CoxNews: Mind-Changing in Georgia

After a week of what the AJC called “withering criticism”, including some from former President Jimmy Carter, Superintendent of Schools Kathy Cox has changed her mind.

State Schools Superintendent Kathy Cox announced Thursday she will recommend that the word evolution be retained in Georgia’s proposed curriculum for middle and high school science.”I made the decision to remove the word evolution from the draft of the proposed biology curriculum in an effort to avoid controversy that would prevent people from reading the substance of the document itself,” Cox said in a statement. “Instead, a greater controversy ensued.”

Cox had proposed the phrase “biological changes over time,” a term that scientists derided as meaningless, be used instead.

“I am here to tell you that I misjudged the situation and I want to apologize for that. I want you to know today that I will recommend to the teacher teams that the word ‘evolution’ be put back in the curriculum,” she said.

Well, that’s nice. But it isn’t over yet. Apart from the troubling policy of vetting a curriculum by polling public opinion, Cox said nothing about restoring the other little change:

Cox made no statement on her decision to not include in the biology proposal several national standards for evolution instruction that many scientists say are critical for students to understand it. Those standards, culled from the American Association for the Advancement of Science benchmarks, include the explanation for natural selection and statements about the origins of life on Earth such as “life on Earth is thought to have begun as simple, one-celled organisms about 4 billion years ago.”

Which leads one to wonder what her next step will be. One scientist put it succinctly:

“I am glad she came to her senses,” said Jung Choi, associate professor of biology at Georgia Tech Thursday morning.”I expected she would. What I am concerned about is whether she will go on the other side and include creation science and intelligent design [in the curriculum], the so-called alternative theories that she has mentioned before.”

Choi said it is essential students study evolution before reaching college.

“I think it is critical because biology does not really make sense without evolution. It is the very first topic that we cover in freshman biology. There’s too many students that come to Georgia Tech that have not studied evolution before.” (emphasis added)

Sort of like trying to study astronomy when you’ve been told all your life that the sun revolves around the earth.

Cox is going to reconvene the curriculum panels sometime in the next month, and sometime after that, when the dust has died down and everyone has forgotten this little brouhaha, the curriculum will be chosen. Will GED’s Pruitt (who has largely escaped notice by the press for his role in all this) wander down and “order” the panels to inject creationism as an “alternative theory” as he “ordered” them to remove the words “evolution” and “long”? Or will Pruitt and Cox back off entirely and put the study of evolution and the true age of the earth back into the curriculum?

Stay tuned.

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