Texas Charter School Operator Defends Misleading Its Students with Junk Science, Political Propaganda

by Dan Quinn

The CEO of Texas-based Responsive Education Solutions has responded to an in-depth article in Slate detailing how the charter operator’s public schools teach junk science and political propaganda as factual. Frankly, the CEO’s response is just as troubling as the original allegations about the schools’ troubling curriculum.

Responsive Ed’s CEO Chuck Cook wrote an extensive reply to a post about the Slate article on the Arkansas Times website. You can read Cook’s full response in the comments section here. The Arkansas Times writer discusses Cook’s response here. (The original Slate article by Zack Kopplin is here, and a TFN press release about the revelations in that article is here.)

Cook begins his defense by arguing that Responsive Ed’s instructional materials on evolution are simply conforming to the Texas curriculum standards by “examining all sides of scientific evidence” of scientific explanations. He then proceeds to post an extended except from those classroom materials — an excerpt that portrays creationism as a valid scientific concept. This is part of his excerpt from the classroom materials students use:

In recent years, these two schools of thought —creationism and evolution—have been at conflict in schools, universities, and scientific circles. Some scientists and educators have attempted to bridge them through ideas such as intelligent design and theistic evolution. However, none of these theories is accepted by every scientist, natural philosopher, or educator. In this Unit, you will be able to review the evidence for the theory of evolution and decide on your own position. You will want to analyze and evaluate the evidence and every statement made in the discussion. . . .

Still, for many, supernatural creation (either by God or some other supernatural power) of the first cell is a more plausible explanation. Some people think aliens brought the first living cell to earth or it came on a meteorite, but that still would not explain how that first living cell on earth came into existence.

There is much research to be done in this area of origins. Until more concrete answers are found, questions on how life originated will continue. . . .

But, of course, “creationism” isn’t a “school of thought.” It’s a religious belief. The Texas Freedom Network will always defend the right of individuals to pass on such religious beliefs to their own children if they choose. That is the essence of religious freedom. But creationism is not science and does not belong in a science classroom. While proponents of creationism have tried to make the issue a “conflict” in public schools, it most certainly is not a source of legitimate debate in the scientific community. Creationism simply has no basis in science.

Moreover, Responsive Ed’s curriculum materials on evolution (Kopplin has posted some of those materials online here) include a number of misleading arguments (such as a “lack of transitional fossils”) that creationists have used in an effort to undermine the study of evolution. The materials also include an entire section about “the controversy of evolution” in which creationism and its junk-science cousin “intelligent design”  are portrayed as competing “theories.” That section includes this incredible statement: “Many leading scientists are questioning the mechanisms of evolution and disputing the long timeline required for evolutionary processes.” Really? Which “leading scientists” are those? Certainly not the leading scientists at the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Nor the leading scientists at the National Academy of Sciences. Nor has the InterAcademy Panel: The Global Network of Science Academies (IAP) — which includes more than 100 national science academies from around the world.

And then there’s this deeply dishonest passage from the Responsive Ed curriculum materials:

“Evolution is currently the popular theory of how life began and evolved on Earth. It attempts to explain how organisms are related in the phylogenies. The mechanics of evolution still need to be discovered, holes in the fossil record still need to be filled, and the overall theory needs to be better supported by hard evidence. Until then, controversy will continue to surround the theory of evolution.”

“The popular theory”? Evolution is the only scientific theory. Scientists need “hard evidence” to support evolution? More than a century’s worth of overwhelming “hard evidence” already exists. After all of those misleading statements in the Responsive Ed curriculum materials, students are then asked: “Do you think alternatives to evolution should be taught in schools?” On what are they supposed to base their answers other than the lies they have just been taught about “alternative theories” and a lack of “hard evidence” for evolution?

Cook’s response on the Arkansas Times website also addresses other points in the Slate article. But his defense of curriculum materials that promote political arguments as historical fact is even weaker than his defense of the schools’ science materials. The Slate article noted, for example, that Responsive Ed materials claim feminism leads women “to turn to the state as a surrogate husband,” the legitimacy of Purple Hearts John Kerry earned in the Vietnam War were “suspect at best,” and the New Deal failed to help the economy during the Great Depression. Cook’s pitiful, one-paragraph defense of promoting that political propaganda in its classrooms boils down to this: “it’s not illegal”:

“Slate then turns to ResponsiveEd’s teaching of history. While Slate claims that it ‘discovered problems’ with ResponsiveEd’s history course, it does not go so far as to assert that the course violates any standard, regulation, or law. A complete copy of ResponsiveEd’s history course is available to you upon request.”

Oh, well. So long as it’s “legal” to lie to students, right?

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