Evolution in Illinois Standards

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. :slight_smile:

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.

What, nobody responded yet? Jeez, now I have to move it back to the top. :wink:

I don’t live in Illinois. The best I can do is move it to the top again. :slight_smile:

Fighting my own ignorance since 1957.

I live in Illinois. Their actions display, as someone put it, “an appalling lack of balls”. Evolution=scary! Change over time=safe! I’m hardly in the scientific or educational community, so I don’t know how to help, though.

Can you go over your specific objections to the vagueness? If it is at your site, sorry, I can’t hit the server.

“Happiness is nonetheless true happiness because it must come to an end, nor do thought and love lose their value because they are not everlasting.”

  • Bertrand Russell

Gaudere: Not sure what you mean about not being able to hit the server – is it on our end or yours?

Anyway, the biggest objections are that scientists use specific language to say what they mean (one reason I object when people make idiotic comments like, “It’s just a theory” and/or show that they don’t know what a theory actually is). If students are going to be taught evolution, they should be taught evolution, period. “Adapting to their environment” could mean evolution – but it could mean a chameleon changing color when it moves to a different plant. Change over time does not necessarily equal evolution, either. Human beings change over time – we lose our hair or it gets gray; we get wrinkled; etc. That obviously isn’t evolution.

Second, but perhaps even more important, is that there will be parents who challenge teachers who teach evolution. They can currently point to the standards and accurately say, “It doesn’t say evolution there, so you shouldn’t be teaching evolution to my child!” Sure, the teacher can try to explain how these things essentially mean the same thing, but if the parent doesn’t want their kid learning evolution, do we really think they’ll listen? I don’t. And, believe me, there are communities in Illinois where they would gladly cave at the earliest opportunity. I’ve gone to two conferences of the Illinois Science Teachers Association, and have heard stories of teachers being told just not to cover evolution to avoid controversy. And that’s not even mentioning those where creationism is still illegally taught!

Finally, there is simply no good reason not to have it in there. If they agree that all the content is there, why leave out the word? It should be there, if only for “truth in packaging” reasons. If the religious right wants to take us on, fine – let’s do it out in the open, not slink around and try to appease them by using imprecise terminology.

Thanks. I’m getting a “connection with the server could not be established” error, which could be on my end, but since I don’t have any problems hitting any other site I suspect it’s on yours.

I believe the words “appalling lack of balls” were mine, describing the actions of the school board as they did the exact same thing here in Kentucky.

Some of the board members said flat out that they just want to avoid controversy. If you ask me, on the list of dangerous things to teach our kids, “avoid anything controversial” and “give in to the ignorant but loud” are near the top.

Like David, I can imagine irate parents snidely wondering why the teacher is wasting time on non-required topics like evolution when their little darlings could be learning more about cumulonimbus clouds or something. (Not to mention that, for my money, an understanding of evolution is essential for understanding biology.)


PS: At the risk of taking this thread to Cuba (start a new one if you like), how long do you think it will be before a serious movement starts up to officially declare the USA a “Christian country”? You know, so we can post the Ten Commandments and teach fundamentalist dogma in grade school without worring about those Buddhists we’re supposedly offending? (Can’t you just hear it?)

I think its already in the minds of some people (the Pat Buchanons et al). Heres a better question- how many people apply for emigration if they get power? I think I would at least get dual citizenship somewhere, I wouldn’t feel safe in this country, being an atheist of Jewih ancestory gives me 2 strikes. Id rather jump ship before the inqusiton occurs.

Ha ha ha

:::::::rolling on the ground:::::::

I think I just pi**ed myself!

I am laughing so hard I am hoarse!!!

Oh God was that FUNNY!!!
What a thread, what a concept!!

Oh I am crying so hard!!!

:::::::going into hysteria:::::


Just wondering, what weight do these standards actually hold?

Phaedrus, YOU’re the joke, if you can’t pick out something specific and point out the problems with it.

Plato and Pirsig should both sue you for defaming their fictional creations. Get real, or get lost.

Gaudere (and anybody else who tried to get to the REALL website) – you seem to be right, it seems to be down right now. I don’t know what the problem is and I’ve alerted the webmaster.

DoctorJ said:

The old state superintendent essentially said this, and the new one said is flat out in a letter to me last week. My response may include a note explaining that evolution is not controversial at all in the scientific community – just for religious nuts (ok, it won’t be worded quite that way :slight_smile: ).

Right up there with acting like Phaedrus…

Declare it? Hell, there are some religious right groups who already say so right now!

Phaedrus said:

Yeah, well, that’s about what we expect from you. Oh, wait, I know why you responded that way – you seem to be unaware that the goal of The Straight Dope is to fight ignorance. This seems to conflict with your goal of promoting ignorance.

Omniscient asked:

The assessment tests are based on the standards. What teachers teach are based on the assessment tests.

In other words, if something doesn’t appear in the standards, schools are not forbidden to teach it. On the other hand, it ain’t bloody likely they’re going to go out of their way to do so.

That said, as I mentioned, the concepts of evolution are still there, but the word is not. It’s kind of a wishy-washy situation for the teacher.

RTFirefly: You obtuse piece of glob! You have found me out! I am tickled. For your information Phaedrus was NOT a fictional creation of Pirsig. He was real. The name he gave himself to refer to the time before and in some interpretations after his bearkdown. Good show! I am impressed! :wink:

That which a man had rather were true he more readily believes.

How long before the US becomes officially a Christian nation? I think it will be a long time, but if it happened, I’d have conflicting interests.
a) Kill the people in power.
b) Run away to Canada and prepare for the fundamentalist invasion by stocking up and digging a hole.

I doubt it will ever happen, but you ne’er know.

So, what about Illinois? First, I am disgusted. Second, I am disturbed. That’s just whack.

And, please, let’s try to keep the Pit out of the Great Debate.

David, I was born and raised in Ill-uh-noise (as my current neighbors here in hoosier-land call it). I’d be very interested in more info on the current standards battle. I have an 8-year-old brother growing up in Southern Ill. and would hope that by the time he gets to high school, his science curriculum won’t be watered down.

Well, right now the “battle” involves us getting prepared, plus a front-page article the Chicago Tribune had a few weeks ago. That’s why I was hoping to find anybody who had connections here. I’ve already made quite a few, but more can only help. :slight_smile:

Doctor J…I LOVE cumulonimbus clouds!!Don’t push them aside in our schools! :wink:

Well, orangecakes, I happen to believe that clouds are actually God’s marshmallows, and I think schools should either teach it this way or not teach about clouds at all!!!

< ahem >

Sorry about that. Went into extreme creationist sarcasm mode there.

Gaudere: The REALL site is back up now.

David B LOL!Yer brilliant! And Hell is where you roast those marshmallows!

Gaudere: I was told that the REALL site was back up, and I believed the person who told me (the webmaster). I should have been a better skeptic and checked it out for myself, because now I can’t get to it.

Orangecakes: Thanks. :slight_smile: