As sort of a follow up to a pre-election post I made here, I wanted to be sure all Texas readers are in the loop on something very important. On November 19, 2008, people of all professions and backgrounds will converge on the State Board of Education meeting in Austin to testify in support of sound science standards in Texas public schools.
As mentioned many times previously, the standards set by the Texas State Board of Education impact the textbooks used throughout the US. And if the creationist cabal that makes up a good portion of the Texas State Board is not kept in check, children all over the country could be reading about the “weaknesses of evolution”; which is simply the new trick creationists are using to slip religion into science classrooms.
If you can, please make plans to attend and do your part.
See theÂ email containing all the pertinent information from Steven Newton and the amazing Eugenie C. Scott ofÂ the National Center for Science Education, Inc. after the fold.
Dear Texas Friends,
If it is at all possible for you to attend the November 19, 2008 board of education meeting in Austin to testify in support of sound scienceÂ education standards, please, please do so. . . . .
If it is not possible for you to attend, please provide feedback on theÂ standards at the Texas Education Agency (TEA) website: http://www.tea.state.tx.us/teks/scienceTEKS.html
The primary issue is whether evolution will be treated with integrity, or whether the TEKS (Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills, the scienceÂ standards) will capitulate to political pressure and require textbookÂ publishers to include disguised creationism in books submitted forÂ adoption in Texas. These TEKS will form the basis for science curriculumÂ for years to come.
The first draft of the new TEKS has been released and reviewed by anÂ outside committee. Now that the TEKS language is becoming finalized, itÂ is important that the SBOE hear from as many concerned citizens asÂ possible.
The matter of primary concern is the wording of the standard C. KnowledgeÂ and Skills, #3, Scientific Processes, A. (in short, â€œProcess Skill 3A).Â In the current version of the TEKS, it reads:
C. Knowledge and Skills
(3) Scientific Processes. The student uses critical thinking andÂ scientific problem solving to make informed decisions. The student isÂ expected to:
(A) analyze, review, and critique scientific explanations, includingÂ hypotheses and theories, as to their strengths and weaknesses usingÂ scientific evidence and information.
Although on the surface this sounds like a reasonable, â€œcriticalÂ thinkingâ€ educational standard encouraging students to evaluateÂ scientific explanations, in practice it has been used to attack evolutionÂ in the curriculum. In 2003, textbook publishers wereÂ threatened withÂ having to include â€œweaknesses of evolutionâ€ â€“ i.e., creationist argumentsÂ like â€œgaps in the fossil recordâ€ and â€œirreducible complexityâ€ along withÂ evolution. These attacks were narrowly defeated after much controversyÂ and considerable effort from scientists and teachers.
During the current 2008 revision of the standards, committees ofÂ scientists and teachers are suggesting new wording for Process Skill 3AÂ to the Board of Education. Wording was changed from â€œstrengths andÂ weaknessesâ€ to something that better encourages TRUE critical thinking:
C. 3. (A) analyze and evaluate scientific explanations using empiricalÂ evidence, logical reasoning, and experimental and observational testing;
We encourage everyone concerned about science education in Texas to make their opinions known to the board. Public input is an important part ofÂ this process, and numbers count.
You can also make your opinions known during the upcoming State Board ofÂ Education meeting, which will take place Wednesday, November 19th,Â beginning at 9:00 AM in room 1-104 of the TEA building, 1701 N. Congress,Â in Austin. Point 7 of the agenda will involve TEKS science standards, andÂ will probably be taken up late morning or shortly after lunch.Â Information on this meeting and a full agenda for the meeting can be found here:Â http://www.tea.state.tx.us/sboe/mtg_mat_current.html
To testify, you must sign up on either Friday, November 14 or Monday,Â November 17, either in person at TEA between 8:00 AM and 5:00 PM, or byÂ filling out a form and faxing it to them. No one will be allowed toÂ testify who has not signed up in advance. Sign up early! The form is at
http://www.tea.state.tx.us/sboe/forms/registration_testimony.html. YouÂ want to check â€œCommittee of the Full Boardâ€, and fax the form toÂ 512-936-4319. You may also telephone in your registration toÂ 512-463-9007.
You have only 3 minutes to testify, so make your testimony count. ExplainÂ your qualifications to speak on the topic (including being aÂ taxpayer/parent/scientist/teacher â€“ whatever combination describes you).Â You should make only one or at the most two points, make them succinctly,Â and preferably bring 35 copies of your testimony to distribute to the board and staff. Stress the importance of teachingÂ evolution without phony â€œweaknessesâ€ not recognized by professionalÂ scientists.
And feel free to consult with us for additional ideas. Numbers count!Â Please sign up to testimony if you possibly can, and also comment on theÂ posted standards, supporting the wording that avoids theÂ creationist-inspired â€œweaknessesâ€ language.
Thanks for your support of evolution education. For more information onÂ Texas evolution education issues, please visit:Â http://www.texscience.org/
Please, Skepchick readers, do whatever you can.