November 30, 2015

SC Big Story: Education panel wants students to question Darwinism

State Sen. Mike Fair, R-Greenville (File)

State Sen. Mike Fair, R-Greenville (File)

A committee that sets academic standards for K-12 students has tried to break an impasse on science standards by agreeing to teach evolutionary biology as a subject where disagreement exists.

The South Carolina Education Oversight Committee voted 7-4 on Monday to recommend new language that would require biology students to construct scientific arguments that both seem to support and seem to discredit Darwinism, according to the Charleston Post & Courier.

The effort was led by State Sen. Mike Fair, R-Greenville, who has long pushed back against new science standards that he says don’t address the Creationist position at all. On Monday, Fair said he supported teaching evolutionary biology in high school, so long as educators “teach the controversy.”

However, opponents worried that Fair’s proposal was not scientifically-based. Fellow committee member Barbara Hairfield said she feared it was essentially “promoting religion in the classroom.”

The new proposal now heads to the state Board of Education. Both bodies must agree on the final regulation before it can be included in the state’s standards.

— The Republican Governors’ Association has released a second round of TV ads that attack Democratic gubernatorial candidate State Sen. Vincent Sheheen over clients he once represented in criminal court. The American Bar Association, which rarely gets involved in political races, has condemned the ads for what it considers vilifying lawyers. Haley’s campaign spokesman maintains the ads are truthful.

A new report from The State newspaper questions if the embattled state Department of Social Services did enough to prevent the death of a Richland County infant this month. The newspaper reports the agency was notified by a medical provider on March 3 that the 5-month-old baby had a heart issue and required electronic monitoring, but DSS caseworkers did not make contact with the family until after the child died in late April. DSS officials said they could not locate the family.

— Several ice storms combined with an especially wet summer 2013 mean South Carolina farmers have lost almost a third of their crop over the past 15 months, according to state Agriculture Commissioner Hugh Weathers. Weathers said near-freezing temperatures continued unusually deep into the spring and took a heavy tool on early peach crops. It also delayed the planting of other vegetable crops.

— South Carolina’s Department of Natural Resources has purchased 1,600 acres of lakefront property along Lake Wateree in Lancaster County, with the intention of eventually turning the land into a public hunting preserve. DNR acquired the property for $4.5 million from The Conservation Fund. Agency officials say they hope to open the Liberty Hill Farms tract as a Wildlife Management Area before the year’s end.

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