Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Why you might not want to take students from Kansas for a while

The Kansas Board of Education have apparently taken leave of their senses. See another article here. They have rewritten the state's K-12 science standards, and done it very, very badly, in a way that is incredibly damaging to their students.

First of all, the standards redefine science completely. Science is, according the Kansas Board of Education, not limited to seeking natural explanations. Thus, supernatural explanations are made fair game, which one presumes would include goblins and faeries and flying spaghetti monsters. Second of all, the new standards rip the guts out of the teaching of evolution. "The new standards include a statement that fossil records are inconsistent with evolutionary theory," according to this New Scientist article.

It's hard to know how to react faced with a statement like that. Charitably, there are many practising researchers who disagree. I am using a lot of willpower to avoid an uncharitable description.

Of course, it's important to note that this does not affect university education directly. Researchers in Kansas will continue to teach and use naturalistic explanations like evolutionary biology, because that's what working, practicing scientists do. But it sure as heck is going to affect how prepared entering undergraduates students are for university education. Students are going to be in for a rude shock when they find out that science doesn't deal in the supernatural, that evolution is supported by evidence, and that intelligent design is so discredited that it's been memorably described as "not even wrong." I can almost picture Kansas universities having to reject students from their own state for lack of preparation.