The following story is current, but the issue is not new. But interesting. …
Science standards for Minnesota schools are about to be set for the next six years. Is the battle to keep pseudoscience out of our classrooms over? Sadly the door has been cracked open for intelligent design, an idea with no real scientific basis cooked up by creationists, to remain in Minnesota’s classrooms.
The same vague science benchmark that was a compromise in the intelligent design controversy early in the Pawlenty administration still exists, unchanged, in this round of science standards. These standards will begin next school year and be in effect until 2017.
The key phrases are as follows:
“Science Standards will reflect the scientific facts, laws, and theories of the natural and engineered world and will not include supernatural, occult or religious ideas. In addition, the following benchmark from the 2004 standards will be included in the revised standards for grades 9-12:
“The student will be able to explain how scientific and technological innovations as well as new evidence can challenge portions of or entire accepted theories and models including but not limited to cell theory, atomic theory, theory of evolution, plate tectonic theory, germ theory of disease and big bang theory.”
My understanding is that most people involved in the standards process are not happy about this wording, but not too worried either. Of course, they’re also not worried about what happened to our Quarterback last weekend. It is possible that Minnesotans are wimps. But another way of looking at this is as follows: If this clause is used by anyone … a teacher, a district, the state, whatever … as a lever to introduce ID into the curriculum and we (we as in we watchdogs, and we are watching) there will be a law suite, we will win, and some hapless school district or another will lose a couple of million bucks in legal fees, and that won’t happen again here in Minnesota.
In other words, this clause, if it were to directly affirm that ID could be taught in schools, would be in violation of standing case law. But it doesn’t. It’s vague. Therefore if a misinterpretation, or perhaps we could say strongly biased interpretation, of the wording leads to teaching creationism, it is still a violation. State standards do not rule, Federal case law does rule.