TFN Joins Academic, Business, Faith Leaders in Calling on SBOE to Reject Renewed Attacks on Evolution in Science Standards
Heavily Revised Standards Draft Includes New Language Undermining Evolution
AUSTIN – Texas Freedom Network President Kathy Miller joined business, academic and faith leaders on Wednesday in criticizing new draft science curriculum standards that would undermine teaching about evolution in public school classrooms.
The new draft standards for three of eight high school science courses which became public only Monday are a leap backward from a version proposed by teacher writing teams in September, Miller said.
“All of a sudden, a new draft appears with loaded buzz words that evolution deniers have used repeatedly to launch phony attacks on evolution,” Miller said. “This raises serious questions about what and who is driving the process here. We hope writing teams will have an opportunity to fully discuss and reverse this troubling change.”
Scientists overwhelmingly consider evolution to be established, mainstream science. In September, writing teams removed a requirement that students learn “strengths and weaknesses” of scientific theories like evolution. The new drafts for three courses, however, require that students learn “strengths and limitations.” That language echoes recommendations from three strident evolution deniers appointed by board members to review the draft standards last month. One of those reviewers is Stephen Meyer, vice president of the prominent anti-evolution pressure group Discovery Institute in Seattle.
The new draft science standards also call on middle school students to “discuss possible alternative explanations” for scientific concepts. That language opens the door for sneaking supernatural explanations like creationism into science classrooms, Miller said.
“Scientists have been crystal clear in explaining that these phony arguments against evolution are based on ideology, not science,” Miller said. “It’s like arguing that there are weaknesses or alternatives to gravity or that maybe Earth doesn’t really revolve around the sun after all. And the price for dumbing down the science curriculum will be paid by Texas kids who aren’t prepared to compete and succeed in the 21st century.”
Efforts to undermine science education in Texas public schools will discourage 21st-century industry from locating here, said Dr. Andrew Ellington, a professor of biochemistry at the University of Texas at Austin. Ellington has founded two biotechnology companies.
“It is critical to ensure that students in Texas have a high quality science education not only because it is their birthright as Texans, but also because it is critical for the economic future of Texas,” Ellington said. “The biotechnology industry is increasingly playing a role in the state’s economy, and there is a critical need for students and scientists who have been well-trained in biology to staff and invent new companies.”
Rabbi Nancy Kasten of Dallas called on the state board not to put public schools in the position of deciding whose religious beliefs will be promoted in science classrooms.
“Acknowledging that we can never know everything there is to know about our world is not an argument for dismantling the things that we have been able to discern and prove about the world,” Rabbi Kasten said. “Questions of theology, morality and faith can be addressed in public schools, but they should be separated from proven science and included in curricula that deal with theology, culture and other related topics.”
The Texas Freedom Network is a nonpartisan, grassroots organization of religious and community leaders who advance a mainstream agenda supporting public education, religious freedom and individual liberties.