BREAKING NEWS: A proposed amendment adding “strengths and weaknesses” of scientific theories back to the science standards has failed on a 7-7 vote.

11:17 – With the defeat of “strengths and weaknesses,” the board is now on to other amendments. Ms. Cargill begins.… Read More

Note: A link for audio from the state board debate and vote is available here.

9:17 – The Texas State Board of Education meeting has begun, and we have some encouraging news. Dallas member Mavis Knight, a strong supporter of sound science standards, is participating by videoconference. It appears that Mary Helen Berlanga from Corpus Christi is not present, but no motion can pass on a 7-7 tie. So if all votes hold from January, the pro-science board members should be able to block bad amendments today. (We said “if” and “should be able.”)

The board has not yet reached the agenda item on science standards.

9:24 – A representative of the right-wing Texas Public Policy Foundation is talking to the board about early revisions of the social studies standards, which the board will take up after science. We’re waiting for a copy of the document the representative is presenting to the board.

9:40 – Board member Terri Leo decries any suggestion to leave out of the social studies standards important historical figures to make room for “multicultural” issues and personalities. “I’ve never heard of half of these people,”  Leo says of one proposed list of… Read More

Note: Audio from the state board hearing is available here.

4:53 – Lots of conversations among board members between and during the testimony. We haven’t said much yet about the vote coming tomorrow and Friday. Essentially, we’re where we were in January — it will be very close. Chairman McLeroy and other board creationists have been circulating a list of amendments to the standards, nearly all targeting evolution. And they are certain to try again to force “strengths and weaknesses” back into the standards. We also expect efforts by pro-science board members to try to strip out anti-evolution amendments (particularly those challenging the concept of common descent) added in January.

5:18 – Board members are now being allowed to invite specific individuals to testify. It will be interesting to see who board members bring up.

5:25 – Board member Rick Agosto has invited Genie Scott of the National Center for Science Education to speak. That’s encouraging. Genie makes it clear what’s at stake. Putting “strengths and weaknesses” back in the standards will give evolution opponents ammunition to demand pseudoscience in the 2011 biology textbooks. Other states will likely rebel against such nonsense. Says Genie: You will have a Texas… Read More

2:00 – We thought you might want to know a bit about the atmosphere here. The Texas Education Agency lobby was packed with science supporters when we arrived this morning. The litigators from anti-evolution Free Market Foundation Texas affiliate of Focus on the Family had already begun a press conference promoting the “strengths and weaknesses” propaganda. Following that, TFN started its press conference with educators and scientists. We’ve rarely seen so many cameras for a press event at TEA, although it appears that some of the cameras (including ours) were from non-news organizations.

Both press conferences were disrupted by observers. In our case, one observer shouted “my grandfather wasn’t an ape,” or something to that effect. Another chose to pray loudly in an effort to drown out what our speakers were saying. An argument also marred the Focus on the Family press conference.

It’s standing-room-only in the board room itself. In fact, many people are on the floor on the sides and in the back of the room. Numerous reporters — mostly television — are covering the hearing. A number of educators and scientists are in attendance, but it’s clear that creationist organizations — such as Focus and Probe… Read More

12:25 - Our press conference ran long, and we were late getting into the hearing. Unfortunately, State Board of Education Chairman Don McLeroy has rejected a request for a table for us in the board room (as at the last two board meetings). We're told that's "too distracting" for board members, although we set up in a far back corner. Frankly, the issue is more likely one of not liking what we've been blogging about at past meetings. In any case, we're here, we're blogging, get used to it. (We're so witty.) 12:33 - The board room is overflowing with folks. The creationists are out in force this time, but we still have lots of science supporters (wearing our signature green). 12:37 - A testifier who has worked in the textbook industry is warning the board that what is decided about science in Texas will be taught throughout the country. Indeed. 12:58 - Terri Leo is complaining because two people in a row have testified against "strengths and weaknesses." She points out witnesses should be alternating, for and against. For Pete's sake. 1:01 - A scientist is correctly pointing out that "strengths and weaknesses" is being used as a wedge…… Read More