In light of Dover, Ohio Board of Education to reconsider their ID lesson plan

Ohio’s Board of Education (OBE) in March of 2004 adopted a “critical analysis of evolution” model lesson after a long hard fought campaign between those who support real science and those who want to force children to learn religion in the public schools.

I happened to attend a public forum on the topic the OBE offered in March of 2002. Here is some text I wrote about the event back then:

Last issue I detailed the fight by religious conservatives to add Intelligent Design to the 10th grade Biology standards. On March 11th I attended a forum held by the Ohio State Board of Education (OBE) at Veteran’s Memorial Hall in Columbus. Joining me was HCCO Board member, Roger Marcum. We sat with Frank Zindler from American Atheists. Approximately 1,500 people attended the event with more than a dozen print and broadcast reporters from Ohio, the US, and the world

The OBE invited two Intelligent Design proponents and two Evolution supporters to present arguments and answer questions from the Board. The public was allowed to attend but we were not allowed to participate. Dr. Jonathan Wells and Dr. Stephen C. Meyer (from the Discovery Institute) presented the argument to include Intelligent Design and Dr. Lawrence Krauss and Dr. Kenneth R. Miller made the presentation on why to exclude ID from the science standards.

Dr. Meyer followed and he covered the same ground as Wells about “problems” with Evolution and that there is a controversy that needs to be told to students. He also threw a curve ball by offering a compromise solution. He said instead of mandating that ID be included, the Institute would like to see the proposed text to say only that it “permit” alternative theories be taught.

From: Update on the Science Education Battle, Central Ohio Humanist May/June 2002 pg. 2

The OBE adopted a lesson plan similar to that mentioned above. It didn’t require Intelligent Design to be taught but didn’t prohibit it. It used language similar to “teaching alternative theories”.

In 2005, Americans United for Separation of Church and State made a records request for material used to develop the lesson plan the OBE adopted.

At that time, some members of the board and supporters of ID insisted there is nothing in the lesson about intelligent design.

But documents released by the Ohio Department of Education reveal that staff scientists and outside reviewers alike regarded the lesson as embodying intelligent-design creationism without labeling it as such. Even pro-creationist reviewers of the lesson thought it contained ID. One urged the department to add yet more information about intelligent design.

During the lesson plan production process, state Department of Education staffers went so far as to comment that one aspect of the lesson was a lie. Other notes made clear that material presented was wrong, off-topic and an oversimplification. Outside reviewers of the lesson agreed. One noted the lesson linked to websites including ones that were ID thinly veiled and obviously ID, and a slick ID site.

Americans United and Ohio Citizens for Science Cast Critical Eye on Ohio’s Evolution Model Lesson

During the process, supporters on both sides of the issue tried to get Governor Bob Taft to support their side. The Governor appoints several of the OBE members and it was thought a statement of support would help sway the Board to one side or the other.

The Governor refused to publicly back any position and claimed the Board needed to make the decision without influence from any outside interest.

However in August of 2005, the Columbus Dispatch had a front page story talked about how emails showed Taft’s office manipulated Board of Education and suggested ties to larger movement to undermine the integrity and legitimacy of teacher education in Ohio at the service of the extreme Religious Right.

Emails to and from Taft’s former chief of staff, Brian Hicks (convicted on July 30 of ethics violations), reflect the staff’s acknowledgement of the role of the Religious Right, led primarily by OBE members Deborah Owens Fink of Richfield and Rev. Michael Cochran. Fink is a University of Akron Associate Professor of Marketing; Cochran, former Franklin Co. assistant prosecuting attorney, is rector of Christ Church, a parish of the breakaway Episcopal Missionary Church.

The Cochran-led science standards subcommittee appears to have packed the 2003 writing team with “intelligent-design” creationists, including Glen Needham and Bryan Leonard. Leonard, author of the controversial creationist lesson plan, “A Critical Analysis of Evolution,” adopted by the Ohio Board of Education last year, is a student at OSU working toward his PhD in science education while teaching at Hilliard Davidson high school.

Taft Backed “Intelligent-Design” Creationism

In light of the Dover decision and this new evidence of the behind the scenes manipulation, Americans United are prepared to file a lawsuit against the OBE.

The Board has been meeting with its legal team and is trying to decide if they will remove the lesson plan.

The OBE will meet next Tuesday January 10 starting at 8 AM in Columbus. The location is:

Conference Center
Ohio School for the Deaf
500 Morse Road
Columbus, Ohio

The group that has been supporting Evolution in the schools since 2002, Ohio Citizens for Science is asking for people in Ohio to e-mail the members of the OBE and encourage them to remove the lesson plan to avoid a lawsuit.

I am using an image of the addresses to thwart spam harvesters. If you have a problem with the addresses you can get a PDF file of contact info for the OBE here:

http://science2.marion.ohio-state.edu/ohioscience/OHIO_BOE_DIRECTORY.pdf

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One Comment

  1. January 7, 2006

    Naturally, the governer didn’t wish to take sides on such an issue. Leadership at its best…

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