Micro and Macro Spin on Kansas

The Kansas board's primary action was not to remove all references to Darwin, as so many media accounts claimed

The media version of the Kansas controversy was created on Sunday, August 8, 1999--four days before the Kansas board voted on the state's

science education standards

--in a front-page Washington Post story by reporter Hanna Rosin; this story also ran in many newspapers around the country.

Apparently relying on reports from members of the original drafting committee, who were bitterly at odds with the new majority on the board, Rosin wrote that the Kansas board seemed about to "pass a new statewide science curriculum for kindergarten through 12th grade that wipes out virtually all mention of evolution and related concepts: natural selection, common ancestors, and the origins of the universe." Rosin explained that "the new curriculum will not explicitly prohibit the teaching of evolution. But its exclusion will severely undermine such efforts when they come under attack from students, parents, principals, or local school boards." The story gave the impression that the creationists were the aggressors in a programmed nationwide campaign in which Kansas was merely the latest target. This was the spin that would be adopted by most of the establishment media.

The final compromise was to require all Kansas schools to teach microevolution, but leave it up to local districts to decide whether to teach macroevolution.


According to The Washington Post account, the pending expulsion of evolution from the curriculum reflected a change in tactics by a persistently aggressive national creationist movement. Blocked by Supreme Court decisions from inserting Biblical creationism into the school curricula, creationists were now publishing books and encouraging high school students to form clubs where they learn to resist what is being taught about evolution in science classes. This activity has apparently been so successful that Rosin began her influential story by quoting a biology teacher who complained that a third of the students in his suburban high school did not believe a thing their teacher said about evolution. At the nationwide political level, creationists had induced several state legislatures or school boards to enact measures that required evolution to be taught as theory rather than fact, or attempted in some way to open the curriculum to criticism of evolution.

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