CFI-DC Helps Acheive a Victory for Science and Reason in D.C. Schools

August 3, 2009

On 15 July 2009, the D.C. State Board of Education voted in favor of making biology a required lab science for graduation from Washington, D.C. public high schools. The change will affect students beginning the ninth grade in school year 2009-2010.

The change is notable because the biology curriculum in D.C. schools is based squarely on evolution. Students "describe how life on Earth is thought to have begun as one or a few simple one-celled organisms about 3.5 billion years ago," and explain that Darwin argued that accumulation of biologically "inherited advantages would lead to a new species."

The Center for Inquiry DC (CFI-DC) sent a representative, Simon Davis, to speak for the motion during the public comment period. Simon is a member of CFI-DC's Programming Committee and a Washington, D.C. resident. During his allowed two minutes in front of the microphone, Simon presented CFI-DC's position, which focused on the practical advantages of having an understanding of Biology. He explained that doing well in today's world without understanding biology is getting harder. For example, each person ought to know what a stem cell is and the implications of someone in his or her family having Sickle Cell Anemia. The position also urged D.C. schools to keep up with essential public education requirements. By requiring biology for graduation, D.C.'s young people will be more college ready and more competitive in a host of medical and lab jobs in today's tough job market.

Simon's presentation was clearly well received by the Board. Three Board members referred to it when voting to approve the measure. The vote was 6 to 0 with one abstention and two absences, and there were no opposing public comments presented. The one abstention during the vote came from the member representing Wards 7 and 8. His lack of support was apparently not the result of his opposing biology or evolution, but because of his concern about voting in another expensive mandate for schools already financially strapped in the poorest parts of the city.

You can learn more about the rule change, and CFI-DC's contribution to it, at the D.C. State Board of Education's website: www.sboe.dc.gov .