COLUMBUS, Ohio - In a rare move, the presidents of Ohio's 13 public universities will ask the state school board not to include alternative ideas to evolution in kindergarten through 12th-grade science curriculum.
The Inter-University Council, made up of the presidents, will send a letter to the board this week, saying it would be inappropriate to teach the concept of intelligent design alongside evolution, said Jim McCollum, the IUC's executive director.
"This is unusual, but given the heightened importance of this issue, the presidents felt it was important to weigh in," McCollum said Tuesday.
The state Board of Education is struggling to write new science standards by the end of the year, including what exactly public school students should learn about life.
An early draft was criticized because it included evolution but did not mention intelligent design, the idea that life is too complex to have happened by chance and, therefore, must have been designed.
Jennifer Sheets, the board's president, said it is rare for the university presidents to give input on any issue the board is considering, because historically there has been a great divide in Ohio between officials of secondary and higher education.
However, she is not as surprised by the move in this case because the revamping of standards and testing systems grew out of a joint committee of the school board and the Ohio Board of Regents, which oversees the universities.
The universities particularly are interested in the debate because they receive many students who have attended Ohio's school system and they train students who as educators will have to teach life theories, McCollum said.
Sheets said the school board would consider the presidents' views.
"Of course that's an influential group and they are partners of ours," she said.
Teachers will not be required to follow the standards, but the state's new standardized test required for graduation will be based on them.
The state's current science guidelines avoid the word evolution and recommend covering "change through time."
Several board members have pushed for intelligent design to be taught alongside evolution, and the board's standards committee appears to favor allowing alternative ideas into classrooms.
The deans of the universities' education departments already have asked the board not to include concepts other than evolution.
"Including elements in the standards that are significantly out of alignment with national standards is not in the best interest of the state and Ohio's schoolchildren," James L. Heap, chairman of the State University Education Deans, wrote in a Feb. 28 letter to the board.