THE best thing we can say is this: It could have been worse.
If you’ve been following events in Texas, you can skip the background information in the next two indented paragraphs.
These are the final hearings on the Texas science education standards. Presiding over this show-trial is Don McLeroy, the creationist dentist whom Governor Rick Perry appointed as chairman of the Texas Board of Education (BOE), and he’s determined to draft a science curriculum that will assure the teaching of creationism in Texas science classes. The hearings should conclude with a final vote on 27 March.
For these three days, the BOE will consider — or pretend to consider — whether the phrase “strengths and weaknesses” should remain deleted from the state’s science standards regarding evolution, and whether the recently added requirement that students should “analyze and evaluate” the “sufficiency or insufficiency” of evolution should remain.
There’s not much point in over-analyzing this thing. Here’s how the press is reporting the situation now that the third day has ended. Any bold in the excerpts that follow was added by us.
In the Houston Chronicle we read: Texas Ed board approves science standards. They tell us:
State education leaders forged a compromise on the teaching of evolution Friday, capping a week of impassioned debate that had scientists, teachers and textbook publishers from around the country focused on Texas.
The move represented something of a victory for pro-evolutionists, who wanted the State Board of Education to drop a 20-year-old requirement that both “strengths and weaknesses” of all scientific theories be taught.
Well, yes, that was a good thing. But the creationists slipped in a few items to compensate them for the loss of “strengths and weaknesses.” Continuing:
But the board’s 13-2 vote also means students in public school will be encouraged to scrutinize “all sides” of scientific theories. That left some of the pro-evolution crowd upset.
One of the creationists on the BOE is quoted:
The words strengths and weaknesses have become “code for creationism and (the similar theory of) intelligent design,” said board member Barbara Cargill, R-The Woodlands. “So by being more clear in the language and using words that aren’t seen as code words, we were able to get all of the 15 board members to agree that this is how we’ll teach all sides of scientific explanation, using scientific evidence.”
All sides. Right! And that’s got the creationists at the Discovery Institute celebrating in Seattle. See: Big Win in Texas as State Now Leads Nation in Requiring Critical Analysis of Evolution in High School Science Classes, which starts out saying: “In a huge victory for those who favor teaching the scientific evidence for and against evolution, Texas today moved to the head of the class …”
Back to the Houston Chronicle:
In a string of amendments proposed after the compromise, the board adopted subtle changes that critics say cast a shadow over key tenets of the theory of evolution — natural selection and common ancestry.
In the Wall Street Journal we read: Texas Opens Classroom Door for Evolution Doubts. They don’t hold back:
In many ways, Friday’s action kicks the hot-button issues down the road to 2011, when the board will use the new standards to adopt the textbooks Texas students will use for a decade.
It’s not just evolution at issue: The board also approved an earth-science curriculum that challenges the widely accepted Big Bang Theory. Students are expected to learn that there are “differing theories” on the “origin and history of the universe.”
Board members also deleted a reference to the scientific consensus that the universe is nearly 14 billion years old. The board’s chairman has said he believes God created the universe fewer than 10,000 years ago.
At the website of the Texas Freedom Network, which did a great job of live-blogging the hearings, we read: Science Takes Hit in Texas. They say:
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.
Indeed. Give a creationist a little bit of wiggle room and he’ll try to sail Noah’s Ark through it. Texas is going to be an educational problem for years. Wait until the time comes for the BOE to select textbooks.
But that’s not all. Don’t forget that Texas has other trouble brewing:
Creationists in the Texas legislature have opened a second front by introducing H.B. 4224 in the Texas House of Representatives. It’s one of those anti-science, anti-evolution, pro-creationism bills modeled after the misleadingly-named Academic Freedom Act, promoted by the neo-theocrats at the Discovery Institute’s Center for Science and Culture (a/k/a the Discoveroids).
Also, House Bill 2800, introduced on March 9, 2009, would exempt institutions such as the Institute for Creation Research (ICR) from the jurisdiction of the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board. That board officially certifies the degrees offered by Texas colleges and universities; and the proposed exemption would allow ICR to grant a master’s degree in creationism.
But we’d like to close with some good news about Texas; and the best we can think of is this: We won’t have to write about Don McLeroy any more — at least for a while.
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