Science Writing Committee Chairperson Dr. Steve Case's response to the state BOE concerning the proposals for the "Science Hearings."


Dr. Abrams,

The following are my recommendations and reactions for the procedures of the State Board of Education Hearing Committee. Mr. Calvert has set up the false idea that there are two points of view on the committee - the majority opinion and the minority opinion. The committee is a diverse cross section of Kansas and I can assure you this is utterly untrue. In carefully listening to the eight committee members listed on the minority report, I clearly hear a variety of views on the issues being discussed. I can also state with a great deal of certainty that there are a variety of views by the majority of the committee. The votes taken by the committee reflect only a consensus that the ideas should not be included in the Standards. They do not however, reflect a uniform view of why they should not be included.

As I read the Board resolution the driving force is the document now called a Minority Report. Although this document was generated outside of the committee process the committee, in deference to the concerns of the State Board members, reviewed this document careful. We asked for review from the science community and received extensive peer-reviews of the Minority Report. These reviews have been provided to the State Board of Education. The Science Standards revision committee is a panel of experts in science and science education as well as concerned community members. During the process the committee has spent considerable time and discussion over a wide range of issues. We have done a considerable amount of our own literature review and in the course of our discussions had considerable input from a large number of scientists and science educators. The committee was well informed when our recommendations (Draft One) were made. Based on the extent of the reading and discussions it is my sense that the committee is not seeking additional information and it seems very unlikely that there is" new" information out there that is so startling to this expert panel, that they would alter their recommendations.

Since the State Board of Education Science Hearing Committee is charged to" prepare a report to the Board" the information generated from these hearings is clearly for the benefit of the Board. The committee has supplied all of the information and our best expert recommendations to the State Board and we will continue to do so. I would recommend that the Science Standards revision committee members not be involved with the Board hearings. The committee has provided the State Board with our best recommendations, including the minority report has already been supplied to the board with twenty-three pages of supporting documentation. Individual committee members participating would be circumventing the process to represent personal opinion.

I think my participation would also be inappropriate. As committee chair I have worked very hard to insure that every voice is heard and that everyone is handled in an even handed manner. It would be a compromise of my chairmanship and my ability to work with the committee to become the representative of any one point of view.

As the State Board seeks more information to facilitate informed decisions around the standards, I would recommend that the Board develop a very specific description of the topics they would like discussed. A call for position papers should go out to faculty members in the relevant departments of Kansas's state colleges and universities to write to the different positions on these topics. This would give the Board the opportunity to review the credentials of those individuals and review brief proposal abstracts of position papers. After the papers have been generated and read then the Board could bring in individuals representing both sides of any issue on which they would like to have further discussions

This proposal addresses several concerns and questions I have about the procedural proposals. Oral debates are a poor way in which to decide technical matters of science and substantive matters of educational policy. The Presidential debates are a good example because they are frequently criticized for lacking substance, with the winner determined by rhetorical finesse and style points. Board members not only deserve the best possible testimony but deserve the chance to go over the research checking the claims being made, especially when a lot of the testimony will involve technical scientific issues. I do not believe that we should address legal issues in this type of forum. Legal counsel for the board should come from the Board attorney. If the Board needs broader legal opinion, than I am sure that faculty members with relevant background could be recruited from Kansas law schools.

In the current format I am concerned that are not specific standards for reviewing speakers. Are the individuals qualified to speak to the issues? Do they have an opinion or an informed opinion? It also appears that there are no standards of evidence presented by speakers. What constitutes evidence that supports a speaker's opinion? For example, does publication count or is publication in a peer-reviewed journal required? What is the bar that moves us beyond opinion and makes the evidence credible? This discussion must be driven by qualifications, rules, and standards of evidence.

It is my further recommendation that the State Board of Education Hearing Committee survey the Deans of the Colleges of liberal Arts and Sciences from all institutions of higher learning in Kansas - public and private, for information on the following subjects;

1. To what extent is Intelligent Design used as a theoretical foundation for research at the institution?

2. What courses is Intelligent Design taught at the institution?

3. Is antievolution or evidence against evolution teaching included in the instructional program of your institution?

4. Is there any scientific research that looks for explanations beyond the material world at your institution?

5. Is evolution taught as philosophy at your institution?

I think that a clear understanding is necessary for how these issues are dealt with in Kansas higher education as the Board considers the preparation of students for post secondary experiences.

Mr. Calvert mentioned that these discussions would be a national forum the issues at hand. I believe that our mission is to serve the children of Kansas. We need to determine what is in the best interests of our Kansas children and not allow anyone to use the citizens and specifically the children of Kansas to advance a national agenda.

Steven B. Case Ph.D.
Center for Science Education
Center for Research on Learning
1122 West Campus Road #702A
University of Kansas
Lawrence, Kansas 66045-3101

" I believe that education, therefore, is a process of living and not a
preparation for future living." (Dewey, 1897)

Last updated February 21, 2005