Theory of evolution reinstated in Kansas school cirriculum

Thursday, February 15, 2001 at 1:00am

OVERLAND PARK, Kan. (Reuters) - Kansas educators reinstated the theory of evolution in state curriculum yesterday, reversing a controversial decision 18 months ago and thwarting religious conservatives who want students to learn the Biblical theory of creation.

In a 7-3 vote, the Kansas Board of Education cast aside the testing standards for state schools that were put in place in August 1999. Those standards eliminated several evolution-related topics while making room for other theories, including that God created man.

The standards rejected yesterday allowed for local school districts to determine what to teach science students about evolution, but did not require teaching of ideas like the estimated age of the Earth and common ancestors between apes and man.

Critics of those standards said without required testing on evolution, teachers in this conservative state would not be inclined to teach it, leaving students ill-prepared for college science classes.

The new standards approved yesterday restored evolution as a key scientific principle and will be effective for assessment testing this spring, said board of education spokeswoman Kathy Toelkes.

``We are thrilled,'' said Joe Conn, a spokesman for Americans United for Separation of Church and State. The group had threatened to file a lawsuit to stop the previous standards from being implemented.

But Tom Willis, director of the Creation Science Association for Mid-America, said he was saddened by the outcome.

``It's a little like the Christians challenging the lions, they didn't challenge very successfully. We should be sad that we lie to students and pretend we have a good idea from science where the first fish came from,'' Willis said.

``The psuedo-Christians and the atheists are in charge. It's a religious war,'' he added.

The board's 1999 decision put Kansas in a national spotlight and made the state the butt of ridicule from coast to coast.

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