Before we line up behind the new science standards, we would do well to read the rest of the document. Some serious problems with the new Kansas science education standards...are being overlooked.
In a world facing emerging diseases such as ebola, Marburg, and SARS, our knowledge of disease agents is more critical than ever. Current Kansas science standards address "the basic biology, diversity, ecology, and medical effects of microbiological agents...” The new standards remove microbiology from high school biology.
In a state that could be severely affected by a worldwide fear of mad cow disease, Kansas has been one of the few states to include “prions,” the agents of mad cow disease, in the science standards. But reference to bacteria, viruses, and prions has been removed from the new standards.
As an agricultural state, plant biology is central to the livelihood of many rural Kansans. Current standards include "the basic biology, diversity, ecology, and human relationships of plants." But wouldn’t you know it, the new proposed standards have struck botany from the secondary biology curriculum. If adopted, our roadsigns may soon read: "One Kansas farmer feeds 129 people who neither understand how nor why!"
The same can be said of zoology. Current standards include "the basic biology, diversity, anatomy, ecology and medical effects of major animal groups" and describe how "this variation is important in understanding the function of animals in farming and medical research," both of which are major Kansas industries. But again, the new standards eliminate zoology from high school biology. Commonsense Kansans have a longstanding relationship with animals, from pets to parks, hunting, rodeos and county fairs. Coursework with animals capitalizes on this experience to motivate students to go into medical fields, veterinary science, and environmental work.
The previous science standards include human anatomy and physiology. The proposed standards drop these concepts, tossing the ball to health teachers. Students need that knowledge, not just so some will choose to be physicians, but for all of them to be good patients.
While much debate focuses on the addition of intelligent design creationism to the standards, there is a much bigger issue at play. There are education departments poised to drop microbiology, zoology, botany, and anatomy from science teacher preparation if given the chance.
These deletions in the new standards will undermine Kansas efforts to expand its BioScience resources.
This is not the time to downsize the state’s biology standards.