Pharyngula

Texas BOE roundup

How did Texas screw up public education? It’s complicated. The rational members of the board managed to exclude the ‘strengths and weaknesses’ language, which would have invited an immediate assault by the ignorant on a well-established scientific principle, but at the same time the ignorant members of the school board managed to hammer in several amendments:

analyze, evaluate and critique scientific explanations in all fields of science by using empirical evidence, logical reasoning, and experimental and observational testing, including examining all sides of scientific evidence of those scientific explanations so as to encourage critical thinking by the student.

Analyze and evaluate the evidence regarding formation of simple organic molecules and their organization into long complex molecules having information such as the DNA molecule for self-replicating life.

analyze and evaluate scientific explanations concerning the complexity of the cell

Superficially, those sound fine — of course we want students to analyze the scientific evidence! The problem is that the creationists are going to come back with a novel definition of ‘scientific’ evidence that treats Intelligent Design as a scientific hypothesis, and they’re going to demand textbooks that include a treatment of all kinds of nonsensical ‘theories’. ID is not scientific. It has no evidence in its favor (pointing out that we lack intermediate fossils showing the evolution of the lesser red-necked Argentinian swamp leech is not evidence that it was designed). But the Discovery Institute does have another bad textbook waiting in the wings for the next round of textbook-buying decisions in Texas.

There are other obvious problems with those additions. High school students are expect to study all sides of scientific evidence? Really? I’ve been in the high schools. Texas students must be truly brilliant if they can master the whole of the scientific literature in a semester-long grade school level introductory course to biology.

Texas students are going to study abiogenesis? Really? How much organic chemistry and biochemistry do they have under their belts before they begin this class? Perhaps this is just an opportunity to use the students’ ignorance of the basics to insert their own ridiculous (and ignorant) claims into the instruction.

Oh, and “complexity of the cell” is a common creationist phrase. Yes, the cell is complex. The response they expect from us is awe and incomprehending acceptance of their claim that it is too complex to have evolved, and must have been designed. Sorry, guys, design is better at producing simplicity, while evolution tends to produce complexity. Evolution already explains how you can get complexity. But they won’t tell the students that.

One further irony: the Houston Chronicle blandly reports that “Scientists from throughout Texas helped shape the new science curriculum standards.” What they don’t bother to mention is that these insertions into the standards were generated in opposition to the input of scientists, in defiance of what the scientific position would propose.

Comments

  1. #1 Am I Evil?
    March 28, 2009

    So much wrong with that place at the moment…

  2. #2 Alex
    March 28, 2009

    Why do these boards even have control of science standards in the first place?

  3. #3 Free Lunch
    March 28, 2009

    The boards have standards to make certain that all schools meet a minimum requirement. It never occurred to the legislature that the board of education would intentionally set fraudulent standards or ask teachers to teach lies.

  4. #4 AnthonyK
    March 28, 2009

    Creationism is of course the prime example of faulty “scientific” reasoning and should be part of any science course – I believe PZ does just that as part of one of his courses – but the problem here is that we can’t trust teachers to present this information properly, or to understand quite what nonsense it all is, and why.
    Like everyone here, I can only hope that the tide has turned against the gross stupidity of the creationist position.

  5. #5 MartyM
    March 28, 2009

    This board is elected. Not surprising it’s full of creationists. The big (R)ed state. Now they are truly a lone star in the junk science they will be spewing. At least the majority of the board had enough sense to strike down the “strengths and weaknesses” garbage, but did allow back door amendments that are a shadowy version. In other states, like mine, the board is appointed. That’s potentially good, depending on who was elected gov. or otherwise that appoints these positions. Though that could be bad just as well. Now let’s watch what happens in Florida.

  6. #6 Cylux
    March 28, 2009

    They do seem to be going to an awful amount of effort to try to break into the text book industry. Perhaps they might try, oh I don’t know, doing some actual research and following where the results lead, rather than say making shit up that fits their existing prejudices.But changing what is admissible as fact seems to be the order of the day, sadly.
    I don’t know what they think they’ll achieve by creating a generation of biologic illiterates, more votes for the GOP?

  7. #7 Gloster
    March 28, 2009

    Now that I think about it… lesser red-necked Texan swamp leech sounds like a really good description of a creationist.

