Texas Preps for Next Science Battle

The process will be different than originally expected, but next year the battle over what Texas students learn about evolution in their science classrooms returns to the State Board of Education. With legislators tasked with closing a huge state budget gap next year, the state board voted in July to postpone indefinitely the adoption of new science textbooks originally scheduled for 2011. Those textbooks were to be based on new curriculum standards the board adopted in March 2009. The previous science standards had been in place since 1998. On the other hand, this summer the state board asked publishers to submit — for middle school and high school science courses — supplemental instructional materials (not full textbooks) that address only those 2009 standards that are new or “expanded” from the 1998 version.

And guess which new and expanded standards are among the most prominent? You got it: standards dealing with what students learn about evolutionary science.

The Texas Education Agency has posted the middle school and high school standards here. Each of the standards documents highlights the new and “expanded” standards that supplemental materials will have to cover.

In 2009 the Texas Freedom Network and our coalition partners succeeded in forcing the state board to keep out of the new standards a requirement that students study phony “weaknesses” of evolution. Our success represented a major defeat for anti-evolution pressure groups like the Discovery Institute in Seattle. Those groups have used the “weaknesses” requirement to promote the falsehood that the science of evolution isn’t backed by overwhelming mainstream evidence.

Unfortunately, the board’s far-right members succeeded in adding other standards that they hope will force publishers to call evolution into question in their instructional materials. They hope, for example, that materials will suggest evidence supporting the concept of natural selection is weak or incomplete and that “gaps” in the fossil record also represent “weaknesses” in the scientific evidence. Mainstream scientists — including Nobel laureates — have repeatedly told board members that such claims are ridiculous.

For the 2011 adoption, publishers will be required to submit supplemental materials online only — textbooks and other materials in other formats will not be accepted. Board members hope that digital delivery of content for classrooms will help lower costs for the cash-strapped state. Some board members — such as Don McLeroy, R-College Station — have already expressed their hope that limiting the adoption to online supplemental materials that must address only new and “expanded” standards will open the door to smaller publishers and vendors. Since major textbook publishers have tended to include only real science in their textbooks, one doesn’t have to wonder too much what kind of smaller publishers and vendors McLeroy is hoping will submit materials for this adoption. That’s right: don’t be surprised to see outfits like Discovery Institute or the Dallas-based Institute for Creation Research try to get materials based on junk science approved for use in classrooms.

Publishers must indicate their intention to submit materials for high school no later than December 10 October 31 of this year. They will then be required to submit their proposed instructional materials by March 4 February 25. Review panels appointed by the state board will examine those materials in April March, with the board scheduled to make final adoption decisions in May April. Publishers will submit materials for middle school later in the spring, with final adoption for those set for July. Adopted materials would then be available for the 2011-12 school year. [NOTE: This posting now reflects the adoption schedule approved by the state board in November.]

The Texas Freedom Network will be closely monitoring developments in the science adoption. You can stay informed by keeping an eye on TFN Insider and by subscribing to TFN News Clips.

7 thoughts on “Texas Preps for Next Science Battle

  1. Keep up the good work! With a little luck you will soon have a new board to deal with and, in the absence of hard, expensive books, change back to reason may go smoothly.

  2. TFN wrote:
    “….the state board asked publishers to submit — for middle school and high school science courses — supplemental instructional materials (not full textbooks)….”

    This is exactly what I predicted several months ago could happen. I predicted that hand-outs (supplemental material) could be distributed to students; handouts that could fly under the radar, never having been pre-approved. Handouts that would present creationist non-science “educational” material. Such hand-outs could be the material taught in lieu of textbook chapters that deal with evolution and “old earth” science.

    TFN continued by saying: “Review panels APPOINTED BY THE STATE BOARD will examine those materials….”
    Yep, that’s exactly what I figured.

    L.S.Lerner: It’s going to take WAY more than “luck” to have a new board. This is RED Texas, a state whose conservatives on the SBOE outnumber the opposition 2:1.

