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School board president sets record straight in Kansas evolution battle

OVERLAND PARK, Kan. (BP)–“We are not in a state of confusion, but in the state of Kansas,” said Linda Holloway, Kansas State School Board president in an April 9 appearance at the First Family Church, Overland Park, Kan.

Holloway is president of the school board that came under scrutiny last summer in the state of Kansas when they decided to leave a decision about how to teach evolution up to local school boards.

On the program for a special afternoon session with Duane Gish of the Creation Research Institute of El Cajon, Calif. — who later debated a local evolutionist — Holloway expressed appreciation for the chance to set the record straight about what really happened in Kansas.

“What we did with science standards was really minor,” explained Holloway, who said the only change at the state level was to take any references to macro evolution out of the state standardized testing process and giving local school boards to option of whether to teach the material.

Macroevolution is derived from Charles Darwin’s theories about species evolving from other species. Microevolution teaches that there is change or evolution within each species that occurs over a period of time.

“Evolution was being presented in a very dogmatic matter,” Holloway said. “We have stood for academic freedom instead of dogma. We have stood for freedom of inquiry for students.”

Holloway said she was surprised at the response of many of the local and national media who appeared to misunderstand the process and whom she said tried to implicate her personal views into the mix. Even the Kansas Catholic Conference, a group Holloway said represents all Catholic students in parochial or public school, supported the board’s move.

“I’m not trying to get my religion into science, but to get science into science. It doesn’t matter whether I am old earth or young earth, students in Kansas deserve to look at both sides,” said Holloway. “Let’s give them something to think about instead of giving them only the conclusion. It’s only fair that students have the opportunity to look at evidence and come to a conclusion.

“What if there is a new discovery?” she asked. “Are we going to censor that out too?”

As far as teaching creation in the public schools, Holloway said that is not up to any state or federal regulation, but up to local school boards — one of the last remaining autonomous forms of local government.

“We did not ban the teaching of evolution in the schools,” Holloway said. “In our state we have no control over textbooks nor do we control curriculum.”

Though standards vary state to state, the curriculum from which state and even local boards draw their criteria is produced at the national level.

“Some of the most vicious reaction has been at the national level,” said Holloway. The national science curriculum associations, she said, refused to let the state use materials they said were copyrighted. Holloway pointed out that typically materials produced by or for the government at taxpayer expense are not supposed to be copyrighted. Citing a potential “conflict of interest,” she said she also had concerns about the relationships between textbook company publishers and the national education curriculum committees on which they serve.

“There are a lot of things at the national level that I don’t understand,” said Holloway. “This is where the light needs to start shining — at the national level.”

In his brief introduction of creation principles and how they might differ from the evolutionary processes taught in most public schools, Duane Gish lauded Holloway for her work with the Kansas Board.

“She is one of my heroes,” said Gish of Holloway. “I really think it’s great what Kansas did.

“Our students have the right to hear both sides of this issue,” Gish asserted. “Most of our schools are teaching a humanistic non-theistic religion. We can’t go in there with the Bible and teach them religion, but certainly we can teach them about morals and about creation.”

Both Gish and Holloway discussed recent court cases verifying the legality of teaching creation in the public school science classroom.

After the meeting, Holloway fielded questions ranging from the effect of the new standards on college entrance exams to how parents can be more involved in curriculum processes.

Holloway said there is no evidence to support the idea that leaving out macroevolution will adversely affect the chances for students to attend good colleges. The only test that might be affected would be the S.A.T. test for prospective biology majors — a test that might or might not contain a question or two on macroevolution. Like with other standardized tests though, most science information is given and then the student must analyze the information in order to compose a response.

As far as decision making, Holloway said it’s not complicated.

“You need to start talking with your schools and local board members,” she said. “Look at what is being presented and make contact with local board members — but not … by yourself. There is some power in numbers.”

Gish went a step further.

“Get busy and elect more people like Linda Holloway to your board of education,” he said. “The public schools are not the property of evolutionists.”

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  • Joni B. Hannigan