  8. #8 DJ
    March 28, 2009

    PZ,
    Not to be contrary, but rather out of genuine interest:

    Is there any documentation (other than Thoughts from Kansas blog) available on the input of scientists in Texas and their objections? I think that would be a good bit of information.

  9. #9 Hank Fox
    March 28, 2009

    I was born in Texas, and grew up there. I will always consider myself a Texan (I’m a helluva lot more of one than George “Carpetbagger” Bush is, anyway) but I’m really glad I’m not living there now as a school-age youngster.

    All those young people going through the Texas school system, I advise you to flee the state when you graduate, and go off to college someplace where they can offer you a real education.

    Meanwhile, get active and demand that you get something real in school, instead of this mush these goddy freaks are trying to foist off on you.

    Find out who’s doing this crap, including the ones writing all these “textbooks,” and expose them for who and what they are.

    The alternative is that you, and your friends, and later your own kids, are going to be slaves and prey animals to these people for as long as you all live.

  10. #10 bobxxxx
    March 28, 2009

    This is what I read in today’s Saturday Wall Street Journal: Texas Opens Classroom Door for Evolution Doubts

    Board members also deleted a reference to the scientific consensus that the universe is nearly 14 billion years old. The board’s chairman has said he believes God created the universe fewer than 10,000 years ago.

    I’m strongly in favor of a nationwide attack against the mentally retarded McLeroy. Every scientist and everyone else in this country should be demanding his immediate removal from the Texas Board of Education. He’s more of a threat to the future of America than any terrorist. A magically created universe less than ten thousand years old? I can’t imagine anyone more hopelessly stupid and he has the power to make decisions about science textbooks.

  11. #11 Mark B.
    March 28, 2009

    Honestly, as a Texas resident, I think we should get rid of the elected state board of education. The obscurity of the office allows nuts to get elected, and they do more harm than good.

  12. #12 Newfie
    March 28, 2009

    analyze, evaluate and critique scientific explanations in all fields of science by using empirical evidence, logical reasoning, and experimental and observational testing, including examining all sides of scientific evidence of those scientific explanations so as to encourage critical thinking by the student.

    Somebody should propose those same standards for religious studies… for you know, balance.

  13. #13 Phaedrus
    March 28, 2009

    Why aren’t the “good” science based members forcing through an amendment that says,

    “students will be taught evolution is the scientific explanation for the diversity of life on this planet”

    “students will be taught how evolution is the best fit for the evidence we’ve discovered”

    The creationist points have gotten so watered down that fighting them really does have the look of quashing exploration.
    I understand that the creationists are not arguing in good faith – but taking a stand against examining all sides of an issue seems the wrong place to be.

  14. #14 rrt
    March 28, 2009

    I know the context is what makes this bad–even worse in that a lot of people honestly and fairly won’t understand why these amendments are bad. But on their own merits, they really aren’t that bad…except of course for their overambitious nature, as PZ points out. The textbook would be a much more concrete crime.

    Trying to imagine myself as a science teacher in Texas, I would have no problem whatsoever using these standards to teach non-crap-based science. But we know that’s not what they’re after…they’re eyeing the (apparently?) large number of creationist science teachers who need an excuse. And given McLeroy’s record, I do have to wonder what the teaching experience will be like for those teachers who don’t start teaching crap. It wouldn’t be the first time he made life hell for an employee.

  15. #15 Stanton
    March 28, 2009

    I understand that the creationists are not arguing in good faith – but taking a stand against examining all sides of an issue seems the wrong place to be.

    Even when “other sides” include talking about how all terrestrial animals are allegedly descended from pairs saved by Noah, or how, because life is complex, puny mortal researchers will never understand how life got to be complex beyond the catchall of GODDESIGNERDIDIT?

  16. #16 Hal
    March 28, 2009

    How about we mandate the following for all education by religious institutions:

    analyze, evaluate and critique RELIGIOUS explanations in all fields of RELIGION by using empirical evidence, logical reasoning, and experimental and observational testing, including examining all sides of RELIGIOUS evidence of those RELIGIOUS explanations so as to encourage critical thinking by the student.

