Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Showdown in Texas (25-27 March 2009)

I know, sorta corny title, but entirely appropriate. This week the Texas Board of Education is having their last set of meetings and are scheduled to vote on new school science standards. It will be loud and boisterous, and hopefully productive. Now is a good time for a few highlights:

  • For me things started with the firing of Chris Comer, the former director of science curriculum just before a scheduled review of the science curriculum. That was back in Dec 2007 and is actually the first post I made to this blog (Is Texas Stepping Backwards).
  • In 2008 Texas was 'blessed' with the Institute for Creation Research (ICR) moving near Dallas and asking for permission to award Master's Degrees in Science. It was also this year that they reviewed their curriculum and the experts recommendation was to teach Evolution without any watering down. Apparently this was met with disfavor by some members of the School Board, in particular their president Don McLeroy, a creationist dentist. Gee, wonder how come Chris Comer got canned?
  • So what does Don do? He appoints a 6 member team to re-review the science curriculum and stacks the deck with two members of the Discovery Institute and a Creationist, I believe. I guess there weren't enough Creationists around Texas, Don had to import them. Of course they immediately stated pushing for their version of 'academic freedom', which has little to nothing to do with actual academic freedom.
  • Well heading into 2009 we see the ICR's request to award MS degrees was turned down. The recommendation voted on by the school board eliminated the DI's slant, and things seemed to be calming down. But as we all know, appearances can be deceiving.
  • So far this year McLeroy slipped in several unscientific phrases to the science standards, AFTER the voting has already been done. The ICR got to Leo Berman and he is sponsoring a bill that would alleviate the ICR, and organizations like them, from any possible State oversight -- allowing them to award whatever degree they want in whatever discipline they want, whether or not they actually teach it. Isn't that special! There is also a bill to offer the same sort of 'academic freedom' nonsense passed in their neighbor to the East. What do you know, Texas is following Louisiana's 'lead', they should be so proud!
  • Now this week the School Board finishes their meetings, listens to many public statements and votes on the school curriculum. Steve Schafersman will be live-blogging the proceedings, a chore I would not wish on any sane person. Let's give Steve a vote of thanks and keep an eye on things.
Now why is this of import to you, probably a non-Texas resident. Why am I a native NY'er now living in Ohio care? Well Texas and California are two of the most populous states and what they say influences a lot of textbook publishers. So even if your state doesn't support it, your kids might be exposed to religion in the guise of science simply because your voice wasn't loud enough to overturn the Elephant-In-The-Room Texas when it came to determining textbook contents.

Now I like Texas and the people there are as big-hearted as any I have ever met. I have been in many parts of the State from the desert west to the metropolitan Dallas and many points in between. For a time I lived just over the border in Shreveport and spent many a weekend exploring East Texas. My Mother-in-law lives just outside of Dallas, so my wife and I visit there regularly. I really did find it hard to believe that Texas would fall for this line of non-thinking! I hope the School Board sticks to the vote they has earlier in the year and holds true to the teaching of Science. If they do I can't wait to see how those ID'iots over at the DI spin it. If the people of Texas fall for these machinations, then the people I feel sorry for are the people of the Great State of Texas themselves because they will be hurting themselves and the education of their own kids!

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