The conservative Thomas B. Fordham Institute has posted a new essay following up on the organization’s January report giving low marks to science curriculum standards in most states, including Texas. Dr. Paul R. Gross, an emeritus professor of life sciences at the University of Virginia, writes for Fordham’s Education Gadfly e-newsletter that weak coverage of evolution is a product both of religious objections and politics.
“A focused combination of politics with religion, in pursuit of (or opposed to) governmental action, is vastly more effective than either one alone.
By themselves … religious anti-evolutionists would wield scant power over state decisions. Real power comes by politicizing the arguments and switching them from scripture to more stylish notions: ‘scientific alternatives,’ ‘critical thinking,’ or—most commonly—’strengths and weaknesses of [Darwin’s] theory.’ When these are pressed by politicians dissing ‘Darwinism,’ a downgrading of science is underway.”
Gross writes that increasing efforts in state legislatures to politicize and undermine the teaching of evolution have serious consequences for science even if proposed anti-evolution measures don’t pass:
“(T)hey can still have real effect on classroom teaching, on textbook content and selection, as well as on the curriculum as taught. All this political activity and… Read More
This should tell you a lot about the intellectual and moral bankruptcy of the Texas State Board of Education. Last year the conservative Thomas B. Fordham Institute sharply criticized the state board for its “ideological manipulation,” historical revisionism and contempt for expertise in adopting new social studies curriculum standards for Texas public schools in 2010. Today a new Fordham report gives science curriculum standards adopted by the state board in 2009 a grade of “C.” Yet here’s what state board Chairwoman Barbara Cargill, R-The Woodlands, had to say about the new Fordham report:
“As a science teacher, I am pleased that our standards received a score of 5 out of 7 for content and rigor. We look forward to continuing to work with Texas teachers to bring the best instruction to the classroom with our excellent science standards.”
Seriously? She celebrates a “C” grade? She really thinks Texas is giving kids the “best instruction” with “excellent science standards” that, in fact, get low marks from a conservative education think-tank? News flash for Ms. Cargill: Most parents don’t think mediocrity is something to celebrate, especially when it comes to the education of their… Read More
The authors of a think tank's report that slammed the new and heavily politicized social studies curriculum standards in Texas clearly aren't going to suffer silently as right-wing critics hurl lies and distortions at their work. Those critics have been absurdly suggesting that, among other things, the Thomas B. Fordham Institute is a left-wing organization that deliberately used its new report to embarrass Texas. But the Fordham Institute is a conservative organization whose scholars simply think it was wrong for the Texas State Board of Education's far-right members to use the new U.S. history standards to promote their own personal and political agendas in public schools. In a new essay for the History News Network, historians Sheldon and Jeremy Stern address a variety of criticisms of their report about U.S. history standards in states across the country. In a footnote at the end of their piece, the Sterns are especially dismissive of the ridiculously dishonest criticisms from Liberty Institute, the far-right Texas affiliate of Focus on the Family: Claims that we have “lied” focus particularly on our criticism of Texas’s handling of slavery, which is barely discussed in the standards prior to the Civil War, and is then deftly subordinated in importance to “states’ rights” as the cause of the conflict. Texas’s Liberty Institute responded by doing a search for the word “slavery” in the document and triumphantly declaring that the standards do mention it… though, ironically, the quotes they produced demonstrate the very historical flaws we described (flaws also pointedly noted by Rod Paige, George W. Bush’s first secretary of education, and hardly a liberal shill). Likewise, angrily rejecting our criticism that the history of separation of church and state was dismissed and distorted in the standards, the Liberty Institute jubilantly declared, after another word search, that the phrase does indeed appear in the standards—yet the passage which they produced to refute our claim is again the very passage to which we referred in the first place! Yes, it does mention the concept of separation, but only to insinuate that it is a historical myth (a position Texas’s State Board of Education members took openly in their public hearings on the standards). And so it goes. Here's more from the Sterns about the Texas standards: Read More
We'll have more on this later, but we just sent out this press release. This is big news. TFN PRESIDENT: FORDHAM ANALYSIS CONFIRMS THAT NEW SOCIAL STUDIES STANDARDS ARE A DISASTER FOR TEXAS SCHOOLS Conservative Think Tank’s Report Savages State Board of Education for Politicizing New Curriculum Standards FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE February 16, 2011 A conservative think tank’s analysis confirms what the Texas Freedom Network has been saying for months: new social studies standards adopted by the State Board of Education last year are a disaster for Texas schools and students, TFN President Kathy Miller said today. “This analysis adds to a growing chorus of criticism aimed at state board members who deliberately and arrogantly substituted their own political biases for facts and scholarship throughout the standards,” Miller said. “It’s hard to imagine a more damning indictment of the way the board has politicized and manipulated the education of Texas kids over the past several years. Political agendas – from the left or the right – simply have no place in our kids’ classrooms.” The conservative Thomas B. Fordham Institute released its analysis today. “The State of State U.S. History Standards 2011” analyzes U.S. history curriculum standards from all 50 states and the District of Columbia. The report gives Texas a grade of “D” for its standards. Among Fordham’s criticisms is that Texas State Board of Education members engaged in “ideological manipulation” by basing many of the new standards on their own personal and political biases. The analysis goes so far as to compare the heavily politicized approach in part of the standards to Soviet indoctrination in schools of the old USSR. Read More