of Representative Linda
concerning Ohio House Bill 484 (2002)
House Education Committee
Testimony Representative Linda Reidelbach
March 5, 2002
Thank you Chairman Callender and members of the committee. It is a pleasure to be with you this afternoon as the sponsor of House Bill 484. This is legislation that has been generated in the light of actions by the Ohio Department of Education, and the issue of rewriting the state curriculum standards for Science education.
The Department of Education picked a 32 member advisory panel and a 41 member writing team to create new indicators, or standards, for the teaching of Science in Ohio's public and chartered non-public schools. This panel was supposed to be carefully selected to ensure a broad range of areas of expertise, background, and philosophical viewpoints. In most of these areas, the Department met the requirements.
However, in the area of viewpoints, it became clear from the first meeting of the Writing Team that the only viewpoint which would be considered in the area of biological origins study would be that of the proponents of Darwinian biological evolution, the concept that all life, past and present, began from the same source and that the forces of chance and natural laws (physics and chemistry) were the only means by which the vast diversity of life occurred upon this planet.
When a draft of the changes were made public, groups of concerned individuals, organizations and scientists raised questions to the apparent singular focus of the standards. Current research and investigation into this controversial area of biology has revealed many things, including the suspect nature of many of the key examples used to promote the Darwinian hypothesis, along with the concept that many organisms exhibit such specificity of form and function that the standard explanations of chance and natural law fall short of offering a satisfactory answer for the phenomena.
I have supplied you with a listing of 100 scientists who have declared that they "are skeptical of claims for the ability of random mutation and natural selection to account for the complexity of life." The signers say, "Careful examination of the evidence for Darwinian theory should be encouraged."
The Department of Education opened up a channel for public comment on the draft standards, which generated some revealing issues. First, the site was taken offline more than a week prior to the originally announced ending date of January 31, leaving many Ohioans without the ability to express their support, concerns or suggestions regarding the content of the standards.
Of the respondents actually able to register, who were all Ohio citizens, over 54 percent requested standards in the area of biological origins which included not only Darwinian evolution, but also alternative scientifically based theories. An independent organization also requested comments on the proposed standards and draft modifications that were created to address the concerns related earlier. This effort generated an 88% approval rating for including alternative scientific theories in the classroom discussion, with 61% of the respondents being Ohio residents. Of these respondents, over 25% of respondents were holders of doctoral level degrees in various fields, including biology.
Upon presentation of the Department-collected comments to the Science Writing team for Life Sciences, a disturbing action occurred. In a rather blatant rejection of the public comment process, six of seven of the subgroup members felt no need to make any changes to accommodate the input. Thus, at this time, the biological evolution standards remain essentially unchanged from the first draft.
Groups representing scientists, community leaders, educators and other individuals requested a formal focus group with the Ohio Department of Education, similar to those given to the Ohio Academy of Science and other interest groups. The request was denied by the Department.
Given these facts, and the importance placed upon science education by the federal government in the conference report of HR 1, which I spoke of in my testimony on HB 481, it has become clear that the General Assembly may well indeed have to intervene in this controversy in order to ensure that, as we have directed in Senate Bill 1, students will be given a complete and rigorous academic education, with high standards, critical thinking, and objective and scientifically valid indicators to form the framework of the curriculum and assessment system which has been put into place in Ohio.
The State Board of Education is responsible for adopting the final draft of standards in December of this year. Given that the concerns of the public are being ignored in the process, I believe it is incumbent upon the Legislature to ensure that we are in compliance with federal directives and the will of the people of Ohio in this important and highly controversial subject area.
Thank you for your attention. I would be happy to take questions.