Putting Party Politics Ahead of Texas Kids

by TFN

This is the clearest case yet of anti-evolution extremists putting political partisanship ahead of giving Texas kids a sound science education. Now the State Republican Executive Committee (SREC) is pressuring Republicans on the Texas State Board of Education to require that public school students learn phony “weaknesses” of evolution in their science classrooms.

The committee passed a resolution on March 7 insisting that Republican board members bow to the Texas GOP platform on the issue. The platform, passed at the GOP state convention in June 2008, includes the following plank:

We support objective teaching and equal treatment of strengths and weaknesses of scientific theories, including Intelligent Design.

Of course, every one of the so-called “weaknesses” promoted by evolution deniers has been debunked by mainstream science. Moreover, a federal court ruled in 2005 that teaching the religion-based “intelligent design” concept in public schools is unconstitutional. But the SREC apparently believes that Republican officeholders should simply check their brains at the door and follow party orders.

The committee’s resolution is clearly aimed at three Republican state board members who voted with five Democrats against retaining the “strengths and weaknesses” requirement in state science curriculum standards in January. That bipartisan majority correctly argued that evolution opponents are trying to use the requirement to teach pseudoscience in public schools. The board’s seven creationist Republicans are trying to reverse the decision in a final vote on the standards later this month.

Austin SREC member Brian Russell offerd the resolution. Mr. Russell has also served as treasurer of Legacy PAC, a Christian-right political action committee based in Austin. Before the SREC passed its resolution, Legacy hosted a lecture by State Board of Education member Cynthia Dunbar, R-Richmond. An individual who attended the lecture reports that Ms. Dunbar — who charges that public education is “unconstitutional” and “tyrannical” — called for the three pro-science Republican board members to obey the party platform and change their votes. She even suggested opposing the re-election of the three. (She said it was “unfortunate” that one had already won re-election to her seat last year.)

Ms. Dunbar has her own problems obeying the GOP platform or even remembering what she has said in the past. When she ran for office in 2006, Ms. Dunbar said she supported teaching “intelligent design” in public schools. Now, however, she says she opposes doing so. Yet the 2008 Texas GOP platform still calls for it. So either Ms. Dunbar isn’t telling the truth or she’s guilty of rank hypocrisy. Or perhaps both.

In any case, here’s the truth: the board’s bipartisan majority voted responsibly in January to ensure that Texas kids learn sound science, not pseudoscience based on ideology. They refused to dumb down the science curriculum with phony arguments against evolution, and they protected school districts from costly court battles if they were to teach “intelligent design.” They deserve the thanks of all Texans, regardless of party, who want our kids to get a 21st-century education that prepares them to succeed in college and the jobs of the future.

Shame on those who would put party politics in the way of that important goal.