Texas hearings, day 2

I’m currently taping the Texas Board of Education as they consider amendments and motions regarding state science standards. The first big fight related to language in the standards on the books now which refers to “strengths and weaknesses,” and to change that to a requirement that students “analyze and evaluate” scientific ideas. Ken Mercer offered the amendment striking the “analyze and evaluate” language, replacing it with old language that had been abused to attack evolution in the 2003 science standards fight.

Bob Craig, a Republican who votes with the coalition supporting accurate science education, offered a substitute amendment, which modified the “analyze and evaluate” language drafted by the Board’s writing committees of science educators and scientists. The amendment would have made clear that students and teachers could discuss topics that are not fully understood (I’m getting the exact language now).

After much heated discussion, in which anti-evolution board members cited everything from Piltdown Man to supposed misrepresentations in artists’ conceptions of Tiktaalik, and insisted that the “evolution lobby” was trying to stifle free speech. In the end, the Craig amendment failed on a 6-8 vote (Mary Helen Berlanga is absent because her husband is ill, and Mavis Knight voted via video conference, having offered a small friendly amendment to Craig’s proposal).

There was relatively little discussion specifically about the S&W language, though many member had addressed it in their discussion of Craig’s amendment. Mercer’s motion failed on a 7-7 vote, though there was a moment of fear when Pat Hardy’s voting equipment didn’t record her “no” vote.

Either today or tomorrow, there are likely to be additional amendments regarding evolution in the Biology TEKS and the Earth and Space Science TEKS. Right now we’re tweaking the 3rd grade science TEKS, having made it through kindergarten, 1st, and 2nd grades.

More anon.