School Board Panel Recommends Ohio Students Be Taught Evolution

By LIZ SIDOTI, Associated Press Writer

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) - A state school board panel recommended on Monday that students be required to know evolution but that teachers be encouraged to examine other scientific life concepts.

The academic standards committee, which is creating teaching standards for all subjects, unanimously recommended that the school board approve the science guidelines. The 19-member board will hold a public hearing on the standards in November and will not formally adopt them until December. However, it will vote Tuesday on whether it intends to accept them.

The standards include evolution but not the concept called "intelligent design," which some board members had wanted to add. "Intelligent design" is the idea that a higher power must have designed life because it is so complex.

Critics say the concept is a version of divine creation, which the U.S. Supreme Court has barred from being taught in public schools.

Teachers already are allowed to examine scientific alternatives to evolution in their lessons, but board members say the standards now reinforce that for those who were uncertain about what the can and cannot teach.

"I think we have a very good set of science standards that excites students and not scares them," said Joe Roman, of Fairview Park, a co-chairman of the panel.

Teachers will not be required to follow the standards but will be strongly encouraged to, given that new student achievement tests will be based on them.

The panel agreed at the last minute to insert the statement reinforcing that teachers may examine competing theories to evolution -- the long-standing theory based on Charles Darwin's research that life evolved by natural processes -- as long as they are based in science.

Panel members did not characterize that as a compromise with religious groups and intelligent design supporters that had pushed for that concept to be added to the curriculum. Instead, they said that students knowing that a debate exists over Darwin's theory is good science.

"It was clear for the public that evolution should be singled out. In no other part of the standards did we receive 20,000 comments," said Deborah Owens Fink, of Richfield, a board member who earlier this year had supported intelligent design being in the curriculum.

Michael Cochran, of Blacklick, a board member who also supported intelligent design, said he was satisfied with the standards sent to the full board.

He said the change made Monday "allows teachers and students in Ohio to understand that there are dissenting views, competing views, of evolution."

A June poll by The (Cleveland) Plain Dealer found that three in five Ohioans favor that practice, called "teach the controversy."

(Copyright 2002 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)