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

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?

17 thoughts on “Texas Charter School Operator Defends Misleading Its Students with Junk Science, Political Propaganda

  1. That sounds like a quote that would come straight from the Discovery Institute. So I’m thinking the tactics of the Discovery Institute need more scrutiny and exposure. And at every SBOE hearing, testimony or other opportunity, pro-science activists should mention these books/documentaries and *insist* that they be introduced in public school curriculum. … *Teach the controversy of Discovery Institute* !!

  2. Yes! get this awful mess pseudo science evolution out of classes. It’s time to turn back to truth,the Bible. Evolution has ruined education long enough

    1. Get this awful mess Christian fundamentalism out of our churches. It’s time to turn back to truth (Jesus). Fundamentalism has ruined the Christian faith long enough.

      There ya go Bud.

  3. “include a number of misleading arguments (such as a “lack of transitional fossils”)”

    Dan – I think that’s a typo. It should be bald-faced lies.

  4. You want to send your kids to Christian school, you just go right ahead and pay to do it. Keep your idiotic fundamentalist convictions out of MY kids education! If your god is so pathetic that you have to be able to understand and explain everything he did by referring to a story book, that’s your problem and you are welcome to pass it on to your kids – that is your right. It is NOT your right to co-opt public schools to forward your idea of the “great commission” so give it up already! “realscience” indeed!

    If you are being snarky, my meter is out on this topic. If you are not my comment stands.

  5. Dan Patrick investigate? He’s probably a silent partner based on his statements about the value of creationism in education: Our nation was founded on Gods Word(?)and removing God from our classrooms is causing collapse of the family which in turn is causing the collapse of society( re: Supreme court decision on school sponsered prayer and teaching creationism in public schools.)He is about as far out in the Fundamentalist weeds as it gets. We’d be far better off if he could be a full time bible saleman and get him out of Texas goverment.

  6. Evolution is not the theory of how life on Earth began. These guys don’t even get that basic thing right (quite deliberately in some cases, I presume). It’s about changes in already existing life. There is no generally accepted theory about how life came into being. There is quite a number of reasonable hypotheses on that but we cannot yet say which of those (if any) is the correct one. ‘God did it’ has no special advantage or disadvantage there but my bet is that the ‘God hypothesis’ will be as unnecessary there as in classic astronomy.

    1. Fight the push for school vouchers.
      That’s how the Republicans intend to get you to pay to teach Texas children lies.

  7. It is not your school. It is a charter school and you can choose to go there or not. So just don’t go. Don’t impose on the rest of us. We are tax paying citizens too.

      1. Just because you pay taxes does not accord either you or your selected school the right to violate the First Amendment to the U.S. constitution.

        I hope the company that runs these charter schools has a realistic understanding in regard to just how much it is in trouble with the law as a result of the religion-based policies it has been pursuing in its schools.

  8. Atheism is a religious philosophy that puts mankind at the center. http://www.irc.org. My tax dollars are spent supporting schools that directly attack my religious beliefs as a SDA. It is as fundamental to us as a head coverings for Musilum ladies, facing East for Jewish prayer, no beef in the menu for Hindu.
    I do not object to teaching evolution in schools. However, I find the intolerance of even recognizing my faith, which is a leader in all biological sciences around the world — as a anything but scientistificlly ignorant — an arrogant position and state lead attack on people of faith.
    These schools exist because the state is suppressing Christians and other faiths into closet. This is the beginning of all socialist societies. The state uses the schools to attack one or more groups — ie Jews in Germany. Once the masses are fully trained into an agnostic way of thinking. The state dictator does all the thinking. Freedom of choice is the heart of American citizenship. Tolerance suppresses totalitarianism.
    I for one am glad these schools exist. It is a place where my children hear evolution in a tone that is not dismissal of our faith. Character is more important that science in early childhood development. Learning to hear both sides, forming an opinion, and defending it are crictical life long skills. Kudos to school that isn’t supporting the new Animal Farm slogans!