processes of teaching and learning about evolution, the tensions that can arise in the classroom, and the target audiences for evolution education. *** Among the participants in the convocation were NCSE's Eric Meikle and Steven Newton. Four recipients of NCSE's Friend of Darwin award -- NCSE Supporter Bruce Alberts, David M. Hillis, Robert T. Pennock, and Judy Scotchmoor -- presented or participated in panels at the convocation. For Thinking Evolutionary, visit: http://www.nap.edu/catalog.php?record_id=13403 Thanks for reading. And don't forget to visit NCSE's website -- http://ncse.com -- where you can always find the latest news on evolution and climate education and threats to them. -- Sincerely, Glenn Branch Deputy Director National Center for Science Education, Inc. 420 40th Street, Suite 2 Oakland, CA 94609-2509 510-601-7203 x305 fax: 510-601-7204 800-290-6006 firstname.lastname@example.org http://ncse.com Read Reports of the NCSE on-line: http://reports.ncse.com Subscribe to NCSE's free weekly e-newsletter: http://groups.google.com/group/ncse-news NCSE is on Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter: http://www.facebook.com/evolution.ncse http://www.youtube.com/NatCen4ScienceEd http://twitter.com/ncse NCSE's work is supported by its members. Join today! http://ncse.com/join