Friday, March 27, 2009

Science Takes Hits in Texas

After a year of fierce debate about how evolution should be taught (or not taught) in Texas public schools, the State Board of Education (SBOE) voted on and passed a final version of new science education standards that will guide the content of science textbooks and classroom curriculum for the next decade.

Just to review yesterday’s action, a reference to the “weaknesses” of evolution was removed from the education standard during the morning, but in the afternoon creationists on the board passed several other amendments to the standard that again opens the door for Texas teachers to effectively still have a "critical discussion" on the “strengths and weaknesses of scientific theories" with public school students. The amendment phrases ask teachers to prompt students to “examine all sides of scientific evidence and scientific explanations so as to encourage critical thinking.”

Today, in its final vote on the new eduction standard the entire standard as written, including those fuzzy and open to interpretation 'examine all sides' amendments, were adopted. Those teachers and school districts who want to criticize evolution and discuss the 'scientific theory of intelligent design' will no doubt interpret the amendment language as their license to do so.

The SBOE's decision has a large impact across the U.S. given Texas' ability, because of its size, to influence what is printed in textbooks. The just adopted standard, with the last minute amendments, allows Don McLeroy, young earth creationist chairman of the Texas State Board of Education, to pressure textbook publishers to write the “strengths and weaknesses of evolution discussion" into textbooks used nationwide.

The Texas Freedom Network has released the following statement on the final adoption of science curriculum standards by the State Board of Education today:

March 27, 2000

TFN President Kathy Miller: Texas State Board of Education Adopts Flawed Science Standards

The word “weaknesses” no longer appears in the science standards. But the document still has plenty of potential footholds for creationist attacks on evolution to make their way into Texas classrooms.

Through a series of contradictory and convoluted amendments, the board crafted a road map that creationists will use to pressure publishers into putting phony arguments attacking established science into textbooks.

We appreciate that the politicians on the board seek compromise, but don’t agree that compromises can be made on established mainstream science or on honest education policy.

What’s truly unfortunate is that we now have to revisit this entire debate in two years when new science textbooks are adopted. Perhaps the Texas legislature can do something to prevent that.


The Texas Freedom Network is a nonpartisan, grassroots organization of religious and community leaders who advance a mainstream agenda supporting public education, religious freedom and individual liberties.
The Texas Freedom Network live-blogged today's meeting and has a good play-by-play of the amendments and maneuverings on their blog. The Texas Observer blog has several posts worth reading and here is The Austin American-Statesman's story link.

Capitol Annex: “Analyze, Evaluate And Critique” Becomes New “Strenghts & Weaknesses” For Science Educators In Texas

Related Posts:
Seven experts briefly describe the essence of science and how it differs from religion.

"Only a Theory" 2:19
Barbara Forrest, Professor of Philosophy Southeastern Louisiana University - "When creationists try to dismiss evolution as 'only a theory,' they are misusing the word theory."

Avoiding the Supernatural 1:41
Nick Matzke, Public Information Project Director National Center for Science Education - "A conservative judge isn't going to just redefine science."

Science and Religion 2:29
Ken Miller, Biologist Brown University - "What science isn't very good at is answering questions [on] the meaning and purpose of things."

On Isaac Newton 1:34

A Solid Theory 1:18
Kevin Padian, Paleontologist UC Berkeley - "I don't know where people get the idea that evolution is a theory in crisis."

Natural Explanations 1:33
Robert T. Pennock, Philosopher and Evolutionary Scientist Michigan State University - "You can't have gaps that you fill in by appeal to miracles."

Science Is Not Dogmatic 2:02

Science Tests Its Claims 1:12
Eugenie Scott, Executive Director National Center for Science Education - "If you teach intelligent design as a science, you are confusing students about the nature of science."

The Power of Science 1:23
Neil Shubin, Paleontologist University of Chicago and the Field Museum - "Not every idea, no matter how beautiful, qualifies as science."

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