Texas Creationism Update (06 Mar ’09)

THERE hasn’t been much news lately out of Texas about their evolution controversy, but Fox News has this story: Texas Debate Over Evolution Curriculum Could Affect Nation’s Textbooks. Here are some excerpts, with bold added by us:

A battle is brewing in Texas that could change the nation’s science textbooks and the way evolution is taught in school.

The State Board of Education is now conducting a formal review of standards it uses in its science curriculum after the board voted in January to drop a 20-year-old mandate that science teachers address both “strengths and weaknesses” of the theory of evolution.

That mandate was a compromise between religious conservatives who question evolution and scientists who embrace it. Federal courts have ruled against forcing the teaching of creationism and the similar theory of intelligent design.

Gotta love Fox News for saying “creationism and the similar theory of intelligent design.” Let’s read on:

The reversal of the mandate prompted the education board’s Republican chairman, Don McLeroy, to tack on an amendment to the preliminary draft, essentially restoring the requirement.

We wrote about that bit of trickery here: Texas Education Chainsaw Massacre. On with the Fox story:

“I have a problem with those who say there’s no weaknesses to evolution,” McLeroy told FOX News.

Ah yes, Don McLeroy, the creationist dentist. We continue:

Kathy Miller, president of the watchdog group Texas Freedom Network, has argued that the word weaknesses “has become a code word in the culture wars to attack evolution and promote creationism.”

Here’s more:

The final vote on the new standards will come later this month.

Anything can happen in the final vote,” said Miller. “The board can vote to go back to the old standards with strengths and weaknesses in them. The board can vote to eliminate the amendments that Chairman McLeroy forced into the curriculum standards. Virtually any change can be made.

It’s a wild, wide-open situation. Moving along:

The significance of the Texas ruling could impact textbooks nationwide. Since Texas is the second largest consumer of textbooks in the U.S., publishers often create a book that meets Texas standards and then sell the same version to school districts across the country.

That depends. Other states might refuse to buy creationist textbooks. We don’t know what would happen. On with the article:

McLeroy said he hopes to see the original language restored in the final vote.

There’s never been any doubt where McLeroy stands. For an insight from his own writing at his personal website, see: Texas Anti-Evolution Debate: Pure Creationism.

And now we come to the end of the Fox article:

“I want to see the United States keep its scientific edge,” he [McLeroy] said. “And I think the way you do that is by being honest with the kids, you teach them the science, you show them the weaknesses and strengths.

Creationists always say things like that, but everyone knows what they mean. Science is the last thing McLeroy wants taught in Texas schools. The man’s a full-blown theocrat.

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5 responses to “Texas Creationism Update (06 Mar ’09)

  1. retiredsciguy

    Fox News said:
    “The significance of the Texas ruling could impact textbooks nationwide. Since Texas is the second largest consumer of textbooks in the U.S., publishers often create a book that meets Texas standards and then sell the same version to school districts across the country.”

    It’s truly perverse that one man (McLeroy) can potentially have so much influence. On the other hand, any textbook author would be hard-pressed to come up with much credible scientific evidence supporting supposed “weaknesses” in evolution. Done honestly, the text would also need to explore the “strengths and weaknesses” of any competing ideas such as creationism, intelligent design, voodoo, Scientology, etc. If the arguments were based strictly on scientific evidence, evolution by natural selection would be the only theory that makes any sense.

    Now, I’m only referring to state-adopted textbooks, not the supplemental crap that the Discovery Institute wishes to sell. They feel that they are exempt from the rules of evidence that they want to impose on evolution.

  2. mightyfrijoles

    I have been watching this for many years. A statement along the lines of, “All theories are in a state flux and there are questions in some areas of evolution that have yet to be resolved. However, there exists no scientific theory outside of the TOE that scientifically explains the origin of species. All current competing “theories” are religious in nature and are not part of science” can be included. It meets McElroy’s stipulations without giving any ground.

    Does anyone know about the mechanics of printing textbooks? Can variations of certain texts just be computer programmed – like designer books (leave out some stuff for Wyoming, but add in some other stuff for New Jersey, for example)? It would solve the problem of Texas or California or New York clout.

  3. MF asks: “Does anyone know about the mechanics of printing textbooks?”

    I have no idea, but it shouldn’t be terribly difficult to have an extra “Texas chapter” for the alleged weaknesses, and leave that out of all other editions. The problem is that it’s a terrible disservice to the kids in Texas. And probably an extra cost for Texas taxpayers.

  4. longshadow

    Cost is the driver in text book printing. If they have to make a different text for different states to meet the various SBoE edicts, they can’t make much money unless they raise the price of the books, as short runs are more expensive per copy than long runs. (It’s like low volume production cars like Ferrari — they are hellishly expensive because they are almost hand made in very small numbers. A Corvette, OTOH, may not be as refined and as much a status symbol, but it will get you nearly the same level of performance in speed and handling as it’s Italian stable-mate, at a fraction of the cost. The difference is volume.)

    Print on demand is technologically feasible, but again, you don’t get the economy of scale you get when you print a million books that are all identical, and can be churned out in large volumes on big modern printing presses.

    That’s why Texas is a “driver” when it comes to text book content; relative to other states, they consume a lot of text books, which makes their curriculum requirements a sort of de facto standard for the rest of the country.

  5. Longie says: “That’s why Texas is a “driver” when it comes to text book content …”

    If McLeroy has his way, there will certainly be publishers who will answer to the demand. But those “Texas Science” books may not be marketable elsewhere, except for Louisiana.