[Update: Sally Cauble defeated Connie Morris by 54.15 to 45.85 percent of the vote. This means the anti-science board members will have no more than four members out of ten on the next board, even if the anti-science candidates all win in the general election.]
Here’s a spot of good news to start the day. Yesterday in a Republican primary election, anti-science conservatives lost control of the Kansas State Board of Education. But, so far, just barely. One anti-science incumbent lost to a pro-science challenger, which will deprive the right-wingers of their majority on the board. Another pro-science challenger is winning, but as of this morning that election hasn’t been called yet.
The Kansas Board of Education, which oversees statewide education policy, has ten members, and anti-science conservatives have held a six to four majority for the past two years. The six have blighted education in Kansas with right-wing policies on teaching evolution, sex education, and charter schools. Yesterday’s election results mean that the right-wingers will have no more than half of the seats, assuming they all win in the general election, and if the votes still being counted go to the pro-science challenger, the anti-science members of the board will be a minority.
Kansas has long been a key front in the war over evolution and creationism, and Tuesdayâ€™s vote attracted national attention once again: National and international media covered the races, and in the weeks leading up to the election, out-of-state groups on both sides of the fray joined the debate.
This year, 16 candidates filed for five seats on the board; in previous yearsâ€™ elections the field was less than half that number.
Last year, the boardâ€™s six conservatives pushed through science curriculum standards criticizing the theory of evolution. They hired Bob Corkins, an anti-tax lobbyist with no experience in the education field, as education commissioner.
This year, the boardâ€™s conservatives voted to encourage local schools to require permission slips for sex-education class and stress the teaching of abstinence.
As bad as the board is, apparently it used to be worse.
All the controversy had moderates hoping for a repeat of 2000, when voters kicked out of office board members who had voted to minimize the teaching of evolution, the age of the Earth and the big-bang theory. The new board members reversed those decisions.
Of the five seats up for re-election, only one was held by a pro-science
Republican Democrat, Janet Waugh. Mrs. Waugh won her primary yesterday. [Update: Waugh is unopposed in the general election.] Pro-science moderate challenger Jana Shaver beat anti-science incumbent Brad Patzer. Pro-science challenger Sally Cauble is hanging on to a 54 to 46 percent lead over anti-science incumbent Connie Morris, according to the most recent news stories. The two remaining right-wing incumbents won their primaries.
five Republican primary winners will face five pro-science Democrats in the general election in November, so it’s possible the anti-science portion of the board will shrink even further if some Democrats win. But Ms. Shaver’s primary win means that, no matter what happens in the general election, the anti-science members will hold no more than half the seats.
Of the election yet to be determined between Sally Cauble and Connie Morris, John Hanna of the Associated Press writes:
Morris’ race in western Kansas was the most closely watched. The former teacher has described evolution as “an age-old fairy tale” and “a nice bedtime story” unsupported by science.
Go, Sally Cauble!
The Big Issue appears to be the standards adopted by the current board for teaching evolution:
The standards say that the evolutionary theory that all life had a common origin has been challenged by fossils and molecular biology. And they say there is controversy over whether changes over time in one species can lead to a new species.
In other words, the “standards” mandate teaching children lies.
The school board contest was part of a larger effort by the intelligent design movement to introduce its ideas in public schools.
A suburban Atlanta school district is locked in a legal dispute over its putting stickers in 35,000 biology textbooks declaring evolution “a theory, not a fact.”
Last year, in Dover, Pa., voters ousted school board members who had required the biology curriculum to include mention of intelligent design. A federal judge struck down the policy, declaring intelligent design is religion in disguise.
A poll by six news organizations last year suggested about half of Kansans thought evolution should be taught alongside intelligent design. …
… Control of the school board has slipped into, out of and back into conservative Republicans’ hands since 1998, resulting in anti-evolution standards in 1999, evolution-friendly ones in 2001 and anti-evolution ones again last year.
Late-night comedians have been making cracks about Kansas, portraying it as backward and ignorant. Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show” broadcast a four-part series titled, “Evolution Schmevolution.”
I’ll update with the result of the Cauble-Morris election as soon as I know it. [Update at top of post — Cauble wins!]