updated 2/5/2004 1:13:09 PM ET 2004-02-05T18:13:09

Georgia’s school superintendent Thursday dropped plans to remove the word “evolution” from the state’s high school science curriculum.

“I will recommend to the teacher teams that the word ‘evolution’ be put back in the curriculum,” Kathy Cox said in a statement.

Cox said she originally wanted to replace “evolution” with the phrase “biological changes over time” to avoid controversy.

“Instead, a greater controversy ensued,” she said.

The proposal drew widespread criticism. Former President Carter said it exposed the state to nationwide ridicule.

The proposed change was included in more than 800 pages of draft revisions to the curriculum posted last month on the Department of Education’s Web site. The changes are scheduled to go before the state Board of Education for a vote in May.

'Right thing to do'
“It was the right thing to do,” said Gov. Sonny Perdue, a Republican, who had said he thought Cox should drop the proposed change. “As public officials, we don’t have the luxury of thinking out loud; I believe that’s what she was doing.”

House Education Committee Chairman Bob Holmes, a Democrat from Atlanta, said Cox had little choice considering the widespread criticism the plan received.

“I’m glad she was responsive to the outcry, both by scientists and other political leaders who felt this was something completely unneccessary,” Holmes said.

Negative buzzword?
Some religious conservatives applauded Cox’s proposal as a step toward teaching creationism in schools, while others said it changed little, since the concept of evolution would still be taught.

Cox, a Republican elected in 2002, repeatedly referred to evolution as a negative buzzword and said the ban was proposed, in part, to alleviate pressure on teachers in socially conservative areas where parents object to its teaching.

Under her proposal, the concept of evolution would have still been taught, but the word would not be used in the classroom. The proposal would not have required schools to buy new textbooks omitting the word evolution and would not have prevented teachers from using the word in class.

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