    Analyze and evaluate the evidence regarding formation of CHURCHES/MOSQUES/SYNAGOGUES and their organization into long complex RELIGIONS.

    analyze and evaluate RELIGIOUS explanations concerning RELIGION

  17. #17 rrt
    March 28, 2009

    Right, Phaedrus, which is exactly why they’ve chosen this as their latest ditch along their retreat. At some point we will inevitably look paranoid to the underinformed (which is pretty much everybody), and they know it. People have other things to worry about. Hell, the other day I learned that my scientifically literate, brilliant sister didn’t know that creationism was still a problem in education.

  18. #18 AnthonyK
    March 28, 2009

    DJ – yes, including the Texas Freedom Network:
    http://www.tfn.org/site/PageServer

  19. #19 DJ
    March 28, 2009

    AnthonyK,
    Thanks, lots of interesting information in the press area there.

    rrt,
    I too have recently learned that creationism was still an issue. I just assumed it was dead and gone as it is completely unsupported and unscientific, and has been judged so very soundly. Guess it comes sneaking back whenever rational backs are turned.

  20. #20 Tony Whitson
    March 28, 2009

    From #5 MartyM:

    This board is elected. Not surprising it’s full of creationists.

    Actually, it’s not just a matter of majority vote.

    Legislation has been introduced to make the School Board elections non-partisan. In many of the districts now, only a Republican can win, and the Republican who will be on the ballot is selected in the GOP primary — so that’s really where the Board member is actually selected.

    In the last Texas primary, the national press focused on the presidential candidates. This was one state where people thought Huckabee might have a chance to derail McCain. The neglected repercussion is that people who might not otherwise have gone to the polls to vote in the primary were flocking to vote for Huckabee; and these people also voted for their preferred school board candidate. (See
    http://curricublog.wordpress.com/2008/02/18/tx-evolution-primaries/ .)

    From #8 (DJ):

    Is there any documentation (other than Thoughts from Kansas blog) available on the input of scientists in Texas and their objections? I think that would be a good bit of information.

    There’s not concise documentation now. Audio files of public input can be found here:
    http://curricublog.wordpress.com/2009/01/21/tx-sboe-science-hearings/ ,
    and pages linked from there. When I get a chance, I’ll get more audio posted from last week, and some kind of Table of Contents for linking to materials from over the last several months.

    Meanwhile, the List of Speakers for the March 25 hearings (at
    https://tw-curricuwiki.wikispaces.com/TXSBOE_March25_SpeakersList ),
    shows the level of representation by scientists, and the Board’s attempt to “balance” this with lay testifiers speaking for themselves.

  21. #21 Aquaria
    March 28, 2009

    I think an appointed board has its dangers, too, in Texas, anyway. Look at who’s in charge of the Governor’s house and the Legislature (who would presumably have some kind of power to approve the selections): That’s right: howling at the moon crazy Republicans. Have y’all seen the Texas Republican Party platform.

    Don’t, if you want to keep your breakfast.

    Given who’s in charge these days in TX, the board composition might be even worse than it is now with elections. At least Dems have a chance to put some sane people in there.

    go off to college someplace where they can offer you a real education.

    The sad thing is that we have some great universities here with the UT and TAMU systems. Rice is a top-notch uni as well. My son’s girlfriend is coming down here to go to UTSA because the school is better and cheaper than the public uni she’s attending in Illinois.

    The irony, of course, is that a shitload of Texas students go to our great unis and fail miserably. Some of those do okay if they go home and attend the community college for a year or two then head back to the big leagues. The science and math departments at the average Texas community college does the job that the vast majority of high schools don’t.

  22. #22 agg
    March 28, 2009

    As much as I understand the importance of the battle for good science standards, it looks to me that this not everything there is to this war on science. Even with perfectly worded standard requirements, creationist teachers could always sneak in their stupidity as an “extra material”, couldn’t they?

    This leads me to think that a more important front in this war, would be the proper education of teachers. Of course, that’s tied to the overall elevation of the life standard and reputation of the profession as a whole in order to be able to afford high-quality teachers. This seems to be an order of magnitude more difficult to achieve, which is why I guess the focus has been exclusively on the standards so far…

    Analyze and evaluate the evidence regarding formation of simple organic molecules and their organization into long complex molecules having information such as the DNA molecule for self-replicating life.

    There goes that word again, information! I don’t think it means what these Newtons of Information Theory think it means. As my college professor loved to say: This is not information, people; it’s only data! For information you need more than just data — you need a way to interpret that data.

