Saturday, July 23, 2011

Texas regains some Sanity!

OK, my very first blog post was about Texas (is Texas stepping backwards?) and since then I have posted quite often about Texas. I posted about Don McLeroy and his efforts to bring Creationism into the school curriculum. I posted about the Institute of Creation Research (ICR) and their efforts to award Masters of Science degrees without actually teaching science. I even blogged about some Texas lawmakers who wanted to introduce a variety of legislation that would not only have watered down science education and gave groups like ICR the ability to churn out diplomas without any oversight whatsoever. Things have been tough for Texas!

But there have been some glimmers of hope. I mean Don McLeroy not only does not get confirmed as the Board Chairman, but then gets voted off the Board. Even though the Discovery Institute stakced the deck of the 6 science 'experts' invited in to review Texas science standards were two of their own fellows they failed to get their 'strengths and weaknesses' included in the standards. Then, my personal favorite was not only turning down the ICR, but denying their appeal! I mean things haven't been all doom and gloom.

Right this second I am both proud of Texas and a little confused at the more conservative members of the State School Board. The reason I am proud of Texas is this:

The Texas Board of Education has unanimously come down on the side of evolution. In an 8-0 vote, the board today approved scientifically accurate high school biology textbook supplements from established mainstream publishers--and did not approve the creationist-backed supplements from International Databases, LLC. (Victory for evolution in Texas)
If you hadn't been following it, and I know I have been remiss in my blogging, but the latest battle was over Supplemental Materials. The State didn't have the $$ for new textbooks so they were looking to approve supplemental materials to augment the existing textbooks. The battle over this material has been looming over Texas for a while now.

Did we have reason to be concerned? Well, Barbara Cargill, the new chairman of the school board, told the Eagle Forum that it would be difficult to control the board because"Right now there are six true conservative Christians on the board, so we have to fight for two votes." She is cut from the same cloth as McLeroy and her immediate predecessor, Gail Lowe. I guess Gov Perry hasn't learned his lesson yet. We'll see if she gets confirmed -- at least I don't think she has been confirmed yet. (State education board chair already in hot seat). The other reason to be concerned is that because of the sheer size of Texas, any changes in curriculum, including textbooks and supplemental material would have an impact felt far beyond Texas' borders.

OK, so why am I confused. Well there was some objection to some of the materials, specifically from a publisher who refused to cow-tow to their attempts to water down science. There was also a publisher who was specifically pushing Intelligent Design. Yet the votes were unanimous . . . Unanimous. That confuses me. I would have expected the more conservative board members to stick by their principles, but they appear to have left them behind.

I'm not sure that's good or bad -- really! It might be good because in spite of public statements to the contrary, the Board did vote for real science. But the fact they seemed to say one thing and then vote another makes me uncomfortable. Well . . . only time will tell if their behavior is positive or negative. In the meantime they have had a positive affect on the students of the Great State of Texas!

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