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Draft Standards in Nebraska Retain Focus on Evolution

The theory of evolution will remain "a cornerstone of science classes in Nebraska's public schools" under proposed new science standards the state board of education is expected to take up this summer, reports the Omaha World-Herald.

Three members of the state board told the newspaper they were not aware of any effort by board members or the public to include intelligent design in Nebraska's new science standards.

As many readers are aware, the neighboring state of Kansas in recent years has proved a hotbed of debate over evolution, though in 2007, a newly elected state board removed language that described parts of the theory of evolution as "controversial" and had cast doubt on the widely accepted theory, angering scientists.

The World-Herald story notes that the revised Nebraska standards take on added importance because education officials will use them to design for the first time a statewide science test. That test will be piloted at some schools in Spring 2011 and implemented at all public schools in 2012.

Under the state's proposed standards, high school students would be asked to "describe the theory of biological evolution" and recognize how it explains such things as genetic variations in offspring and the diversity of life over time, the story says. Except for "slight wording changes," that's the same requirement as the 1998 standards they would replace.

In an editorial two days later, the Omaha newspaper said the board "has included evolution in the curriculum as part of a commendably calm and responsible approach to modern science education."

The editorial continues: "Indications are that the Nebraska standards, which are underpinned by the theory of evolution, will pass muster without the firestorm the same issue has raised in other states. That says a lot about the sound judgment of the elected board members and the common sense of Nebraskans in general."

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