Monday, November 24, 2008

Texas Board of Education Reconsiders Evolution

Coming on the heels of a Florida state school board decision to place in their curriculum the notion that Evolution was merely a theory, Texas’ State Board of Education is reconsidering its stance on the teaching of Evolution in Texas’ public schools.

The occasion is the board’s task to rewrite the state’s curriculum 10 years after its 1998 adoption of the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills or TEKS.

On November 19th the board met in a public hearing to hear testimony on the teaching of Evolution in public school, an occasion that was live blogged here.

It should come as no surprise that Texas’ state board of education contains several members from the religious right that have an agenda to suppress the teaching of evolution in public schools in favor of their preferred theory in use, the one called Intelligent Design.

That is, God did it. Did it all.

Now the fact that other state boards of education have taken this on, and have had their members voted out of office doesn’t faze the Texas board. Not in the least. These creationist school board members know that they have the backing of a strongly religious Texas population.

For now.

To get a feel for what they are attempting to do, take a look here, at the second draft of the high school science TEKS that was posted a week before the public meeting.

I’ll tell you what the first thing I looked at was after reading the link in the title to this posting. §112.43.c(3)A.

Here is what it says in the adopted 1998 document:
“analyze, review, and critique scientific explanations, including hypotheses and theories, as to their strengths and weaknesses using scientific evidence and information;”
This little gem was placed there by the religious right members of the board in 1998 to use as a wedge in the years to come to encourage students to challenge scientific principles and theories, and pressure textbook publishers into making equivocal statements on scientific knowledge.

If you don’t believe me, take a look at this document at the TEA website, which lists challenges to biology content in a high school biology textbook published by Glencoe.

The challenges were lodged by the Discovery Institute a supposed nonpartisan institute that promotes the conservative evangelical agenda. They make heavy use of §112.43.c(3)A. For example.
“Because of its factual errors and lack of information, the text does not enable students to “analyze, review, and critique” this scientific explanation as to its “strengths and weaknesses using scientific evidence and information” (TEKS 112.43c(3)A). ”
Now what does the science curriculum team propose to do with this infamous section? Delete it and combine it with draft version 1 of section (3)B. It is proposed that (3)A now say this:
“analyze and evaluate strengths and limitations of scientific explanations including those based on accepted scientific data, and evidence from students’ observations, experiments, models, and logical statements;”
So in place of “weaknesses” we have “limitations.”

This, I suppose, is in response to the scientific community’s objection that “strengths and weaknesses” is not a valid scientific concern. As in what these guys say.

So by entirely dropping the word “weaknesses” the state board thinks it has the problem solved. But I just checked my thesaurus. “Limitation” is a synonym for “weakness.”

So it’s still there, only better hidden than it once was.

They just don't get it do they? For the same reason that there are no weaknesses in evolution, there are also no limitations. A scientific theory or a biological principle cannot and should not be “evaluated” based on its weaknesses, nor on its limitations. This isn’t even science.

It’s Sunday School.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I have no problem with the teaching of "Intelligent? Design" as long as it it taught ONLY in Churches and private schools. Taxpayer supported schools should not be used to teach religious dogma and superstition. American children cannot compete in science with students of other nations already due to Fundamentalists control of science curricula.