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  • Popplestone, Ann
    ... From: Steven A. Edinger [mailto:Steven.Edinger.1@Ohio.edu] Sent: Thursday, February 03, 2005 10:03 AM To: Science Education Subject: from Science -
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      -----Original Message-----
      From: Steven A. Edinger [mailto:Steven.Edinger.1@...]
      Sent: Thursday, February 03, 2005 10:03 AM
      To: Science Education
      Subject: from Science - EVOLUTION: Dover Teachers Want No Part of
      Intelligent-Design Statement

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      In this week's Science, copied for fair use for those without a
      subscription:


      EVOLUTION:
      Dover Teachers Want No Part of Intelligent-Design Statement

      Jeffrey Mervis

      A Pennsylvania school board has added "intelligent design" to its
      curriculum while simultaneously barring discussion of the origin of life

      DOVER, PENNSYLVANIA--Jennifer Miller always wanted to be a teacher. And
      after "loving molecular biology" during a high school class, she decided

      to teach the subject at that level. For 12 years she's shared her
      passion
      with students at Dover High School, part of the 3600-student Dover area
      school district here in southeastern Pennsylvania. But last week she did

      the unthinkable: She walked out on her three ninth-grade biology
      classes.

      Miller wasn't abandoning her students. Rather, she was standing up for
      her
      professional principles. The local school board had ordered her and
      seven
      colleagues to read to their biology classes a statement that attacks the

      theory of evolution and promotes intelligent design--the idea that the
      complexity of life requires action by an intelligent agent--as an
      alternative explanation for the origin of life. The statement also bars
      scientific discussion in the classroom of the origin of life, consigning

      that topic "to individual students and their families."

      The board's statement (www.dover.k12.pa.us/doversd/site/default.asp
      <http://www.dover.k12.pa.us/doversd/site/default.asp>) officially puts
      intelligent design into a U.S. public school curriculum for the first
      time. And that step has united the science faculty at Dover High School.

      "Intelligent design is not science. It is not biology. It is not an
      accepted scientific theory," the teachers wrote in a 6 January letter to

      Dover School Superintendent Richard Nilsen, requesting that they be
      excused from delivering the missive. Reading the four-paragraph
      statement,
      they argued, would force them to "knowingly and intentionally
      misrepresent
      subject matter or curriculum."

      Nilsen acquiesced. So last week he and Assistant Superintendent Michael
      Baksa visited all nine ninth-grade biology classes to read the
      statement--without taking any questions afterward. Their arrival was the

      signal for Miller and a few of her students to leave.

      Opposition to the teaching of evolution has roiled U.S. public schools
      for
      more than a century. But after the Supreme Court ruled in 1987 that
      teaching creationism constitutes an illegal dose of religion in the
      classroom, opponents began looking for a scientific anchor for their
      beliefs. Dover represents the latest wrinkle: The attempt to denigrate
      Darwin's insight--and the overwhelming evidence for it--posits it as
      simply one in an array of equally valid hypotheses about how life
      evolved
      on the planet. Last week a Georgia school district appealed a federal
      judge's ruling banning textbook stickers labeling evolution as "a theory

      rather than a fact." The judge said the stickers reflected the school
      board's affinity for "religiously motivated individuals" (Science, 21
      January, p. 334
      <http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/full/307/5708/334b>). And on 14
      December, a group of Dover-area parents asked a U.S. District Court to
      declare the school board's statement unconstitutional. A trial is
      scheduled for September.


      [PHOTO MISSING.]
      By design. Ninth graders at Dover High School heard Superintendent
      Richard
      Nilsen (right) read a statement on intelligent design in their biology
      classes. CREDITS: PAUL KUEHNEL/YORK DAILY RECORD/SUNDAY NEWS


      In the meantime, the issue hangs over the staff at Dover High like a
      cloud. "It's gotten to the point where I don't even want to go shopping
      because I might be accosted," says Bertha Spahr, a chemistry teacher who

      came to the school in 1965 and who chairs the science department. Miller

      and Robert Eshbach, a third-year environmental sciences teacher, have
      become media minicelebrities, appearing on ABC's World News Tonight and
      the BBC as well as in the pages of The New York Times. "We could do
      three
      or four [interviews] a day, if we wanted," says Miller.

      The Dover controversy began more than a year ago, when the district's
      current high school biology textbook came up for a routine, 7-year
      review
      by the school board. School board members quizzed the teachers and later

      publicly expressed their displeasure with the way the textbook handled
      evolution. Although the board eventually adopted the latest edition, it
      also accepted an anonymous donation to the school library of 50-plus
      copies of the 1987 book Of Pandas and People, which makes the case for
      intelligent design. On 19 November the board approved the statement that

      triggered the suit and led to Miller's walkout.

      Ironically, evolution occupies only a tiny part of ninth-grade biology
      at
      Dover High. Miller and the other two introductory biology teachers will
      spend at most three 90-minute classes on the topic--the last unit of the

      year before final exams--even though state curriculum guides say the
      unit
      should run for 19 days. "I'll teach competition," says Miller. "We'll
      talk
      about how more things are produced than survive. I'll teach the evidence

      for Darwin's theory [on the origin of species] and talk about his trip
      to
      the Galapagos. I'll cover natural and artificial selection. And we'll do

      reproductive evolution." But that's it. "We don't mention evolution
      anywhere else in the course." Miller says she prefers to concentrate on
      the present, "and how things that are here are still evolving."

      Contrary to the claims of intelligent-design advocates, the board's
      directive will narrow rather than broaden the scope of the course. "In
      the
      past, we could talk about the origins of life," says Miller. "At least I

      could ask them what they might have heard [as criticism of Darwin], and
      we
      could discuss it. But now the school board has ruled that out."

      As they begin the new semester, Dover teachers are hoping for at least a

      respite from the hoopla. The May primary features seven (of nine) school

      board seats, but they won't be filled until the general election in
      November. That means the controversy is likely to reignite in early
      June,
      when the next batch of students begins their brief study of evolution.





      Please see the Ohio Citizens for Science's web page at:


      http://OhioScience.org



      ------------------------------------------------------------------------
      ---
      Steven A. Edinger, Physiology Lab Instructor

      064 Irvine Hall
      Department of Biological Sciences
      steven.edinger.1@...
      Ohio University Office: (740) 593-9484
      Athens, Ohio 45701-2979 Fax: (740) 593-0300
      ------------------------------------------------------------------------
      ---

      ******************************************************
      "Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of
      evolution." Theodosius Dobzhansky, 1973
      ******************************************************




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      ******************************************************
      "Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of
      evolution." Theodosius Dobzhansky, 1973
      ******************************************************
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