  23. #23 MH
    March 28, 2009

    Shouldn’t people who sit of state boards of education have doctorates, and preferably experience of research and teaching?

    It’s madness to give the reins to people who don’t know what they are talking about; people who are actually anti-education.

  24. #24 Tony Whitson
    March 28, 2009

    On what the Board does with input from scientists: Creationists portray themselves as defending true science against the scientists. See:
    http://curricublog.wordpress.com/2008/12/01/mcleroy-dunbar-protecting-science-against-political-interference/
    Also, see Chairman McLeroy’s speech on the evil of deferring to the authority of experts:
    https://tw-curricuwiki.wikispaces.com/TXSBOE_McLeroy%27s_%27%27Impassioned_Plea%27%27
    (the second audio clip there)

  25. I Think the Chronicle was talking about these scientists.

    http://www.discovery.org/a/1541

  26. #26 Tony Whitson
    March 28, 2009

    As for the qualifications of SBOE members [#23], there’s one who claims expertise as a science teacher, who runs a creationist summer camp. (See
    http://curricublog.wordpress.com/2008/12/19/barbara-cargill-tx-sboes-science-teacher/
    In a February interview she said she welcomes students questioning Darwin?s theory of the beginning of the universe. See http://curricublog.wordpress.com/2009/02/05/cargill-darwin-big-bang/

  27. #27 AnthonyK
    March 28, 2009

    I too have recently learned that creationism was still an issue

    Better late than never! I found this out about 10 years ago, and that fact changed my thinking forever and led directly to me being here, now (in a purely pedestrian sense, of course).
    Creationism is an evil, stupid doctrine, and one that serves as a convenient bolthole for those who are (maybe passively) evil, and actively stupid.
    It’s a fascinating ride!

  28. #28 AnthonyK
    March 28, 2009

    Bah! Stupid, creationist, Formatting God!

  29. #29 Tulse
    March 28, 2009

    Meanwhile, the List of Speakers for the March 25 hearings,
    shows the level of representation by scientists, and the Board’s attempt to “balance” this with lay testifiers speaking for themselves

    Now, now, I’m sure that Austen Williams, the renowned “Mrs. Arlington/Mrs. Texas”, had deep insights into the teaching of science in the classroom.

  30. #30 Bj°rn ěstman
    March 28, 2009

    High school students are expect to study all sides of scientific evidence? Really? I’ve been in the high schools. Texas students must be truly brilliant if they can master the whole of the scientific literature in a semester-long grade school level introductory course to biology.

    I find it truly amazing that anyone would expect high schoolers to understand the controversy. While I am an evo grad student, I really don’t see much reason for HS students to get more than a cursory familiarity with evolution – one that certainly does not leave room to critically asses it. No one ask the same of them in regard to any physical theory, for example, because that would be futile and take up too much time. Let them study all sides of a scientific field in college, and not before.

  31. #31 oldtree
    March 28, 2009

    I think it is a good idea personally. If I read rightly, they are intending to apply a pseudo scientific agenda to scientific scrutiny. They are also intending to launch a scientific investigation of pseudo scientific babble. I wonder which will be more fun?

  32. #32 hje
    March 28, 2009

    Re; “analyze and evaluate scientific explanations concerning the complexity of the cell”

    They’re probably not intending a review of concepts in systems biology.

  33. #33 eNeMeE
    March 28, 2009

    “The problem is that the creationists are going to come back with a novel definition of ‘scientific’ evidence”

    I think they’re going to come back with a ‘novel’ definition of ‘analyze’.

  34. #34 Big City
    March 28, 2009

    Why isn’t Obama standing up and saying this ridiculous shit is immoral? I thought he said science was important.

  35. #35 James F
    March 28, 2009

    #25

    A list of scientists? Sweet! Like these:

    Francis J. Beckwith
    Assoc. Prof. of Church-State Studies
    Associate Director, J. M. Dawson Institute for Church-State Studies
    Baylor University

    William A. Dembski
    Associate Professor in the Conceptual Foundations of Science
    Baylor University

    Granville Sewell
    Professor of Mathematics
    The University of Texas at El Paso

    Hmmm…those last two sound familiar.

