May 5, 2005

A Local Issue with National Participation

The Kansas State Board of Education has begun hearings on whether to change the way that biology is taught in public schools to include the teaching of intelligent design, a contrary theory to that of evolution and natural selection. Both the advocates for and against the changes are playing close attention to the outcome and its impact on the future of science education. While this might be considered a state issue, the web has allowed national organizations and individuals residing outside of the state to closely follow the proceedings and potentially impact the outcome.

The Kansas State Board of Education’s own web site includes reports directly from the board. There, citizens can stay abreast of the actions of local officials and the site serves as an example of the web facilitating closer monitoring by citizens of their government. The Kansas Department of Education is even soliciting public comments online about the proposed revisions, allowing individuals from any location to weigh-in on the matter.

Meanwhile, advocacy groups on both sides of the debate are organizing online to spread their message and influence local officials. The nonprofit organization Intelligent Design Network, Inc., which promotes the teaching of intelligent design and favors changing the science standards, has a web site with updates on the Kansas proceedings and educational resources for parents, teachers, and school boards.

On the other side, the web site of the Kansas Citizens for Science, a non-profit educational organization that supports the teaching of evolution and is calling for a boycott of the hearings, has a forum where visitors can discuss the issues involved with the proposed changes and get updates from those monitoring the events.

Due to the controversial nature of the issue, the events in Kansas would have generated national attention even without the web, much the same way that the Scopes trial of the 1920s did. However, the internet of today allows interested individuals to actively participate even if they have no plans to ever step foot in the state.