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Zogby poll: Teach scientific controversy of evolution
Republicans and Democrats agree

February 28, 2004

The MN legislature is poised to pass new science standards that exclude the scientific controversy surrounding evolution. However, the public overwhelmingly agrees that students should be provided the scientific evidence both for and against Darwin's theory of evolution.

A Zogby poll, released last week, revealed overwhelming support for science standards that teach Darwin's theory of evolution AND the scientific evidence against it. Nearly three in four (72%) Minnesota voters believe that the legislature should adopt such science standards. (See the results.

Next week the House will formally take up the adoption of the new standards when they hear the bill HF 2558.
Thursday, March 4, 2004
8:15 AM
Committee: Education Policy
Room: 200 State Office Building
Chair: Rep. Barb Sykora
Agenda: HF 2558 (Sykora) Social studies and science rigorous core academic standards authorized and implemented.

The Committee will reconvene 15 minutes after session in room 200 if necessary to complete the agenda.

The citizens' committee on science standards included a "minority report" that it is urging the legislature to adopt. The "minority report" includes the teaching of the scientific controversy on evolution. To see the "minority report."

The letter attached to the "minority report" states: ...we remain deeply concerned that the proposed [science] standards fail to require students to learn enough information about evolution to be able to understand the theory's weaknesses as well as its strengths. Unfortunately, this completely one-sided approach to evolution lowers the quality of science education and is more likely to polarize Minnesotans than unify them.

The polarization will get even worse once the public sees the way in which stakeholder input on the evolution issue was largely disregarded during the development of the standards. Contrary to state law, the final draft standards ignore the vast majority of citizen input about evolution submitted during extensive public hearings. The standards also ignore the recommendations of one of the official outside science reviewers who evaluated the first draft of the standards. Finally, they ignore guidance from the U.S. Congress in the No Child Left Behind Act Conference Report, which urged schools to teach "the full range of scientific views that exist" about controversial topics "such as biological evolution." Because of these problems of both process and content, we urge the legislature to adopt the following improvements in two of the existing benchmarks:

Grades: 9-12
Life Science, Biological Populations Change Over Time, benchmark 4:
"Students will understand that species change over time and be able to distinguish how the term biological evolution is used to describe changes within existing species (microevolution) as well as the emergence of new species and changes above the species level (macroevolution)."

Grades 9-12
IV. Life Science, Biological Populations Change Over Time, benchmark 5:
"Students will use biological evolution to explain the diversity of species, and will be able to describe how scientists continue to critically analyze aspects of evolutionary theory."

Incorporating these changes will bring Minnesota's standards up to at many scientists acknowledge, that a robust debate about the mechanisms of evolution is currently under way within biology. Far from breaking new ground, similar language has already been adopted unanimously by the Ohio State Board of Education, which has required Ohio students to know "how scientists continue to investigate and critically analyze aspects of evolutionary theory.

Adopting these improvements will help teach students of science the skills of analysis and critical deliberation that are central to a quality education and the practice of democratic citizenship. In summary, these changes will allow teachers to cover evolution in an intellectually honest and scientifically accurate manner. Students need to know about the theory of evolution in order to be scientifically literate, but they need to learn about it in a way that promotes continuing inquiry and analysis, not dogmatism.

The newly released Zogby poll supports the "minority report."

ACTION:
Please contact your legislator to pass the science standards WITH the "minority report" on the teaching of evolution. It won't happen if you don't make your voice heard.

Also, please call or email:
Steve Kelly, Chair, Senate Education Policy Committee
Phone: 651-297-8065, e-mail

Barb Sykora, Chair, House Education Policy Committee
Phone: 651-296-4315, e-mail

Tim Pawlenty, Governor
Phone: (651) 296-3391, e-mail

Contact as many members of the House Education Policy Committee as you can. Their contact information is online.

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