After more than a year of work and often bitter debate, the State Board of Education is set this week to decide what the next generation of Texas students will learn in their public school science classrooms. Media outlets across the country (including the New York Times here and here, the Wall Street Journal today and even FOX News) have focused attention on the important battle over what the state’s new science curriculum standards should require schools to teach about evolution.
Beginning with the public hearing at noon on Wednesday, we will be live-blogging the debate for three days. So you will be able to keep up with the action here. A preliminary vote is scheduled for Thursday, with a final vote coming Friday. (We also encourage you to subscribe to TFN News Clips, a daily e-mail digest of news articles about the religious right and TFN issues.)
What students should learn about evolution isn’t really debated in much of the rest of the developed world. In Texas — and, in fact, much of the United States — it still is. And because the huge Texas market is so important to publishers, what this state requires students to learn is likely to be taught in textbooks used by students across the country.
The Texas Freedom Network has been working to stop censorship and defeat religious extremism on the State Board of Education since its founding in 1995. You can learn more about TFN and our work here. Defending science has been a big part of that work, and we expect that to continue regardless of the result of this week’s vote. After all, creationists on the state board have already made it clear that they will try to block the adoption of any new science textbook in 2011 that doesn’t dumb down instruction evolution. We will be ready. (You can still join our Stand Up for Science campaign here.)
Creationist pressure groups have had their foot soldiers writing and calling board members now for months. They have launched ugly verbal assaults on board members, even attacking their faith because they want Texas schoolchildren to get a 21st-century science education. Those pro-science board members deserve the thanks of all Texas parents who want public schools to prepare their kids to succeed in college and the jobs of the future, not turn their science classrooms into battlegrounds in the nation’s divisive culture wars.
Whatever the result of the votes this week, know that the Texas Freedom Network will continue to defend public education, religious freedom and civil liberties for all families. Those are neither liberal nor conservative values. They’re mainstream values shared by millions of Texans.