Hopefully, Ive gotten your attention now. As you may have heard in the news, the State of Illinois is proposing new educational standards, including science standards. What you probably have not heard is that pressure from certain groups has been such that "evolution" appears nowhere in these standards!
The full story is a rather long one, but I'll summarize here. The initial draft that went out for public comment a few months ago had no mention of "evolution" in them. Public comments overwhelmingly said to put it in. The comment review committee did so. Then the state superintendent appointed an "external review team" to go over some parts of the standards. They decided to strike the word "evolution" again and make any reference to it rather metaphorical. Many of the elements of evolution education are included, but they are worded in such vague language that a teacher would be hard-pressed to know exactly what s/he is supposed to teach!
Malcolm Levin, Ron Larkin, and I attended the State Board of Education meeting on the 18th of this month, where the newest version of the standards was presented to the Board. Ron and I gave public comments to the Board at the end of the meeting (we were the only people to do so) and emphasized the importance of teaching evolution and not bowing to pressure from anti-evolution groups. Those presenting the standards to the Board several times emphasized that they wanted the standards to be clear. We pointed out that using wishy-washy language in describing what to teach in this case was just the opposite of that stated goal.
The Board is taking a second round of comments on the standards for the next 3 weeks (by the time you get this newsletter). You may get a copy of the proposed standards by calling the Board at 217-782-4321 or by downloading them from their Internet web page (www.isbe.state.il.us). If you want to send in comments, you may send them to:
Illinois State Board of Education
Attention: Lynn Haeffle
100 North First Street
Springfield, IL 62777
One area they felt was underrepresented was parental comments, so if you are a parent, make sure you let them know! If you want to contact me for more information, please feel free to do so, either by phone or e-mail (both are on page 2). If you do send in comments, I would appreciate it if you also send a copy to us here, just so we can keep a file of information that we know was sent to the Board. (Please remember, however, that I am the only one who can actually speak for REALL.)
Id like to extend my gratitude to Ron Larkin and Malcolm Levin for coming to the Board meeting and helping out on such short notice (Ron had half a days notice, Malcolm had a few hours).
On another note, we'll be having a speaker at our next meeting, which will be Tuesday, July 1, 7 p.m. at the Lincoln Library. As the second in our series of media presentations, Jeff Ignatius, staff writer for the Illinois Times, will be speaking to us on "The Right to Be Wrong: The Media's Responsibility to the Marketplace of Ideas." He will be defending the media's reporting of "alternative" viewpoints, even when they might be wrong. As some examples we are familiar with, he will discuss the Illinois Times article that claimed HIV doesn't cause AIDS, articles on homeopathy and alternative medicine in general, etc. His viewpoint is that the media has a responsibility to report such ideas in the interest of the vital marketplace of ideas. We often complain about the way the media covers such topics, so now is our chance to hear their side of the story and ask the tough questions weve been wanting to ask. I hope to see a large turnout for this meeting, as I think its a very important one!