Texas Education Chainsaw Massacre: Part 4

AS THE WORLD knows by now, the creationist-dominated Texas Board of Education (BOE) made a number of last-minute changes to the state’s science education standards — changes that no one was expecting. This was done right at the end of the hearing on 21 January at which the pro-science witnesses were focused on whether the BOE should keep the anti-science, anti-evolution, creationism-friendly “strengths and weaknesses” language in the state’s current standards for science education.

As we mentioned earlier, the creationists had a Plan B ready for deployment. The generations-old game of “Sneak Creationism Into Public School Science Classes” has now changed; and the creationists changed the rules while the game was in progress. You think that wasn’t fair? They don’t care what you think. Hey, what’s the point of having a creationist board if they can’t cheat whenever they want?

The code-phrase strengths and weaknesses is out. The new creationist code-phrase is “analyze and evaluate.” Those once known as creationists, then creation-scientists, and more recently, intelligent design advocates, are now evolution analysts and evaluators. The new science education standards in Texas provide a place for these purveyors of pre-scientific “science,” due to the treachery of the BOE and the naivete of the science witnesses, who should have boycotted the hearings because they were an obvious show-trial.

Each of the science advocates at the 21 January hearing left that event with a figurative dental drill jammed into his anatomy, an act sneakily but joyfully performed by Don McLeroy, the creationist dentist who is chairman of the Texas BOE. (Your Curmudgeon has obviously exhausted his stock of tasteful metaphors.)

Here are excerpts from today’s newspapers, as the rational world begins to realize how the creationists have totally out-maneuvered the scientists. The bold font was added by us.

We’ll lead off with an editorial in the Waco Tribune-Herald, Word games with evolution:

Thursday, in what brought the most attention and was a stinging setback for evolution opponents, a committee voted to uphold this recommendation made by a curriculum advisory panel: Drop the current requirement in state standards that requires teaching the “strengths and weaknesses” of scientific theory. Though the standards in question aren’t explicit, it’s clear the phrase was meant to open the door to the undermining of evolution theory. Well, score one for sound science.

Yes, but …

Then, in a move that brought less fanfare, the board approved wording proposed by chairman Don McLeroy, a creationist. It would insert into high school biology standards the requirement to “analyze and evaluate the sufficiency or insufficiency of common ancestry to explain the sudden appearance, stasis, and sequential nature of groups in the fossil record.”

Yes, that’s what the BOE did. Now what do the editors of the Waco Tribune-Herald think about it?

Just as Texas’ standards have shed the “strengths and weaknesses” wording pending final approval in March, so should this add-on be subtracted.

[...]

Texans should insist that when these standards are finalized, religiously driven word games are not part of the end result. The result should be science in science class.

Fine, except it wasn’t strong enough. Besides, the BOE doesn’t care what anyone else thinks. They’re on a mission.

Next, we turn to the Daily Texan, which appears to be a student publication serving the University of Texas at Austin, in which we read Board’s vote to change state evolution curriculum stirs controversy:

The State Board of Education voted unanimously Friday to adopt controversial changes for Texas public schools’ science curriculum. The board deleted the words “strengths and weaknesses” and added language about “analyzing and evaluating” scientific explanations of evolution as argued over during Wednesday’s public hearing.

One of Thursday’s most controversial amendments pertained to teaching about fossils. According to the the amendment, students should “evaluate a variety of fossil types, proposed transitional fossils, fossil lineages and significant fossil deposits and assess the arguments for and against universal common descent in light of this fossil evidence.”

Steven Schafersman, a geologist and a member of the workgroup that helped write the new standards, said the revision is unscientific and unacceptable. Schafersman is also the current president of Texas Citizens for Science, an advocacy group opposing the teaching of creationism in schools.

“Transitional fossils are not ‘proposed,’” Schafersman said in a written response to the amendments. “There is no doubt about their existence, so insertion of the word ‘proposed’ makes that part unscientific, since it suggests a false uncertainty.”

Schafersman added, “There are no good arguments in modern science ‘against universal common descent,’ which has been accepted by biologists for over 130 years, so the phrase is asking for something that authors and publishers cannot honestly supply, especially to high school students.”

Thanks to the tireless efforts of Don McLeroy, the creationist dentist, good people like Steven Schafersman, who trusted the BOE to run a fair and open hearing, got caught in the Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Dr. Schafersman now has the creationist dental drill protruding from … well, you know. This is very embarrassing, but darn it — you folks should have seen it coming!

The New York Times has an editorial on the subject, Texas Two-Step, which concludes:

The lesson we draw from these shenanigans is that scientifically illiterate boards of education should leave the curriculum to educators and scientists who know what constitutes a sound education.

Yes, but we doubt that anyone in Texas cares what the New York Times says, even if they happen to be right on this one.

Copyright © 2009. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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6 responses to “Texas Education Chainsaw Massacre: Part 4

  1. Those once known as creationists, then creation-scientists, and more recently, intelligent design advocates, are now evolution analysts and evaluators.

    Or evo-anal-valuers for short…

  2. Great Claw says: “Or evo-anal-valuers for short…”

    Yes, but being a Curmudgeon, I’ll just keep calling them creationists.

  3. I vote for “explore and examine” after “analyze and evaluate” tanks. Perhaps it will weaken to the point that they’ll change tactics and say they were theistic evolutionists all along.

    I think what no one saw coming was that the sensible members of the board – Democrats and Republicans alike – caved in and approved several last-minute amendments. Was it exhaustion? Does McLeroy have a Marathon Man-like persuasiveness? Hopefully this nonsense will be scraped off the final standards like so much plaque.

  4. “…proposed transitional fossils…”
    He’s not even a good creationist. Every true creationist knows that there are no transitional fossils.

  5. MO says: “Every true creationist knows that there are no transitional fossils.”

    He really meant “so-called transitional fossils not yet exposed as frauds.”

  6. You need more scare quotes (and italics);

    “so-called” “transitional” “fossils” not yet exposed as frauds