The so-called "politics of confrontation" that has muddied the waters of governance at the national level now threatens to pollute decisions that affect the education of children in the public schools of Kansas.
Battle lines have been drawn by partisans at both ends of the political spectrum over the controversial decision by the Kansas Board of Education to change science standards. To shed light rather than heat on this highly charged topic, Fort Hays State University will present a public forum next week to provide factual information that will equip citizens to make informed decisions.
The forum, "Evolution and Intelligent Design: Schools, Politics and Participation," is set for 7 p.m. Monday, Jan. 23, in the Black and Gold Room of FHSU's Memorial Union. The public is welcome to attend and participate in the forum. Members of the audience will be invited to make comments and ask questions following a 30-minute opening session in which panelists will lay the groundwork by discussing the controversy from a variety of perspectives.
The forum is co-sponsored by The Hays Daily News and FHSU's American Democracy Project. The ADP initiative inspires today's students to be tomorrow's active citizens by providing opportunities for students to become involved through civic volunteerism, voter registration and information, positive motivation, and access to community leaders.
Dr. Paul Faber, dean of FHSU's College of Arts and Sciences, will serve as moderator for the forum. He will frame the discussion by explaining the ground rules, defining some terms, and talking briefly about the tools and processes, such as the scientific method, that are used to discover knowledge.
Panelists will be Dr. Greg Farley, associate professor of biological sciences at FHSU; Father Craig Brown, pastor of St. Michael's Episcopal Church, Hays; Dr. Shala Mills, associate professor of political science at FHSU; Cheryl Shepherd-Adams, a science teacher for Hays USD 489; and Dr. Dick Heil, chair of FHSU's Department of Political Science and Justice Studies.
Farley will give a short presentation explaining evolution. Father Brown will give a similar opening statement explaining intelligent design. Mills will explain the legal issues involved in the ongoing debate. Shepherd-Adams will discuss the implications of the debate for classrooms across Kansas. Heil will explain the political ramifications, including the role of the State Board of Education and the processes for running for the board and voting in the elections that determine the board's members. Panelists also will respond to questions from the audience and offer additional thoughts during the public-comment portion of the forum.
Dr. Chapman Rackaway, assistant professor of political science at FHSU, is campus director of the American Democracy Project.
"Professors and students integrate real-life lessons into classroom learning and reinforce the idea of an active citizenry as essential to continuing the democratic experiment in America," he said. "These forums expand the ADP mission beyond the campus by giving voice to the public on important issues."
A previous ADP forum explored the book, "What's the Matter with Kansas? How Conservatives Won the Heart of America." Another forum looked at the appropriation of Native American names and symbols by the larger culture for such uses as school mascots.
The FHSU Memorial Union serves as the site for ADP forums, filling the historical role of college unions as locations for debate societies. Parking for the forum is conveniently located in the large lot immediately to the west of the Memorial Union.
A delayed broadcast of the forum will be available for viewing on www.fhsu.edu, the FHSU Web site.