Texas Education Chainsaw Massacre: Part 3

WE’VE SELECTED the one best of several new press accounts describing what happened at the end of the hearing on 21 January held by the creationist-dominated Texas Board of Education (BOE), which made a number of last-minute changes to the state’s science education standards that no one was expecting. As out title suggests, it was indeed a massacre.

Those concerned with quality science education 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. But the creationists had a Plan B ready for deployment. The science community is now waking up to the reality of what happened.

As we reported in Part 2, the new creationist code words are “analyze and evaluate.” All prior talking points memos issued to their mindless followers by the neo-theocrats at the Discovery Institute’s Center for Science and Culture (a/k/a the Discoveroids) about “strengths and weaknesses” seem to be superseded. We can soon expect an outbreak newly revised creationist books designed to confuse students, which will be titled “Analyzing and Evaluating Evolution.”

In the Houston Chronicle we read Scientists: Board proposals undermine evolution teaching. Here are some excerpts. The bold font was added by us:

Texas schools won’t have to teach the weaknesses of evolution theories anymore, but the State Board of Education ushered in other proposed changes Friday that some scientists say still undermine evolution instruction and subject the state to ridicule.

[…]

On Friday, however, the board looked again at the issue and decided students should have to evaluate a variety of fossil types and assess the arguments against universal common descent, which serves as a main principle of evolution — that all organisms have a common ancestor.

The board’s effort to undermine “universal common descent” in public schools will make the state’s science standards “an object of ridicule,” said Steve Schafersman, president of Texas Citizens for Science.

“It’s really unscientific. It promotes creationism. It says that students will be required to learn arguments against common descent or ancestral connections,” Schafersman said. “The only alternative to common descent is creationism in their minds.”

Quite true. The creationists on the BOE did an end-run around the solid front presented by the science community. It’s embarrassing to be out-foxed by a pack of creationists, but that’s exactly what happened. However, given the composition of the BOE, it seems inevitable in retrospect. When one side of the debate plays it straight, and the other side is devoted to duplicity, nothing else can be expected. Your Curmudgeon advocated a boycott of the hearing, but things didn’t play out that way.

Let’s read on:

Also added to the proposed standards by [creationist dentist] board Chairman Don McLeroy, R-Bryan, is an amendment that directs science teachers and students to “describe the sufficiency or insufficiency of common ancestry to explain the sudden appearance, stasis and sequential nature of groups in the fossil record.

The kiddies in Texas are being sentenced to a life of dark-ages ignorance. Is it all over? Probably, but maybe not. The article reminds us:

Scientists vowed to fight the plan before the board takes final action in March. New science curriculum standards will influence new science textbooks for the state’s 4.7 million public school children beginning in the 2010-11 school year.

The Discoveroids are celebrating in Seattle. They’ve sent out for an emergency shipment of Kool Aid to restock their usually ample supply.

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2 responses to “Texas Education Chainsaw Massacre: Part 3

  1. Steven Schafersman, president of Texas Citizens for Science and one of the TEKS writers, has a full explanation and critique of the last-minute amendments here.

  2. James, that’s good. Steven has been doing an excellent job. I imagine he’s furious at what happened.