Mark Anderson, Shawnee Mission editor - Columnist
Date: 08/31/99 22:15
When it comes to the Kansas Board of Education's decision not to test students on the theory of evolution, I'm in denial. And I'm going to stay that way for a while, I think.
That's what I decided after I turned on a local TV talk show last weekend and caught one of the board members who favored removing evolution from the guidelines, Johnson County's own Linda Holloway, smirking and appearing smug, and looking a little too much like the Iowa couple in Grant Wood's "American Gothic." Oh, Johnson County, whatever are we going to do?
As Holloway defended the decision, taking cover in her most defensible argument -- that the board was only favoring local school board control -- she was shakily defiant, like a child caught in a misdeed who's trying to be proud of it. I confess I felt a tinge of sympathy, then had to smile.
What else can you do?
When you think about it, smiling really is the appropriate response. This political decision, by officials whose only certain qualification is an ability to get elected, isn't likely to intimidate many biology teachers, well-grounded as they must be in science, although that is the greatest concern. And the embarrassment does reinforce the point that educational standards should be determined by academic and scientific scholars, not by public vote.
Mostly, this reactionary step scuffs up our image of ourselves, especially since we are aware that much of the world has been looking on. Most of us don't like to look like we Kansans are spending too much time talking with cows and communing with prairie grass (enjoyable as the latter can be) and not enough time staying in touch with the educated world.
But then that's just image, and we pioneer stock here in Kansas have too much character to concern ourselves with that. We're too independent-minded to care about what other people think or say. Right?
Actually, one of the good things about this affair is the tolerance of most people here in the face of the flap. If, as someone has said, the mark of a truly educated person is to be able to hear any idea without becoming upset, then many people here are showing just how well educated they are.
There's been some hand-wringing about how the reputation of Kansas schools -- and the futures of Kansas students -- may suffer in the wake of the unfortunate publicity. There's also been speculation that the state's ability to attract new businesses may be hurt. But my guess is those fears will prove overblown.
Most sensible people, recognizing that unexplainable occurrences like this can erupt anywhere, perhaps in conjunction with sunspots, won't read much into it. They'll smile along with us and soon forget it.
That's what we should do, too.
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