Texas Science Education: Jumping off the Roof?

THERE ARE stages a suicide jumper goes through before he finally leaps from the top of a tall building and splashes to the ground — always in view of a large crowd of horrified onlookers. Science education in Texas has already “progressed” through the early stages — it has arrived on the roof and is announcing its intention to jump. The next stage will be going to the edge and shouting: “Don’t try to stop me! I’m serious!”

We’ve been reporting about how the curriculum of Texas public schools is determined by a little-known group called the state Board of Education, or BOE. That board is currently in the grip of a pack of creationists, chaired by Don McLeroy, a creationist dentist. They imagine themselves to be on a mission from God to utterly destroy science education in their state. See: Texas Science Education: It’s up to Don McLeroy.

The BOE’s latest manifestation of DDS — Darwin Derangement Syndrome, a term we’ve chosen to honor chairman McLeroy’s profession — is discussed by the Dallas Morning News in this story: STATE BOARD OF EDUCATION.

Social conservatives on the State Board of Education have appointed three evolution critics to a six-member committee that will review proposed curriculum standards for science courses in Texas schools.

Isn’t that great? People who are virtually flat-earthers are going to decide the way science is taught in Texas. Here’s more:

Two of the appointees are authors of a book that questions many of the tenets of Charles Darwin’s theory of how humans and other life forms evolved. One of them, Stephen Meyer, is also vice president of the Discovery Institute, a Seattle-based group that promotes an explanation of the origin of life similar to creationism. The other author is Ralph Seelke, a biology professor at the University of Wisconsin-Superior.


Also on the panel is Baylor University chemistry professor Charles Garner, who, like the other two, signed the Discovery Institute’s “Dissent from Darwinism” statement that sharply questions key aspects of the theory of evolution.

This is as crazy as appointing a team of moon-landing denialists to a committee on the future of space exploration. You’re probably wondering: How did the BOE do such an insane thing? Read on:

The committee was chosen by 12 of the 15 members of the board of education …

In other words, the BOE has been almost entirely taken over by creationists — like the invading body-snatchers, those creepy pod-people in the old grade-B movie.

There are critics of the BOE, but at the moment they’re having little effect. The news article tells us:

Texas Freedom Network President Kathy Miller, who frequently spars with social conservative groups, called it “simply stunning that any state board members would even consider appointing authors of an anti-evolution textbook to a panel of scientists.” The textbook is titled Explore Evolution.

That book, by the way, has been ripped to shreds in this recent review: A biologist reviews an evolution textbook from the ID camp.

There’s another article today on the same topic, this one in the Austin American-Statesman, where we read Expert education panel sparks doubts: Three nominees set to review Texas science standards question theory of evolution. Here’s an excerpt:

One of the leading proponents of intelligent design and two scientists who say they have doubts about the theory of evolution are among the six-member panel of experts that will be reviewing a set of proposed science curriculum standards expected to be adopted by the state next year.

The standards, which are scheduled to be approved by the State Board of Education next March, will determine what is taught in Texas science classes and found in state science textbooks for the next decade.

Texas science education is now on the roof of that tall building, approaching the edge. We’re in the crowd below, looking up at the would-be suicide. How will this little drama end? We don’t know yet, but all around, we can hear other spectators starting to yell: “Jump! Jump!

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9 responses to “Texas Science Education: Jumping off the Roof?

  1. It’s been a while since I’ve checked into the status of textbook adoption around the country, but if Texas still has the enormous influence that it did several years ago, this situation is worse than you think.

    Because of Texas’ size and number of students, their textbook adoption has had a huge impact on the textbooks produced for the rest of the country. They have consistently rejected texts that don’t square with their worldview, sending them back to the publishers to “fix.”

    Consequently, many of the publishers have pre-edited (read: self-censored) their texts in order to pass the Texas adoption process with fewer edits. And then these same texts are submitted to every other state in the union for potential adoption.

    Anyway, like I mentioned, I’m not certain if the situation is as bad as it was several years ago, but if it is…oh boy.

  2. You’re right, Texas can have a huge impact on the textbook industry. That’s why the Discoveroids are making a big push there, with their own personnel directly involved. It’s also why they were so disappointed last year when they lost in Florida with their “academic freedom” legislation. Their victory in Louisiana last year wasn’t too important, because it’s not a big state. But they’ll take whatever they can get.

  3. May I recommend supporting two pro-science SBOE candidates, Laura Ewing and Dr. Edra Bogle, who could unseat the resident creationists?


  4. All Texas voters, heed James’ advice.

  5. retiredsciguy

    I’m sure the Texas Chamber of Commerce would be very concerned. These developments would certainly make any high-tech company shy away from locating in Texas. For that matter, it makes it difficult for any company in Texas to recruit educated execs. I mean, what thinking parent would want to send his or her child to a public school in Texas if this is how they are run?

  6. So, what is the best strategy for the non-creationist members of the committee? It would almost seem that they should refuse to participate in the farce, a la the Kansas Kangaroo Court, and let McLeroy wind up in court, where the Discovery Institute, by their direct participation, would be subject to (um) discovery.

  7. carlsonjok says:

    It would almost seem that they should refuse to participate in the farce …

    I donno. It’s obvious that the genuine scientists on the committee are there only for window-dressing. It’s the same as the hearings in the Louisiana legislature, where they loaded up the witness list with “science” teachers from a bible college, or — as you say — the Kansas hearings. I have a big problem with presentations that are said to be “fair and balanced,” when one side has nothing of value to offer.

  8. retiredsciguy

    carlsonjok says:
    “So, what is the best strategy for the non- creationist members of the committee? ”
    I think they should get the word out to the business community and the media about what’s going on, and why they should be concerned.

  9. retiredsciguy wrote:

    I think they should get the word out to the business community and the media about what’s going on, and why they should be concerned.

    They should also make a formal request for data in peer-reviewed scientific research papers demonstrating the “weaknesses” of evolution, and make it a matter of public record when they fail to do so, since such literature does not exist.