    Marvin Olasky
    Professor of Journalism
    The University of Texas at Austin

    J. Budziszewski
    Prof., Departments of Govt. and Philosophy
    The University of Texas at Austin

    Daniel Bonevac
    Professor of Philosophy
    The University of Texas at Austin

    Robert C. Koons
    Professor of Philosophy
    The University of Texas at Austin

    Stephen W. McDaniel
    Professor of Marketing
    Texas A&M University, College Station

    OK, now we’re getting colder.

    Mike Caudle
    Cadet Training Officer
    Office of the Commandant
    Texas A&M University, College Station

    Because the cadet training officer certainly counts as a scientist.

    And there are no active faculty members in a single biology department on that list. It might come in handy, you know, when discussing [Lewis Black] BIOLOGY!!!! [/Lewis Black] Worse than the Dissent from Darwin list, and that’s saying a lot.

  36. #36 Mark B.
    March 28, 2009

    Marvin Olasky
    Professor of Journalism
    The University of Texas at Austin

    I’ve taken a class with him. He’s a decent writer, knows a lot about the civil war and historical journalism. He’s also an extremist religious fanatic, and completely ignorant about science. He should be kept as far away from scientific teaching curriculum as the late Ayatollah Khomeini.

  37. #37 Mark B.
    March 28, 2009

    P.S. while I was attending his class, Olasky repeatedly tried to recruit students to attend his church. A little taste of how ‘ethical’ some of creationism’s advocates are.

  38. #38 raven
    March 28, 2009

    P.S. while I was attending his class, Olasky repeatedly tried to recruit students to attend his church. A little taste of how ‘ethical’ some of creationism’s advocates are

    Did he flunk atheists, catholics, jews, and scientologists? Bet he did.

    We had a prof like that. He was a Marxist Stalinist. Who hated “Trotskyites.” Defined in some way only he could understand but which seemed to be anyone who looked New Leftist since there weren’t really any “Trotskyites” in his class of mostly older teenage freshman and sophomores. He would harrass them and mark them down just on the basis of weird paranoia.

    Mostly he was just a bitter, angry kook. I heard that his son hadn’t talked to him in decades and he was married a bunch of times until word got around and women started running from him.

  39. #39 Mark B.
    March 28, 2009

    Did he flunk atheists, catholics, jews, and scientologists? Bet he did.

    Nah, I was pretty open about my godlessness, and I received an ‘A’ in his class. I pretty much think everyone got an A, since it was a graduate level seminar and they only way to fail would have been not to show up. Which I considered from time to time, but I was too hard-headed not to at least have my say. I honestly don’t think he cared about grades if he just had the opportunity to hone his religious sales pitch in front of a captive audience. He’s the monster responsible for Bush’s faith based initiatives, so he’ll probably burn in Hell for that. If there was a Hell.

  40. #40 FlameDuck
    March 28, 2009

    I’m sorry, but I find all of this hilarious! I have a university degree (granted only a bachelor in engineering, but at least it’s from a real university) but I find it hilarious that I wouldn’t be able to pass a high school exam in Texas. Not only donĘ’t I have the faintest idea of how DNA is formed, but I don’t know the first thing about the complexity of the cell. Nor could I care less as it doesn’t have any relevance at all to my day-to-day existence.

    Chairman McLeroy’s speech on the evil of deferring to the authority of experts:

    In which Chairman McLeroy uses an appeal to authority, to undermine the validity of an appeal to authority. Define irony?

  41. #41 raven
    March 28, 2009

    Not only donĘ’t I have the faintest idea of how DNA is formed, but I don’t know the first thing about the complexity of the cell. Nor could I care less as it doesn’t have any relevance at all to my day-to-day existence.

    You also don’t have any intellectual curiosity. This is simple stuff that children can understand. Any of your voluntary ignorance deficits could be looked up on wikipedia or the like in a few minutes. It’s not rocket science.

    It is possible to be illiterate and function in this society. There are millions of those. But few would call that a favorable circumstance.

  42. #42 lytefoot
    March 28, 2009

    Just a little reminder of why everyone cares so much about the Texas board of education:

    Texas and California buy most of the textbooks in the country. Texas makes textbook adoption decisions on a state-wide level. The major primary and secondary school textbook publishers will not publish a textbook that doesn’t conform to Texas’s standards, to do so would be economic suicide. So, when Texas makes some retarded rule, the Invisible Hand of the Market extends it to the rest of us.

