Monday, March 30, 2009

Mixed Decision in Texas

While the Discovery Institute is claiming a big win ("Big Win in Texas as State Now Leads Nation in Requiring Critical Analysis of Evolution in High School Science Classes"), anyone who actually reads the news and understands what happened in Texas would view it as a split decision, probably leaning more toward pro-evolution than against it. But as usual their spin doctors are making claims that have little to no basis in reality.

My scorecard calls is a win for Science, but by a decision, not KO. To the good, Texas rejected repeated attempts to insert the whole "Strengths and Weaknesses" argument into the school standards. They also rejected the majority of the little things the Creationist head of the Texas State School Board tried to slip in last January. From that point of view the Discovery Institute failed! They have been banking on the S&W more than any other tactic, as we see in many states where they are leading the charge for changing the school science standards. OK, 'leading the charge' is a bit misleading. They are more shoving from behind than leading form the front. The Discovery Institute does not lead! They prefer to set up other people for failure, as we certainly saw in Dover.

If this is such a victory, why does Don McElroy, the head of the State School Board, chalks it up in the losing column? CNN had a decent article ("Texas board comes down on 2 sides of creationism debate"). John West, of of those less-than-stalwart fellows at the DI, claims that "Texas has sent a clear message", yet the message doesn't seem to be that clear to me. Actually the only message I get from Texas is that the DI doesn't know what a clear message is, as evidenced by their own new releases.

Texas did include language that may result in a Dover-style lawsuit if a teacher tries to bring their religion into the classroom under the guise of science. The blog "Little Green Footballs" has a nice little video that can show you a bit more about McElroy, including referring to the Big Bang as "Darwin's Big Bang" and misrepresenting Stephen J. Gould, as so many Creationists tend to do.

But the bottom line is that the next battle in Texas will be on the teachers and how they try and implement the new slightly more confusing state standards. The stand does say that the material used to critically analyze science has to be scientific in nature, and as long as teachers adhere to that, this Big Win by the DI will be a little fizzle. But on the other hand if the State of Texas approves textbooks that are anything like the DI's own publications, then teachers might have problems because those texts certainly won't be an aid in teaching any scientific theory.

I stand by my previous posts. the High School science classroom is not the right venue to analyze and critique scientific theories. It's the right venue to teach an understanding of those theories, what they are, how they were derived, and why they are so important. You know, the basics! Without that grounding there can be no critical analysis! But the DI still thinks this is a huge victory. The only people that will suffer are the children of Texas and maybe the teachers who try and do the right thing, rather than the politically expedient thing.

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