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CNN Today

Kansas Board of Education Drops Evolution, Big-Bang Theories From State Science Standards

Aired March 8, 2000 - 1:33 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: Private religious schools like Bob Jones have no obligation to teach evolution, but now the evolution versus creationism debate has been given new life in public schools. The Kansas Board of Education decided last summer students no longer need to know the theory of evolution.

CNN's Patty Davis visited one Kansas high school to check reaction to that.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

PATTY DAVIS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Students at Shawnee Mission Northwest High School in Shawnee, Kansas are studying evolution.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They're doing Darwinian evolution in a test tube.

DAVIS: But starting next school year, Kansas will no longer require students to know about evolution or the big-bang theory.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The amendment passes.

DAVIS: In August, the Kansas Board of Education voted to drop the theories from the state science standards. That infuriated biology teacher Al Frisby.

AL FRISBY, BIOLOGY TEACHER: We have fossil evidence for evolution. It is a fact. And I'll be -- I'll dare to say it: It's a fact.

DAVIS: Creationists who say evolution is not a fact consider the decision a victory. They believe a higher being created the universe and humans and apes did not evolve from a common ancestor.

JOHN BACON, KANSAS BOARD OF EDUCATION: But rather than mandate a theory over another, we took both off and said just let the scientific evidence speak for itself and let the students make up their own mind.

DAVIS: In school, the Board of Education's move has students taking a closer look at the issue.

HEATHER ELLSWORTH, STUDENT: It was gaining almost unquestionable authority, and that was not good. And so that was a right decision.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You don't have to believe evolution, but you should -- knowledge is power, why not go ahead and learn it?

DAVIS: Local school districts will now decide whether or not to teach evolution and the big bang, but critics worry some won't teach the theories because they will no longer be on the state standards test. Nationwide, surveys show creationists are gaining ground.

(on camera): A resent CNN/"USA Today"/Gallup poll found 68 percent favor teaching creationism along with evolution; 40 percent favor dropping evolution altogether.

FRISBY: Should science be driven by popular opinion?

DAVIS (voice-over): Biology teacher Al Frisby says he'll keep teaching evolution.

FRISBY: If this is the tip of the iceberg, what else will the state board do? Will they take out verbs from the English class for some political or religious reason?

DAVIS: This mural outside Frisby's classroom depicting Darwin's theory remains a daily reminder of the controversy. Both the mural and the controversy, for now, are here to stay.

Patty Davis, CNN, Shawnee, Kansas.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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