Pharyngula

Of course! They’re lurking everywhere, scheming to get onto school boards and wreak havoc. I recently heard from a few people at the University of Hawaii who were shocked to see some of the responses of school board candidates there to the question, “Should public schools teach intelligent design?”—they gave answers like this:

  • Henry W. Hoeft, Jr. says Intelligent Design creationism “Should be taught side-by-side with Darwin’s Theory of Evolution and students can decide which view to accept”.

  • Brian Kessler says “Voters should decide by referendum”.

There’s a simple answer to this problem: don’t vote for them. Get out and campaign against them, or better yet, pick a slate of pro-science candidates and campaign for them. That shouldn’t be too difficult, since several of the candidates on that list were unambiguous in saying some version of “no.”

Even if they get elected (and it’s amazing how these clueless ninnies do manage to get elected, even in sharp and progressive school districts), at least you know what they stand for, and while it will be an ongoing pain in the butt, at least you’ve got a target to fight.

I’m a little more concerned about the stealth candidates. Some gave awfully fuzzy answers for what should be a simple question, such as Paul Vierling, who says “Parents, families and community are the best teachers for any belief system.” That’s politicianese for “I’m going to give a vague answer that you can interpret any way you want.” Who knows, he may be a great advocate for science, but he’s also a master of evasion. And then there all the candidates who didn’t bother to answer the question—where do they stand? Press them on it.

One other thing that is useful to do is to take the Hawaiian science standards, roll them up, and whack the bad candidates on the nose with them…or at least, show them the standards, and ask if they are going to support those. Here are the most recent science standards for Hawaii that mention evolution:

Content Standards 6-8 9-12

BIOLOGICAL EVOLUTION

Students examine
evidence for the evolution of life on earth and
assess the arguments
for natural selection as
a scientific explanation
of biological evolution.

In other words,evolution
is a series of changes, some
gradual and some sporadic,
that accounts for the present
form and function of organisms
in natural systems. Fossil
records of ancient life forms
and striking molecular similarities among diverse organisms
provide evidence for natural
selection and its evolutionary
consequences.

For example,continual
evolution of human pathogens
is posing a serious health problem. Many strains of bacteria
have become increasingly
resistant to once-effective antibiotics because natural selection
has favored resistant strains.

  • Describe and explain how living things have
    changed over geologic time by using fossils
    and other evidence.
  • Explain how small differences between
    parents and offspring can accumulate in
    successive generations so those descendants
    are different from their ancestors.
  • Relate how changes in the environment can
    affect the survival of individual organisms
    and entire species.
  • Explain and elaborate how molecular and
    anatomical evidences substantiate the
    anatomical evidence for evolution (i.e.,
    provides additional detail about the sequence
    in which various lines of descendants
    branched off from one another).
  • Evaluate the Theory of Natural Selection as
    a mechanism for change over time.
  • Explain the basic idea of biological
    evolution.

It’s the job of the school board to support teachers in their efforts to meet the official standards required by the Hawai’i Department of Education. A candidate who refuses to abide by those standards, who thinks he or she is better than the committees of educators and scientists who met to determine what the most important issues to communicate to students are, ought not to even be considered for the school board. At least they ought to be asked whether they are going to defy the state standards committee.

You know, one thing I wish we could do for all prospective school board members is give them a comprehensive test to see if they are well enough educated to understand the state standards…and if they failed, they’d be disqualified from running. If school board members were all as smart as we expect our high school graduates to be, a lot of these problems with creationists undermining education would be reduced.