The city's school board has revised its science curriculum to allow the teaching of creationism (search), prompting an outcry from more than 300 educators who urged that the decision be reversed.
School board members believed that a state law governing the teaching of evolution (search) was too restrictive. The science curriculum "should not be totally inclusive of just one scientific theory," said Joni Burgin, superintendent of the district of 1,000 students in northwest Wisconsin.
Last month, when the board examined its science curriculum, language was added calling for "various models/theories" of origin to be incorporated.
The decision provoked more than 300 biology and religious studies faculty members to write a letter last week urging the Grantsburg (search) board to reverse the policy. It follows a letter sent previously by 43 deans at Wisconsin public universities.
"Insisting that teachers teach alternative theories of origin in biology classes takes time away from real learning, confuses some students and is a misuse of limited class time and public funds," said Don Waller, a botanist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
Wisconsin law mandates that evolution be taught, but school districts are free to create their own curricular standards, said Joe Donovan, a spokesman for the state Department of Public Instruction.
There have been scattered efforts around the nation for other school boards to adopt similar measures. Last month the Dover Area School Board in Pennsylvania voted to require the teaching of alternative theories to evolution, including "intelligent design" — the idea that life is too complex to have developed without a creator.
The state education board in Kansas was heavily criticized in 1999 when it deleted most references to evolution. The decision was reversed in 2001.
In March, the Ohio Board of Education narrowly approved a lesson plan that some critics contended opens the door to teaching creationism.