Thursday, April 20, 2017

Texas State Board of Education In the Crosshairs Again

The Texas State Board of Education is revising standards for science again, in response to criticisms that they allow for the teaching of creationism.  Andrea Zelinski, of the Houston Chronicle, writes:
The Texas State Board of Education on Wednesday took a preliminary vote to compromise on a pair of high-school science standards that critics say encouraged the teaching of creationism.

The 15-member board voted unanimously to change language in its standards to take the pressure off teachers to delve deep in evaluating cell biology and DNA evolution.

"I was very pleased with how smoothly everything went," said Ron Wetherington, an evolutionary anthropologist at Southern Methodist University and member of the High School Biology Streamlining Committee that recommended the board modify language in the standards to save teachers class time.

Standards using words like "analyze and evaluate" are like "dogs whistles," he said, that ideological groups see as an opening to explore creationism and intelligent design as explanations for the origin of life.

The first change to the standards, if confirmed by a second vote on Friday, would require students to "compare and contrast scientific explanations" for the complexity of cells, instead of "evaluate." The change would return the standard to the original language recommended by the committee, reversing an addition in February authored by Republican board member Barbara Cargill of The Woodlands.
As the article points out, Texas has had a long and heated battle with creationists on the board, led by Cargill and Don McLeroy, continually watering down the standards.  Hopefully, things will look up for students of science in Texas.

3 comments:

  1. I don't mind busting your bubble, but that story is grossly inaccurate. Kathy Miller of the Texas Freedom Network issued a press release on Wenesday after the initial vote on the new science standards. She stated "If approved on a final vote Friday, the revised standards would largely remove curriculum standards the state board added in 2009 in an effort to undermine instruction on evolution in science classrooms." This statement can only be regarded as either schizophrenic or disingenuous.

    What really happened was the board approved by 15-0 votes, standards that have the students "compare and contrast scientific explanations for the complexity of "prokaryotic and eukaryotic cells," "examine scientific explanations for the origin of DNA," and "examine scientific explanations of abrupt appearance and stasis in the fossil record."

    The old requirements all remain with clearer and plainer language.

    The Chronicle story is extremely misleading and poor reporting. Also, the Texas Tribune story was similarly misleading. The best reporting was from the Austin American-Statesman by Julie Chang.

    I would imagine that the vote today will confirm the preliminary vote.

    Don McLeroy

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  2. Thank you for your comments, Don. As someone who has been intimately involved in the process, they are very welcome. I will hunt up the Julie Chang story.

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  3. The complexity standard was slightly amended today to make it even clearer and stronger. In the adopted version it reads:"compare and contrast prokaryotic and eukaryotic cells, including their complexity, and compare and contrast scientific explanations for cellular complexity." The TFN has lost all credibility today. I don't understand; they have never been this disingenuous.

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