As some of you already know, I have a life outside this message board. (I know, it’s hard to believe.) In that life, I am the chairman of the Rational Examination Association of Lincoln Land (REALL), an Illinois local skeptics group. Because the Chicago Reader is (obviously) in Illinois, and I think there are a fair number of Illinois residents here, I’d like to call on them to help out if they are interested.
About 2 1/2 years ago, the Illinois State Board of Education passed school standards, including science standards. In the original draft, the word “evolution” was nowhere to be found. Most of the concepts were there, but the word itself was left out. After the first round of comments, the response was huge to get the word in. So those in charge of responding to comments put it in. The state superintendent at the time, however, wanted no part of that. He was still smarting from being fired from a similar job in Virginia for upsetting the religious right there. So he set up his own external review committee, including members of the religious right. Surprise, surprise – they took out the word evolution again.
When he presented the standards to the Board, a colleague and I went to the meeting and spoke out against this vagueness they were using (it was particularly ironic, because the presenter had talked about how they wanted the standards to be as clear as possible), and how the phrasing they used does not automatically equate to “evolution.” We were ignored.
But the standards come up for review every 3 years. And, as I said, that was 2 1/2 years ago. There is a new superintendent, and even some new Board members. I am gathering contacts in the scientific and educational community right now to help in this effort. If you are interested, please e-mail me. We can even discuss it here, in Great Debates, if you want.
Some info for potentially interested folks:
The REALL website: www.reall.org
Illinois high school standard dealing with the topic that should be “evolution”: http://www.isbe.state.il.us/ils/scg12.html
Main page for the Illinois standards: http://www.isbe.state.il.us/ils/
For the record, I am acting on my own initiative with this, not as a
representative of the Straight Dope, although I’m told when Cecil heard what I was up to he made a facial expression that many interpreted as a smile, although it might just have been gas.