March 20, 2018 – West Bend, WI – The West Bend School Board reviewed science standards during its Monday night meeting.
Board member Monte Schmiege presented some revisions and additions to the standards and didn’t receive any response back and question what happened.
School District assistant superintendent Laura Jackson said she consulted with “teachers and what was done on the science committee.” She consulted with John Esser and considered all the processes the state used to develop the standards.
“We determined our teachers really represent our community quite well,” said Jackson. She recommended the board move forward with the standards as written without amendment.
Schmiege said, “There’s no requirement the district adopt the standards the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction prepares is there?”
Jackson said “modifications can be made locally if we so choose,” said Jackson.
Board member Nancy Justman said, “This is the wave of the future… and this will help keep our students competitive.”
Schmiege then focused on ‘origin theories’ and asked “at what level students are asked to evaluate evidence for and against origin theories. At what grade level does that begin?”
Jackson said she would have to look at specifics. “If I were to recommend it would be at the high school level based on brain development,” she said.
Schmiege said in the third grade there is a statement made about geological records and the term “long ago.” He asked for a definition.
Jackson said third graders are still working on numbers and the term “long ago is appropriate for their age.”
Schmiege asked what the standards were with regard to evolution and Jackson said “once the standards are approved then the curriculum would be developed.”
Schmiege asked if human evolution would be presented in the standards. Jackson asked if Schmiege already knew the answer to his question and he said, “Yes, it is not there in the standards.”
“I’m concerned about the presentation and origin theories,” said Schmiege. “When you talk about the field of science you’re talking about a wide range of things. These standards talk about scientific findings are limited to what can be supported with evidence in the natural world. I can agree with that in one sense but not in another sense, it depends on how you interpret it.”
Schmiege said he could understand testing and experiments but when discussing origin theories and looking back in time and “inferring, making assumptions, or guessing, suppositions… that’s not quite so exact as what we might observe on a daily basis.”
Board member Joel Ongert asked Schmiege for examples and then pointed out people in the science field support the curriculum.
Schmiege also pointed out the range of validity for theory. “Theory is based on some evidence, a lot of missing evidence, inferences, assumptions, …. it’s not necessarily truth and the standards indicate that because the standards say that theory is changeable.”
School Board President Tiffany Larson then called ‘point of order.’ “I think Monte you have made your point clear. I’d like to make a motion to approve the Wisconsin science standards for the West Bend Joint School District No. 1.”
Ongert seconded the motion and then Schmiege continued.
“I don’t feel I should be cut off like that and I think that this is going to require a more extended conversation. I move to postpone discussion on the motion until we can schedule a committee of the whole or a board work session to extend the discussion.”
Board member Ken Schmidt seconded the motion.
That motion failed by a vote of 5-2.
Schmiege asked to make an additional motion and then proceeded to pass out the wording of the motion to the board.
Before Schmiege read the note aloud for the benefit of board member Tonnie Schmidt who was calling in from Hawaii.
“I would like to quote Richard Lewontin, a geneticist from Harvard. ‘We take the side of science in spite of the patent absurdity of some of its constructs, in spite of its failure to fulfill many of its extravagant promises of health and life, in spite of the tolerance of the scientific community for unsubstantiated just-so stories, because we have a prior commitment, a commitment to materialism.'”
Schmiege then proposed a motion to amend the motion and add words. ” I move to approve the Wisconsin science standards for implementation in West Bend Joint School District. We take the side of science in spite of the patent absurdity of some of its constructs, in spite of its failure to fulfill many of its extravagant promises of health and life, in spite of the tolerance of the scientific community for unsubstantiated just-so stories, because we have a prior commitment, a commitment to materialism.”
Ken Schmidt seconded the motion.
Schmiege then spoke to the motion, “Some of the components of this motion are already represented in the standards.” He then dissected his motion and attributed each line to what was in the Wisconsin science standard.
Jackson vouched for Schmiege’s idea of guiding philosophy. “I think that’s a really good idea…,” she said.
Nancy Justman requested a “statement of guiding philosophy be by the professionals who teach science and not by board members who may have other agendas or other ideas. I don’t think we should be micromanaging our staff when they are trying to teach our students.”
The motion then failed 5 – 2 with the roll call of no, Joel Ongert, Nancy Justman, Tonnie Schmidt, Tiffany Larson, Tim Stellmacher. Yes votes: Monte Schmiege and Ken Schmidt.
The original motion to accept the state standards was approved by the same vote.