  3. Well actually, this is pretty excellent stuff if you ask me. I say bring in all of those “Bible-believing” supplements. Flood the classrooms with them. Place no limits on what can be brought in or by whom. Who says a supplement has to be a booklet, pamphlet, or video? Sometimes the most engaging supplement would a real human being with “special biological knowledge” (said through the nose holes—try it) unavailable to the regular scientists of our day. There is nothing like a visiting lecturer series. I say bring on the deluge in all of its splendor because:

    1) Just seconds after it starts, there will be so much evidence of Christian fundamentalist religious teaching in public schools that even Judge Bob Jones would be forced to rule against them in federal court and stop it dead cold in its tracks. Texas has 254 counties and 1,208 incorporated cities. That is a minimum of 1,462 public school systems. The ruling against the public school system in Dover, PA cost the local school system about $1,000,000. If a lawsuit was brought in every school system inTexas, that would suck a total of about $1.46 billion out of the pockets of Texas taxpayers—just like flushing it down a toilet—not to mention all of the students who would be hurt by that loss. What’s that you say? “That’s a small price to pay for Jesus.”

    This is not about Jesus. This is about a handful of ignorant people who have twisted and contorted the real Jesus, the Bible, and science to where they are barely recognizable anymore. When I was growing up down south, we had a term for these people. It was “holy rollers.” It was always said in a disparaging way by poor people, middle class people, rich people, educated people, uneducated people, and other Christians—but it was always said honestly. They were not trying to be mean or be bigots. They were just trying to express the fact that they believed these people to be honest-to-goodness religious fruitcakes. It appears to me that the fruitcakes have taken over in Texas, which is a very sad day for Texas. However, as we all know, candied pineapple and cherries—mixed with nuts and flour—and basted with rum—is not a very bright leader of anything. I say, “Let the fruitcakes run wild and hang themselves with their own educational rope!!!” They will be sure to do it because—well—they are fruitcakes. That’s what fruitcake heads do—eventually.

    2) Make Texas the exponential laughingstock of this planet and 1,000,000 other planetary systems. Tennessee is still recovering from the Scopes Trial fiasco in 1925. Texas could go for the record—maybe 500 or 1000 years of legendary ignorance to overcome on the world stage. Just think of the lost business, industry, and jobs because no sane person would set foot in Texas, much less bring in a new business headquarters or factory. Educated people run businesses and industries and know BS when they see it. They also know that BS has a negative effect on costs and profits.

    3) I work on federal scientific projects. There are laws against misuse of federal funds. I cannot think of a worse misuse of federal educational tax dollars than teaching known nonscientific drivel to our children. Really, it would be teaching contrived lies to children, which in my mind is a form of child abuse. Federal funds would be used to abuse children by teaching known nonsense to them. Two things: 1) Federal prison sentence for any Texas SBOE member who voted for this and any public school teacher or administrator who tries it in a classroom and 2) Cut off all federal support for education in Texas until the nonsense stops.

    I am writing to my Congressmen and Senators. You do the same.

  4. Charles- as a resident and educator in TX I would much rather see all the money that might be lost to law firms directed to excellent science education! A county by county strategy would not be effective in reversing the creationist strategy of the board. I think a real precedent-setting case would have to be argued that the board policies are promoting religion.

    If the board is really interested in stimulating debate on the “weaknesses”, perhaps we should actively promote the introduction/adoption of materials from fundamentalist muslims like Adnan Oktar (AKA Harun Yahya). I’m sure that we would quickly see that the board *really* intended that fundamentalist christian views of “weaknesses” be offered in Texas classrooms.

  5. I’m a dyed in the wool evolutionist and I believe in God. Are the two inseparable? Heck no. If there is a God who has no beginning and no end wanted to take a billion or so years to create the universe good for her. I do not have a direct line to God so there are a lot of unanswered and unanswerable question and none of us will ever know. But the EVIDENCE points to evolution and if the people who believe in a Creator who did it all can’t see that it is because they’ve never shifted their minds from a child’s to an adult’s.

    It could mean less to me what individuals believe or don’t believe, but when they try shoving down the throats of innocent youngsters the myths and stupidity of their beliefs, then it becomes my business to stop them however I can. I’ve heard that everything was made complete with fossils, etc. Uh huh. But evolution is observable! Creation isn’t.

    I’m tired and I’ve a long meeting to go to in the morning. I could say more buy why?

  6. Charles, you’re forgetting this is RED Texas. How do you think religious loonies got onto the TX SBOE in the first place? Hint: the answer has something to do with voting.

    Not trying to be mean. I’m just being realistic. Texas already IS the laughingstock of the world. Still, not enough TX are bothered by that. In fact, most conservative and religious Texans are PROUD of the fact we are the laughingstock of the world.

    Actually, the entire nation is the laughingstock of the world. We are falling more and more behind other countries in math and science. But that’s the point, that’s exactly what the majority of Texans WANT. They do not WANT their kids to excel in math and science. That would be just so liberal and ungodly, don’t you know.