Education board members lash back at public evolution support

Education board members lash back at public evolution support
Associated Press - Jan. 20, 2006
COLUMBUS, Ohio - State Board of Education members lashed back at audience members who criticized the state's lesson plan for questioning evolution, reading a personal e-mail from one speaker and reading newspapers as another person spoke, a newspaper reported Friday.

The confrontations during the public comment section of last week's meeting happened after journalists left, said The Columbus Dispatch, which obtained a tape of the meeting.

Gov. Bob Taft's office has received some angry letters, and Taft spokesman Mark Rickel said the governor expects board members to act professionally toward each other and the public. Some board members are appointed by the governor, but the harshest comments came from elected members.

The board by a 9-8 vote on Jan. 10 rejected an attempt to reopen debate on whether the state's lesson plan for science include inaccuracies about evolution and promotes "intelligent design," the idea that life is too complex to have evolved. Member Martha Wise had sought to remove the evolution lesson plan because of a federal court ruling in Pennsylvania rejecting intelligent design as an unscientific form of creationism.

Ohio State University graduate student Keith Morris said the plan was full of lies pointed out by "many honest board members." Board member Michael Cochran, a pastor from Blacklick, shot back with high ratings of the board from an education think tank and magazine.

"So half the board is dishonest? How do you square your comments with the ratings from (Thomas B.) Fordham Foundation and Education Weekly which gave us an A- and a B?" Cochran said. "How do you analyze that? They are probably dishonest, aren't they?"

Jeffrey McKee, an Ohio State anthropology professor representing the University Senate, said the panel of faculty, administrators and students opposed the lesson plan. Elected member Deborah Owens Fink then read a private e-mail by McKee ridiculing a supporter of intelligent design.

"My point is that Dr. McKee has a very unprofessional way in dealing with colleagues who do not agree with him," said Fink, of Richfield.

McKee responded: "What I say as a joke to my colleagues when relieving stress is not the business of this board." Another man who had signed up to speak declined to do so, citing how others had been treated. Cochran and appointee Richard Baker also read newspapers as others spoke.

Cochran and Fink on Thursday told the newspaper some of their remarks may have gone too far but came at the end of a long day. "We have debated this issue ad nauseam," Cochran said. "The same people come forward and say the same thing and it comes to a point where you can't listen anymore."