?E' word creates controversy

By Greg Gelpi

Absence of the "e" word lead State Superintendent of Education Kathy Cox to call a quick press conference Thursday.

Cox proposed removing the term "evolution" from the state's middle school and high school curriculums, replacing the word with "biological changes over time." The change appears in her proposed curriculum overhaul.

The change would hurt the state's students and put them at a disadvantage when they go to college, Greg Hampikian, an associate professor of biology at Clayton College & State University, said.

"If they are not prepared, then they enter our school handicapped by the very people who should be helping them," he said. "It's like communists coming into a church and saying you can't speak about the resurrection of Christ, but you can talk about the changes after death."

Hampikian, the chairman of the University System of Georgia Biology Academic Advisory Committee, said the committee sent a statement on evolution to Cox and all school superintendents in the state in November. The statement urged school systems and the state to keep evolution in science curriculums.

At Cox's press conference, she explained that the curriculum is simply a draft and the draft is in the midst of a public comment stage.

"We don't have a stance on whether the word should or should not be in," Kirk Englehardt, the public information officer of the state Department of Education, said. "We didn't anticipate people focusing on the word not being there. The only thing missing is the word."

Englehardt explained that the concepts of evolution and the name of Charles Darwin, the principal theorist of evolution, are in the draft.

Cox chose to avoid "evolution" because it has become a "controversial buzzword."

"We don't want the public or our students to get stuck on a word when the curriculum actually includes the most widely accepted theories for biology," Cox said in a statement. "Ironically, people have become upset about the exclusion of the word again, without having read the document."

Englehardt said if the word had been included, there would still be the same discussion just with different people.

The Rev. Dean Haun, senior pastor at Jonesboro First Baptist Church, said, "evolution is hopelessly flawed."

Haun criticized the theory of evolution based on his knowledge of the Bible and his knowledge of science, noting that evolution is proven wrong by other areas of science.

"Where is all of the fossil evidence?" he asked. "As a pastor, I certainly believe that God created the heavens and the earth. I think for us to take (evolution) as a matter of fact is absolutely preposterous."

The Rev. Stephen Cook, pastor of First Baptist Church in Morrow, though, feels the proposed curriculum is a fair compromise.

Cook said he believes God created the world with a greater plan and believes in the stories of the Bible, and added he also believes in a "creator-driven development."

"I'm not sure if when it comes to using (Bible stories) as scientific fact that is the purpose of the stories."

Sid Chapman is the president of the Clayton County Education Association as well as being a Methodist minister.

"As far as changing the language, I'm not sure how that is going to change things," Chapman said.

Speaking as a resident of the state and not for his organization, he said he supports the teaching of the theory of evolution.

"I try to base my opinions of what is right for public education," he said. "I believe in the free exchange of ideas and the teaching of any idea that holds water."

The complete draft of the proposed curriculum will remain open to public comment into March and can be viewed at www.gadoe.org.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.