    This is just one of many reasons that education simply can’t be a local issue in the 21st century.

  43. #43 Heraclides
    March 28, 2009

    One thing I fail to understand in all of this, is why they are allowed to try introduce amendment after amendment, after their initial ones fail. It does look as if the chairman is simply pushing his personal agenda, nothing more. On top of the arguments being irrational, and imposing private wishes on others, it strikes me as perverse that he is not limited to presenting what he wants once and that being it, rather than this extended let?s try and try again to bully my way thing. It seems a very strange system to me, one that is almost set up for bullies.

  44. #44 abb3w
    March 28, 2009

    Political Plug: one possible Dunbar Opponent

    Allegedly “is running as a Democrat, has the full support of the party, has her PhD in Educational psychology and psychometrics, and is not a creationist whackjob.”

    Sounds like an improvement.

  45. #45 Tex
    March 28, 2009

    For those of you up-thread who think appointing, instead of electing, the State BoE would solve problems, please remember that it was our idiot governor, Rick Perry, who appointed Don McLeroy as chair of the current board. McLeroy was elected to the board on his own ‘merits,’ but he was put in a position to do maximum damage to edcuation by Perry.

    Also please remember this when Rick Perry runs for nation-wide office. After the last 8 years, I can only hope that the rest of the country will pay attention the next time we ask you to not vote for one of our numbnuts governors.

  46. #46 Gary
    March 28, 2009

    Why not use this as an opportunity in Texas classrooms to treat ID as the “scientific” alternative to evolution it purports to be. If a critical approach to “scientific theories” is something that we wish to encourage in students, then doesn’t logic require that students be presented with the “bad designs” that exist in the natural world, with the ensuing inference that the”designer” was spending more time at frat house keggers than solving differential equations?

  47. #47 Sauceress
    March 28, 2009

    Can someone briefly explain to me what this sunset review would entail and relevant likely positive outcomes?

    Live Blogging the Texas Science Debate III
    http://tfnblog.wordpress.com/2009/03/26/live-blogging-the-texas-science-debate-iii/

    2:39 – We?re hearing news from the Capitol that the House Public Education Committee has approved legislation that would put the State Board of Education under sunset review. Will provide more details when we get them.

    2:45 – Update: We hear that the House Public Education Committee vote to put the state board under sunset review was unanimous.

  48. #48 Mark B.
    March 28, 2009

    A governor appointed board might not be a whole lot better than these yahoos, but it could hardly be worse. I’d like to see a professional body comprised of faculty from the schools of education of the state universities. I think the education faculty at the University of Texas and even the Aggies (j/k, I have to poke fun at them, since Im a UT grad) probably have a good handle on how to construct a proper curriculum. Just want to make sure that people like Journalism Professor Olasky doesn’t have any input into science education, since he’s completely unqualified in the field.

  49. #49 Dan L
    March 28, 2009

    In the end, litigation is the best stalwart against the introduction of creationist materials into the American science classroom. We cannot count on finding ?rational? appointees, enlightened elected school board members, or on an uprising of the populace to keep the science and religion boundaries tight. Given that most major science textbook publishers will be willing to bend to the profit motive and follow Texas standards, the publishers should be the next target of litigation. A publisher, driven by profits, who is willing to make their textbooks the vehicle of inaccurate, creationist ?scientific? arguments, has created a tainted product. The publisher has colluded with creationist school boards to break Federal law and should be held accountable.

  50. #50 Polyester Mather D. D.
    March 28, 2009

    Texan kids studying abiogenesis?

    As in Tommy Gold?s life-free fossil fuel hypothesis – acetylene on the rocks ? ?

    I like calcium carbide cannons as much as the next wannabe gun nut, but a million square kilometers of Permian and suchlike terrane underfoot , you?d think thre good ol boys at A&M would be content to thank the Lord for the age of their real estate and just keep turning to the right.

    What can the American Institute of Petroleum Herpetologists be thinking ? The idea that the dearth of natural gas causes Texas to cling to the North American plate may have adherents on Senator Imhofe’s staff , but every red blooded geologist knows it’s because Oklahoma sucks .

  51. #51 Fatmop
    March 29, 2009

    Did you know that I had a high school AP Gov substitute teacher who once called that paper the Houston Communist? He was a close personal friend of the actual teacher, whose class I dropped.

