The state school board said Tuesday it will adopt a science curriculum that includes evolution and critical analysis of the theory, a decision that allows individual school districts to still decide whether to teach alternatives such as "intelligent design."
Ohio's current teaching guidelines have been criticized because they recommend teaching "change through time" but are not specific about what that involves.
The 19-member board voted unanimously to adopt the standards in December for what Ohio's 1.8 million students should learn about science. "In no way does this advocate for creation or intelligent design," said Michael Cochran, a board member from Blacklick in suburban Columbus who earlier had pushed for intelligent design to be included in the standards. "I do look upon this as a compromise."
The decision comes after weeks of behind-the-scenes talks to reach a compromise with members who wanted alternative concepts to evolution to be included in the guidelines.
Earlier this year, those board members had asked for the guidelines to treat intelligent design, or the idea that a higher power must have designed life because it is so complex, the same as evolution, which is based on Charles Darwin's research that life evolved by natural processes.
The guidelines include material that will be covered in new state achievement exams.
The standards put into writing what many school districts already do - teach evolution, but also explain that there is debate over the origin of life.
Anything beyond that, including whether to introduce and discuss intelligent design, is up to school districts - as is currently the case.
Board members stressed that they do not believe that the standards encourage students to learn intelligent design or other concepts not rooted in science.
Board member Deborah Owens Fink of Richfield, who has backed intelligent design, said the standards recommend students critically analyze evolution as they would all scientific theories.
"This is not ID. This is not religious perspective. This is only scientific concepts," she said.
In January, Ohio became the latest battleground in the national debate over what high school biology students should know about evolution, after conservative groups, including some that had tried and failed to get biblical creation taught in public schools, began pushing intelligent design.
Critics say the concept is not science and is a version of divine creation, which the U.S. Supreme Court has barred from being taught in public schools.
Ohio is one of the first states to revamp its science curriculum since the Kansas state school board created an uproar in 1999 by stripping most references to evolution from its standards. Last year, a newly elected board restored the references.
Although teachers will not be required to follow the standards, students will be tested on them in new achievement exams.
An Ohio law enacted last year requires the state to rewrite standards for all core academic subjects for all grades. The school board already has approved math and language arts standards, and is drafting art, foreign language and technology standards.
The board also said on Tuesday that it would adopt social studies standards in December. The standards have caused concern among some teachers who said that early world and U.S. history would be covered too early in a child's schooling.
File Date: 10.15.02