On January 31, I noted that the Texas Board of Education was considering changing the state standards for teaching science, in particular the “teach the controversy” language that would enable teachers to drag tired old creationist and intelligent-design (ID) arguments into the biology classroom. Those earlier standards also used ID language to ask students to “discuss” the “complexity of the cell” (read: push irreducible complexity as an argument against evolution); the “sudden appearance, stasis, and sequential nature of groups in the fossil record” (read: Great Flood did it!), and the formation of information-carrying DNA from simple molecules (read: God had to do that).
As the San Antonio Current reports, the committee approved the existing language by a vote of 9 to 5, despite opposition from every rational person who wasn’t blinded by faith, and those rational people included education experts and Texas professors:
Evolution skeptics on the State Board of Education voted against updating Texas’ 9th grade biology textbook to reflect scientific fact on Wednesday. While the vote — which keeps language doubting evolution in Texas textbooks — is only preliminary (the final vote is scheduled for April), the move could be seen as a red flag for teacher advocates, evolution experts, and Texans who generally believe in science.
“Teachers are practically begging the board to stop forcing them to waste classroom time on junk science standards that are based mostly on the personal agendas of board members themselves, not sound science,” said Kathy Miller, president of education advocacy group Texas Freedom Network, in a prepared statement. “But these politicians just can’t seem to stop themselves from making teachers’ jobs harder.”
The board’s decision comes after a 10-member committee of educators and biology experts (formed by the board) recommended that the state pull four phrases from Texas’ 9th grade biology textbook that could leave students doubting proven science.
. . . This vote comes a day after board members heard testimony from dozens of experts, advocates, professors, and students supporting a recommendation that the board update these textbooks. There were only a few opponents to the recommendation that spoke from creationist organizations.
This battle isn’t over yet, but it seems as if the critics of evolution are going to win. Shame on you, Texas: first guns in the college classroom, then poison in the minds of school children. What a state! Despite the preponderance of educators and scientists opposing the language, the benighted committee voted to approve it anyway:
“Creationism must be removed from the classroom,” said Tanya Estes, a former science teacher in both public and private schools. “Religion can be used as a moral compass, it is a philosophy, but it is not science.”
Emma Dietrich, a PhD candidate in integrative biology, said that as an assistant in general biology courses at UT, she knows how critical an understanding of real science is in advancing students’ careers. Without a real belief and trust in evolutionary theory, graduates will likely be denied scholarships, important accreditations, and high-paying jobs, she said.
“Our education goals should not be based on opinion polls, but on the expertise of our teachers and experts,” urged Arturo De Lozanne, a UT Austin professor of cell biology.
The state board will cast its final vote on the recommendations in April. But with majority Republican members, science education advocates say the board will likely stick with its evolution-doubting textbook.
Or, in the words of Texas Freedom Network spokesman Dan Quinn: “Let’s just say the chances are as likely as Donald Trump not screwing anything else up.”
Sadly, in an editorial on the issue two days ago, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram waffled, ultimately saying that while spending a lot of time arguing alternative theories might be a waste of time, and admitting that creationism wasn’t a scientific theory, nevertheless called for creationism to be discussed anyway. What a bunch of cowards!
The biology committee removed language surrounding origin of life theories, fossil record and other areas that can be perceived to provide openings for an educator to present creationism or intelligent design as an alternative theory.
Though creationism isn’t scientific theory, there has been much disagreement about whether it should be taught in schools.
. . . Most of argument this time around boiled down to time. The committee estimated that some of these concepts could add three to six days per standard.
. . . As much as one would like a separation between school and church, students do live in the real world. Since Texas is predominantly Christian, there is an opportunity to address creationism in a secular, academic atmosphere.
But it shouldn’t take six days to discuss the merit of creationism versus the merit of evolution.
The penultimate sentence is ironic: since Texas is predominantly Christian, the atmosphere would be far from secular. Teachers should just teach the scientific truth of evolution and, if the kids have problems, recommend their reading Why Evolution is True. 🙂 Teaching creationism in a public school biology class is, in fact, illegal, and has been repeatedly declared so by the courts.
The picture below is from a New York Times article in 2013 on the continuing controversy, in that case the state’s holding up the excellent Miller and Levine textbook, Biology, because it told the truth about evolution and global warming: