Proposed Instructional Materials Put Science Education, Public Schools at Risk in Texas
Vendor’s Creationist Materials Could Be Used in Public School Science Classes Around the State
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 25, 2011
Science in Texas public schools would take a shocking leap backward if the State Board of Education approves newly proposed instructional materials that promote creationism and reject established, mainstream science on evolution, spokespeople for the Texas Freedom Network (TFN) and the National Center for Science Education (NCSE) said today. In addition, public schools using those creationism-based materials could face expensive legal challenges even as they struggle with massive budget cuts at state and local levels.
“Two years ago State Board of Education members thumbed their noses at the science community and approved new curriculum standards that opened the door to creationism and junk science,” said TFN President Kathy Miller. “Now they are getting exactly what they wanted — the chance to make Texas the poster child for the creationist movement. The state board would be aiding and abetting wholesale academic fraud and dumbing down the education of millions of Texas kids if it doesn’t reject these materials.”
The Texas Education Agency has made available on its website science instructional materials — all of them web-based — that publishers and other vendors have proposed for high school biology classes across the state. Materials approved by the state board in July could be in Texas science classrooms for nearly a decade.
An initial review by NCSE and TFN has revealed that materials from at least one vendor, New Mexico-based International Databases Inc., promote anti-evolution arguments made by proponents of intelligent design/creationism. Mainstream scientists have repeatedly shown that those arguments lack scientific merit. Moreover, in 2005 a federal judge in Pennsylvania ruled in Kitzmiller v. Dover that teaching intelligent design in public schools unconstitutionally promotes creationism.
“International Databases’ materials are not only laced with creationist arguments,” said NCSE’s Joshua Rosenau, “they are also remarkably shoddy, teeming with misspellings, typographical errors, and mistaken claims of fact.” NCSE found creationist claims and factual errors throughout International Databases’ materials, including:
- Religious claims such as “life on Earth is the result of intelligent causes” (Module 1, “Origin Nucleotide,” Slide 19)
- Teacher instructions such as: “students should go home with the understanding that a new paradigm of explaining life’s origins is emerging from the failed attempts of naturalistic scenarios. This new way of thinking is predicated upon the hypothesis that intelligent input is necessary for life’s origins.” (Module 8, “Teacher Resources,” Slide 3)
- Arguments that “intelligent design” is a “legitimate scientific hypothesis” (Module 1, “Origin Nucleotide,” Slide 19) or even “the default position” (Module 7, “Null Hypothesis,” Slide 8) in science — despite the consensus of the scientific community, and a federal court, that it is essentially religious creationism without any scientific basis
- Misrepresentations of Darwin’s 150-year-old writings in an attempt to discredit modern biology
- Distortions of the scientific understanding and evidence behind key biological processes, such as the modern synthetic theory of evolution and the stages of the cell cycle
These examples are available at www.tfn.org/IDexamples
Two years ago the State Board of Education approved new science curriculum standards that call into question the established, mainstream science supporting evolution. At the time, TFN and NCSE warned that the new standards would encourage some vendors and groups to submit textbooks and other instructional materials promoting creationist claims and other pseudoscience in Texas science classrooms. Last fall the Dallas-based Foundation for Thought and Ethics (FTE), publisher of the “intelligent design” textbook Of Pandas and People that was at the center of the Dover court case, notified the Texas Education Agency that it would submit materials for approval by the State Board of Education. FTE later announced that it had withdrawn its intention to submit those materials.
Teams of reviewers appointed by the Texas Education Agency will examine all of the proposed instructional materials in June and report to TEA and the State Board of Education. The state board is scheduled to hold a public hearing and final vote on the materials at a single meeting in July. Public schools could then purchase those materials for use in classrooms beginning in the 2011-12 school year. The Texas Legislature has not decided whether to appropriate funds for that adoption. However, public schools could use local funds or state funds if the Legislature appropriates money for science instructional materials at a later date.
The Texas Freedom Network is a nonpartisan, grassroots organization of religious and community leaders who support public education, religious freedom and civil liberties. Its websites are www.tfn.org and tfninsider.org.
The National Center for Science Education (NCSE) is a nonprofit dedicated to defending the teaching of evolution in the public schools across the country. NCSE’s website is ncse.com.