A notion less than worldly
A notion less than worldly
Kansas City Star, Posted on Fri, Jun. 25, 2004
You won't need an advanced degree in biology this time to fully understand the controversy brewing at the Kansas Board of Education.

Instead of evolution, moderates and conservatives are arguing over how history/government ought to be taught.

Now how could that be controversial? I'm not aware of two diametrically opposed theories of history, are you? And governments are what they are, correct?

Read on.

At this month's board meeting in Topeka, conservatives proposed narrowing the teaching of what we used to call civics.

And not surprisingly, Steve Abrams of Arkansas City is leading the charge. Abrams worked harder than other board members to diminish the role of evolution in the curriculum.

Now he wants to de-emphasize the study of international concerns so teachers can focus squarely on the study of U.S. and Kansas history.

Moderates say it's the wrong way to go, given the world's growing interdependence.

“In a sense, I'm picking a fight,” board member Sue Gamble of Shawnee said.

It's true. Gamble did pick this fight by making public an issue that has had little media attention.

Now, I'll grant you the globalism-isolationism debate is nowhere near as sexy as the proposal to downplay evolution in favor of creationism.

However, it is indicative of the kind of disagreements and political posturing that have made the Kansas school board well worth watching since conservatives sought to gain control in the mid-1990s.

Abrams cannot see what the fuss is all about.

“I didn't know it was a sticking point,” he said when I reached him by phone this week. “I just wanted to clarify the standards.”

But critics say Abrams' suggested changes are not an attempt to “clarify” anything. To their way of thinking, he wants to reverse the key principles underlying the proposed 239-page history and government standards drafted by a panel of experts the board appointed.

For instance, the panel proposes that students understand “major economic concepts, issues and systems of the United States and other nations.”

Abrams would change that to “major economic concepts, issues and systems, particularly emphasizing Kansas and the United States of America.”

His other changes follow the same theme.

“I find it chilling,” Gamble said.

Well, “chilling” may be overdoing it.

However, Abrams underplays what's at issue here by claiming all he's trying to do is ensure that American and Kansas history is covered thoroughly.

“There is a limited amount of (teaching) time,” he said.

Yes, there is. But given the state of the world today, it doesn't seem like a waste of time teaching our kids that their country is but one on the planet. We do not live in a vacuum.

“We live in a global world,” said board member Bill Wagnon, a history professor. “It would be a mistake to de-emphasize that.”

Just like it would be a mistake for voters to minimize the importance of the school board races in the upcoming election. The potential exists for Abrams' faction to get the majority once again.

And I mention that because guess what comes after the history and government standards are revised?

It'll be time to revisit the science standards — and evolution — all over again.