Overall Thoughts of the Science TEKS Hearing before Texas SBOE in November Part 1 Somervell County Salon-Glen Rose, Rainbow, Nemo, Glass....Texas


Overall Thoughts of the Science TEKS Hearing before Texas SBOE in November Part 1

30 December 2008 at 3:41:04 PM

First up, here are the links to the audio posts and very, very rough transcripts of all the speakers.

1st post about why I was listening to the WHOLE thing.      Continuing      Next        More        and more       and yet more       and last

Now to analyze. I thought Chuck Hempstead's position on the Draft 1 science TEKS was on the money. Here was a group of science teachers who thoughtfully analyzed the TEKS and then made changes and recommendations. What happened? The draft was changed. Most of the people who spoke at the hearing endorsed the first draft, which, among other things, did not include the phrase strengths and weaknesses. As Hempstead said, it showed a lack of respect for the expertise of the teacher teams who made the recommendations. I  am looking on the SBOE website and see that the changes to Draft 1 were made by the science TEKS review committee. According to this article on the National Center for Science Education website, three of the members of the 6 member committee are antievolutionists.

Six members of the board "aligned with social conservative groups" chose Stephen C. Meyer, the director of the Discovery Institute's Center for Science and Culture, Ralph Seelke, a biology professor at the University of Wiconsin, Superior, and Charles Garner, a chemistry professor at Baylor University.

Meyer, Seelke, and Garner are all signatories of the Discovery Institute-sponsored "Dissent from Darwinism" statement. Meyer and Seelke are also coauthors of Explore Evolution: The Arguments For and Against Neo-Darwinism (Hill House, 2008), which, like Of Pandas and People, is a supplementary textbook that is intended to instill scientifically unwarranted doubts about evolution. A recent review by biologist John Timmer summarized, "But the book doesn't only promote stupidity, it demands it. In every way except its use of the actual term, this is a creationist book." Garner reportedly told the Houston Press (December 14, 2000) that he "criticizes evolutionary theory in class."

It was also interesting to see that the board members already saw the science community as an Us vs Them situation, for the most part. One of the board members talked about the militant evolutionists and muttered "no rationale" and the board president McLeroy made a comment. like "We're not going to use our position versus theirs". So it seems pretty clear the way the wind blew from the start.

That leads to one of the board's questions and contentions regarding the phrase *strengths and weaknesses". I don't have any history to know why the phrase was put in originally some time back, in 1998 or perhaps 1988  by a Democratic SBOE, nor why, when it came time to revise the TEKS, the phrase wasn't thrown out then. But that was a repeated question by the board, ie, how come since that language has been in place for some 20 years is it NOW being thrown out? One person said that it's because the language was tainted; another said that there were those with an agenda to have ID taught in the classroom that wanted that language to remain (David Washburn and John Woods).  Here's what I don't know and wonder-what exactly were the circumstances of the s&w text being put into the standards in 1988 (I'm guessing that would be under TEA and not the SBOE). Was there an issue with evolution being taught or, even then, was this an attempt to get creationism into the schools? Seems to me that the basis of the 20 years ago needs to be examined as well, and I can't right now find any information about what exactly precipitated that language. I notice in this Time magazine article that, Texas, in 1974 used to require that evolution be taught was only one of several explanations, but that ws changed in 1982 by thePeople for the American Way along with Jim Mattox.

Texas State Attorney General Jim Mattox concluded that the rule was unconstitutional because it was motivated by "a concern for religious sensibilities rather than a dedication to scientific truth." Two weeks ago  [1984 the Texas board of education repealed the controversial measure.

One wonders if even then the strengths and weaknesses language was a compromise bone thrown to the religious elements. For darn sure, I think the exact circumstances of why the s&w language was in there for 20 years ought to be known. More on strengths and weakness from barbara Cargill, as analyzed by airtightnoodle.

I would personally like to know how this is a good standard that has served the state well.  This clause is certainly put into the TEKS (Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills) specifically for ideas that some people find troubling or controversial.  I have never heard of anyone spending time in class having their students evaluate the weaknesses of cell theory, the germ theory of disease, thermodynamics, and so on.  A good science teacher will of course discuss how parts of any of these theories have changed over time and might touch on any controversies related to the topic.  ....

How does one decide exactly what is a strength and what is a weakness of a theory?  In some cases it may be obvious, but in others it may simply be in the eye of the beholder.  So where does a teacher turn to make sure they are adequately covering strengths and weaknesses?  Should there be some sort of scientific consensus on which ideas are strengths and which are weaknesses?  But wait…if we turn to scientific consensus, then wouldn’t evolution simply be taught largely as fact anyway?

Another question was why, if the s&w language was so objectionable, there haven't been a plethora of lawsuits in the last 20 years. One man said it was because he prefers to work directly with the superintendent rather than lawsuits; another man said that if there was a case for it, the ACLU would have jumped all over it. (A spokesman for the ACLU spoke directly after this but didn't address this question.) (Rabbi from Colleyville, Jonathan Seins and Terry Burke) I notice that there has been a lawsuit, generally, about strengths and weaknesses in California, but it was dismissed, not on the merits, but plaintiff's lack of standing to bring suit.

There was also quite a bit of back and forth about how much Discovery Institute had to do with the language in Texas bill, or influence. I note from Wikipedia that Discovery Institute of Seattle is an offshoot of another group, located in Seattle.

The institute was founded in 1990[13] as a non-profit educational foundation and think tank based upon the Christian apologetics of C. S. Lewis. It was founded as a branch of the Hudson Institute, an Indianapolis-based conservative think tank, and is named after the Royal Navy ship HMS Discovery in which George Vancouver explored Puget Sound in 1792.

The part that deals with intelligent design was formed in 1996.

More in next post.

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