The Fayette Citizen-News Page

Wednesday, February 4, 2004

Cox unwavered by barrage of critics


Kathy Cox remains undeterred by the deluge of criticism coming her way from across the nation since last week, when she suggested removing the word “evolution” from Georgia’s proposed new science curriculum, her spokesman said Monday.

The state schools chief has decided that public opinion will dictate whether or not the “E” word remains in teacher’s resource materials when the state Board of Education considers adopting the curriculum overhaul in May, said Kirk Englehardt.

In the meantime, don’t expect to hear much out of Cox on the issue, he said.

“Essentially, we’re listening and letting the public debate take place,” said Englehardt, adding that a positive result of the controversy that erupted last Thursday was a huge leap in the amount of feedback from the public to the proposed changes.

“We wanted people to go online and examine these changes, and we’ve achieved that by leaps and bounds,” he said.

As of Monday, more than 850 formal responses had been logged from Georgians who have studied the course outlines via the Internet and took the time to offer suggestions or concerns. Cox will consider all those responses seriously, Englehardt said, when the a committee gathers in March to put the finishing touches on the new teaching standards.

Cox, a former legislator and Peachtree City resident, returned on Friday to McIntosh High, where she taught until resigning in May 2002 to run for office.

She was there barely an hour, to guest-teach a course on criminal justice and discuss a proposal by Gov. Sonny Perdue to revoke the driver’s licenses of high school dropouts. She avoided the evolution debate.

Perdue, one of Cox’s closest allies, on Monday suggested that she was “thinking out loud” and said the word “evolution” should remain in state classrooms.

Also on Monday, the liberal Internet site “Democratic Underground” listed Cox as No. 3 on their list of “Top 10 Conservative Idiots.” Her position made headlines on front pages throughout the nation, from the Red & Black in Athens to the New York Times.

Friday afternoon as Cox was leaving McIntosh High, radio news reports led with new criticism, this time from former President Jimmy Carter who apparently was told the theory was being taken out of state science textbooks altogether.

That led Englehardt to fire off a phone call to the Carter Center, where he encountered staffers ill-informed on the matter, he said.

“A lot of people who’ve been critical of this haven’t read the guidelines that would be taught and really don’t know what they’re talking about,” he said.

In a news conference Thursday afternoon, Cox defended removal of “evolution,” the word, though she insisted that the theory of evolution will still be taught starting in the earliest grades.

“The unfortunate truth is that ‘evolution’ has become a controversial buzzword that could prevent some from reading the proposed biology curriculum comprehensive document with multiple scientific models woven throughout,” said Cox Thursday.

“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, a member of Peachtree City United Methodist Church, insisted the decision had nothing to do with her faith or pressures from religious conservatives offended that the theory of evolution is often taught as fact, though never proven.

The changes to the science terminology are just a part of the massive overhaul of the state-mandated curriculum taught to every Georgia public school student.

Public review and revisions of the new standards will continue through spring. The state Board of Education is tentatively set to vote on passage in May, which is necessary in order to start altering the methods and subject matter taught in the earliest grades.

The proposed Georgia curriculum for kindergarten through grade 12 can be viewed at There is an online form for people to offer feedback.

The proposed biology standards are based on the American Association for the Advancement of Science benchmarks. Its complete approach to teaching evolution can be found at:

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