Panel to consider teaching guidelines

Panel to consider teaching guidelines
By Erica Ryan, Associated Press - Sept 6, 2006
COLUMBUS - The state school board is considering setting teaching guidelines that would say students should form judgments of controversial topics using critical analysis, which critics say could allow religion-based challenges to evolution.

The Ohio Department of Education drafted a framework for teaching contentious issues at a board committee's request and plans to present it at a meeting Monday, department spokesman J.C. Benton said Wednesday.

The optional guidelines would help teachers target students' reasoning skills and could be applied to subjects such as global warming, immigration, the national debt and evolution, said committee member Deborah Owens Fink of Richfield.

"We want to make sure that we have curriculum that is rich and allows these conversations," Owens Fink said.

Critics said the proposal is the latest attempt by some school board members to allow religion-based criticisms of evolution into science classes.

"Teachers who want to teach creationism can use it as cover," said Patricia Princehouse, who teaches philosophy and evolutionary biology at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland. She noted that the framework uses the term "critical analysis," which also was used in a state lesson plan that encouraged students to seek evidence for and against evolution.

In February, the Ohio Board of Education voted 11-4 to delete the lesson plan and the state science standard to which it corresponded. Critics said the lesson echoed arguments from proponents of intelligent design, the idea that DNA and other aspects of life are so complex that they're best explained as the intervention of a higher power.

The board's achievement committee was asked to determine whether the deleted curriculum should be replaced. The framework to be presented Monday is not a lesson plan, Benton said.

Owens Fink said she wasn't sure how many committee members support the idea, but added board members typically seek feedback from school superintendents and other educators before taking action on a proposal.

She said some districts already use templates similar to the proposal and emphasized that it would support teaching subjects across the board, not just science.

"It seems so ironic to me that these are the same people that said, 'Don't single out evolution for critical analysis,"' she said.