- Associated Press - Monday, April 28, 2014

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) - South Carolina’s Education Oversight Committee wants high school students to question evolution.

The independent agency’s board voted 7-4 Monday on biology standards that would require students to use scientific evidence to both support and discredit Charles Darwin’s theory of natural selection.

The recommendation pushed by Sen. Mike Fair, R-Greenville, will return to the state Board of Education for consideration. The committee and board must agree upon any change as part of the state’s required review of teaching standards. The two were at an impasse over the same issue in 2006.

Fair introduced the amendment in response to new language in the standards requiring the teaching of evolution. He blocked passage of the biology standards in February.

Fair told the committee he is concerned that Darwinism is being taught as fact to students and not as a “disproven theory” as he argued in a presentation titled, “The (Lack of) Science of Evolution.”

Fair said the changes will allow teachers to critically engage with their students over evolution and that it should be judged upon its merits and not his perceived motivation.

“It allows them to say, ‘Darwin got it right here but over here he didn’t and let me tell you why,’ ” Fair said.

Entrepreneur and committee member John Warner opposed the questioning of evolution in the classroom and said, “Until somebody else comes along with a better explanation, this is science and this is what we ought to be teaching our children.”

Fellow committee member Barbara Hairfield, a Charleston County educator, said she’s concerned the recommended change verges on teaching religion.

Rep. Bill Bowers, D-Hampton, said he agreed with the amendment as neither side of the argument could be proven.

“It seems that we are doing a disservice to our students if we continue to teach evolution as 100 percent fact,” Bowers said. “What does it hurt to ask them to look at both sides?”

The rest of the science standards on what students kindergarten through 12th grade should learn were approved by the committee in February.