    Still got a 3 on the AP exam, in lieu of directly giving that old hag the bird.

  52. #52 JamesR
    March 29, 2009

    Sauceress

    To sunset a law or committee means that it has an expiration date. Like when the sun sets.
    Here is what is meant by that.

    Who is Sunset?
    In 1977, the Texas Legislature created the Sunset Advisory Commission to identify and eliminate waste, duplication, and inefficiency in government agencies. The 12-member Commission is a legislative body that reviews the policies and programs of more than 150 government agencies every 12 years. The Commission questions the need for each agency, looks for potential duplication of other public services or programs, and considers new and innovative changes to improve each agency’s operations and activities. The Commission seeks public input through hearings on every agency under Sunset review and recommends actions on each agency to the full Legislature. In most cases, agencies under Sunset review are automatically abolished unless legislation is enacted to continue them.

    You can find the full webpage here
    http://www.sunset.state.tx.us/

  53. #53 Benzion N. Chinn
    March 29, 2009

    “High school students are expect to study all sides of scientific evidence?”

    Expected

  54. #54 mrcreosote
    March 29, 2009

    If the cell is so complex, how come they are so easily made using some basic biochemistry?

  55. #55 The Other Elwood
    March 30, 2009

    Concerning the textbook wars, my wife and I are looking to start a letter-writing compaign to the major textbook publishers and letting them know that we will vehemently oppose the inclusion of pseudo-science, creationism or intelligent design in textbooks. Yes, Texas is a big state, but they are no match for a few dozen states standing against this sort of nonsense. If any state wants to teach creationism, they should have to use supplementary material; creationism should not be thrust into the nation’s textbooks because one or two or even a dozen states’ bizarre education practices.

  56. #56 J.
    March 30, 2009

    I would like to see the academic community make a true stand. Get colleges and universities to state that they will not admit students from Texas schools that implement the policy. You teach ID, sorry, no college for your children. Or, at the very least, demand that they retake all of their science courses their first year.

  57. #57 trrll
    March 30, 2009

    Even with perfectly worded standard requirements, creationist teachers could always sneak in their stupidity as an “extra material”, couldn’t they?

    The notion that there are large numbers of creationist teachers being silenced by educational standards is part of Discovery Institute propaganda. I’m sure that they must exist, but science teachers, even in creationist bastions, tend to be the ones who resist introduction of ID/Creationist nonsense into the scientific curriculum.

    It is actually a very clever strategy. The Creationists are well aware of how limited is the amount of time available for discussion of evolution in secondary school biology classes. So from their point of view, it doesn’t really matter whether science teachers identify ID/Creationism as fringe science unsupported by the evidence. There simply isn’t enough time to catalog the many distortions and lies of the ID/Creationist claims, much less consider the huge mass of evidence supporting evolution. So the teachers and textbooks will at best be forced into something like “Almost all scientists agree that evolution, rather than intelligent design is the explanation.” And it is a fact of psychology that hearing “X is not true” actually makes you more likely to believe in X–you tend to forget the “not true” part, but the fact that you heard of X somewhere makes it seem more familiar and more plausible.

  58. #58 Angel
    March 30, 2009

    Unfortunately, this will likely get worse before it gets better. Even the educated people here in Ea. TX where I work fall for the “let’s show both sides of the issue, why would that be a problem?” I even have a friend or two who fall for the line about the “pointing out that we lack intermediate fossils showing the evolution of the lesser red-necked Argentinian swamp leech” so therefore you need to look at all sides. As an academic librarian, and decently well educated fellow, this pains me greatly. And as I said, those colleagues of mine are educated. Imagine then the rest of the ignorant (willing or otherwise) who fall for the tripe. How can we advance when even the ones we would think know better don’t?

  59. #59 JennyAnyDots
    March 31, 2009

    Sorry for resurrecting a slightly more dormant thread, but I just got this in my e-mail. K K ris Hirst, the author of the About.com Archaeology Guide, picked up on the story and has started compiling a list of online resources to help out teachers who want to teach evolution properly and not use the Texas-style science textbooks. More information here – http://archaeology.about.com/b/2009/03/27/creationism-in-science-classes-just-say-no.htm?nl=1

    Thought it might be interesting/helpful to a few people, or that some of you might have suggestions to add.

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