Thursday, May 28, 2009

Texans for Better Science Education Push For SBOE Chairman McLeroy's Confirmation

Update May 28, 2009 at 5:10PM - Voting strictly along party lines, the Senate refused to confirm McLeroy on a 19 to 11 vote - two less than the two-thirds majority required for confirmation. (With one Democrat not voting)

Original Post May 28, 2009 at 12:17PM - Senate confirmation of Don McLeroy as chairman of the State Board of Education (SBOE) is expected to come up in the Texas Senate some time Thursday or Friday. McLeroy, a dentist who has no background in science or education, was first appointed SBOE chairman by Republican Governor Rick Perry in the summer of 2007. McLeroy was reappointed as SBOE chairman by Gov. Perry in 2009. Whether he can garner two-thirds approval from senators is an open question. Earlier in the session, many lawmakers believed his nomination wasn't even going to get out of committee.

The right-leaning Texans for Better Science Education, who advocates teaching creationism rather than evolution in Texas science classrooms, has sent "URGENT" messages to its members, asking them to call their senators to support McLeroy's confirmation. The group's argument?
"...He is being attacked NOT for anything done wrong during his two years as chair of the SBOE but primarily because he is Christian!"
Texans for Better Science Education contend that McLeroy is being attacked primarily [just] for being a Christian because;
As chairman of the State Board of Education, McLeroy advocates that Texas public school students should be taught "creation science" rather than biological evolution science. McLeroy is convinced that evolution taught uncritically to Texas students undermines the tenet of Christianity that people were created in the image of God.

McLeroy advocates that the Texas education standard, as set by the SBOE, must require Texas educators to have a "critical discussion" on the “strengths and weaknesses of scientific theories" with public school students.

McLeroy advocates that the science disciplines of physics, geology, biology and the archaeological study of the fossil record, which all provide evidence the earth is 4.5 billion years old and that biological processes first appeared at least 3.9 billion years ago, must be critically challenged by Texas teachers.

McLeroy advocates that teachers must engage Texas students in a "critical discussion" that archaeological evidence in the fossil record does not support the idea of natural selection as an explanation of how organisms evolved on earth over millions of years.

McLeroy wants teachers to lead students to the believe that cells and the DNA code controlling their function is so complex that intelligent design by a creator and not evolution is the only answer that can be accepted. McLeroy further advocates that the alternative "intelligent design scientific theory" should be offered to Texas students by science teachers.
In March, 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 discussion and textbooks for the next decade.

In March, the State Board of Education removed the “critical discussion of strengths and weaknesses of scientific theories" language from the official education standard. McLeroy, supported by other creationists on the board, then effectively restored the “strengths and weaknesses of scientific theories" intent with alternative language. The amended phrases ask teachers to prompt students to “examine all sides of scientific evidence and scientific explanations so as to encourage critical thinking.”

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 nationwide. The new standard, with McLeroy's new language, allows him to pressure national textbook publishers to write the “strengths and weaknesses of evolution discussion" into textbooks used nationwide.

The Texans for Better Science Education group has focused their lobbying efforts on three socially-moderate Republican Senators, Sens. Seliger, Wentworth and Averitt, who have not yet voiced support for McLeroy.

KERA: Texas Schools Lag Behind in Bioscience Education (May 19, 2009)

"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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