The problem with politics

Everyone knows that the Kansas Board of Education, to the dismay of the scientific community, recently voted to adopt new science standards that attack evolution, validate intelligent design, and re-define science itself. The real mystery is why they did it. Scott Canon, writing in the Kansas City Star, thinks he knows: Politics. Kansas is one of just 10 states that elect their state boards. In other states, that body is appointed. With national opinion polls consistently showing that most Americans don't believe in evolution (a belief even more pronounced in Kansas), it's small wonder that an elected board would be more inclined to ignore the experts and move toward the opinions of their constituents. There are exceptions to the rule, to be sure, but, creatively using Fordham's recently released science standards report, Canon found that elected boards were about twice as likely as appointed bodies to adopt standards with an insufficient treatment of, or direct challenges to, evolution. But elected boards beware—voters can be fickle. Eight members of the Dover, Pennsylvania, school board found this out the hard way. After they introduced intelligent design into the classroom as an alternative to evolution, they were summarily voted out of office. And if the Star's editorial page has its way, the Kansas board will enjoy the same fate come November.

"Elected boards favor people over pundits," by Scott Canon, Kansas City Star, December 11, 2005

"Redefining science," Kansas City Star, December 13, 2005

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