Sunday, March 29, 2009

Texas Board Keeps Evolution in Curriculum

The Texas State Board of Education voted in favor of stripping the "strengths and weaknesses" language from the science curriculum standards, passing a set of standards that largely leaves the teaching of evolution intact. According to a story in the Houston Chronicle by Gary Sharrer:
The new standards, debated for weeks and watched closely across the country, will influence what Texas public school children learn about biology and other sciences and what is published in new science textbooks for the next 10 years, starting in the 2010-11 school year.

Board Chairman Don McLeroy, R-Bryan, and six other social conservatives lost several key votes designed to cast specific doubt on evolution.

The new standards no longer contain a provision allowing educators to teach the “weaknesses” of evolutionary theory, part of the current standards.

By an 8-7 vote, the board removed specific references to insufficiencies of evidence for common ancestry and natural selection and to “the arguments for and against universal common descent in light of fossil evidence.” All are key parts of evolutionary theory.

Close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades. Largely, the right things were kept in. It was not a total victory for sound science, though:
The board’s final action brought mixed reactions.

“The requirement that students ‘analyze, evaluate and critique scientific explanations’ and examine all sides of scientific evidence is the strongest critical thinking standard in any state science standards,” said Casey Luskin, a lawyer for the Seattle-based Discovery Institute, which challenges evolution theory.

Texas Citizens for Science President Steven Schafersman said scientists did not achieve complete victory but got enough.

“I think the science standards will be OK. Frankly, the publishers and the authors of the textbooks will be able to use this standard and write good textbooks,” Schafersman said. “They won’t be forced to do anything really bad.”

Make no mistake: this was a loss for Luskin and the DI, and his response is, in a sense, disingenuous. He is correct that all students should analyze and critically evaluate scientific theories. It is just that he doesn't care about any theory except evolution, which he has fought to keep out of public education.

Overall, a victory for the home team.

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