Science Takes a Hit in Texas

Well, it finally came to an end today. This afternoon, the Texas State Board of Education adopted new science standards for the public schools in Texas. The new guidelines include language that leaves the door open for creationists to wedge religious myths into the science curriculum. The vote on the overall standard was 13-2 to adopt.

The debate was heated at times, and confusing at other times, but there was a lot at stake for students all over the U.S. And ultimately, they are the ones who will suffer the sins of the board.

I’ve personally followed and blogged about this story for two years now, and was disappointed that, despite the hard work and spot on recommendations by the teachers, review committees, and outside parties, like the Texas Freedom Network and the National Center for Science Education, board members let politics and, worse, religious beliefs guide their decisions.

It remains to be seen just how deeply today’s vote will impact students, but you can bet we’ll be talking about this unfavorable outcome for a long time to come.

See the press release from the Texas Freedom Network after the fold.

The Texas Freedom Network has released the following statement on the final adoption of science curriculum standards by the Texas State Board of Education today:


March 27, 2009

TFN President Kathy Miller: Texas State Board of Education Adopts Flawed Science Standards

The word “weaknesses” no longer appears in the science standards.  But the document still has plenty of potential footholds for creationist attacks on evolution to make their way into Texas classrooms.

Through a series of contradictory and convoluted amendments, the board crafted a road map that creationists will use to pressure publishers into putting phony arguments attacking established science into textbooks. 

We appreciate that the politicians on the board seek compromise, but don’t agree that compromises can be made on established mainstream science or on honest education policy.   

What’s truly unfortunate is that we now have to revisit this entire debate in two years when new science textbooks are adopted. Perhaps the Texas legislature can do something to prevent that.

Sam Ogden

Sam Ogden is a writer, beach bum, and songwriter living in Houston, Texas, but he may be found scratching himself at many points across the globe. Follow him on Twitter @SamOgden

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  1. Very disappointing indeed. It always amazes me how big a role Religion plays in the U.S, you even have the whole “separation of church and state” and “no prayers in schools” etc…. In Australia, we have scripture classes available in schools, which you can choose to go, and that doesn’t seem to phase anyone. But most importantly we have no religion in the science labs, and never will. America amuses me everyday.

  2. Ah,

    I have such fond memories of Texas. Henry Moore sculptures at city hall, pretty girls, fun times and wonderful barbecue, bow hunting…

    One day, a cop stopped me in a mall and told me my hat was too “ghetto” and to take it off. I turned it sideways and put it back on. He shook his head and kept walking. (I’ve been told I should have bought a lottery ticket that day).

    Never been back.

    Good luck down there Sam,


  3. @Rodney:

    Ahhh . . . . Man, I still love living around old Texasberg. I figure no matter where you are, something’s going to queer a good deal, at least a little bit. It’s just that this deal-queering turn of events hits closer to my home than most.

    I mean, I would like the rest of the world to see the straight up rockin’ Texas bad asses that I know. And it hurts to know the kids are gonna have a rough time replacing those folks when we’re fading away and it’s their turn to stomp around. But the simple truth is, others are in control of our lives more than we want to admit.

    Damn it.

    Maybe at some point good science’ll jazz ’em for real, like it’s done me.

    Hey, we can hope, right?

  4. Maybe expecting to teach real science is too much to ask… maybe we should just teach critical thinking… is there a religious objection to THAT?! sigh.

    “Give examples of 5 major logical fallacies, class… and why they’re not valid.” etc., etc.

    I remember in good ole Alberta… my junior high peers asking me if i “seriously believed we evolved from monkeys?”… I told them that no, I didn’t believe it. That lie shaped my future – I completely betrayed myself that day in order to fit in, and I knew that I would never do it again.

    I like to think to myself that a lot of the young students nowadays who conform to their parents beliefs are just like me back then… realizing that what they are saying is a lie – and that someday they will have the courage to back themselves.

  5. I can’t stand the smug self-satisfaction of the creationist McLeroy. From the CNN article (which I just noticed has no byline):

    ‘Publishers, he said, will “have to get their textbooks approved by us in a few years.”‘

    The fact that CNN gave Casey Luskin (of all people) credibility is pretty damning of their reporting skills. Not that I expected much more.

  6. You know what kills me about this whole thing?

    My mom is a survivor of NYC Roman Catholic schooling, 1950’s era. Her nuns back then totally embraced evolution. Catholic school was pro-evolution and we’ve devolved to this.

  7. @Chasmosaur: It’s funny, Catholicism does have its issues (boy, does it ever), but it’s still pretty okay with evolution.

    In fact, just this past week I did a science outreach program at a Baltimore City Catholic school, and in the seventh-grade science classroom was a white board with the outline of a lesson about pseudoscience, with bullet points about magic tricks and testability. It was super-awesome.

  8. @Anthony McClung:

    I feel you, brother. It is kind of confusing.

    See if I can break it down:

    There were several guideline amendments under review and up for debate in all the science disciplines taught (biology, chemistry, Earth science, etc.). Many of the amendments contained languge that was contrary to that recommended by the teachers, the review panel scientists, and other outside experts. And yes, some of the “strengths and weakness” amendments were stricken, which is a good thing.

    But others were passed and allowed to stay in the guidelines, like the amendment in the Earth Science category that calls for students to investigate “other theories” about the origin of the universe when there are no other scientific theories than the Big Bang. There are, however, religious myths about the origin of the universe.

    So you can see, even though some were stricken, adoption of some of these types of amendments still leaves the overall curriculum guidelines weak. Yet the board voted 13-2 to adopt the weakened overall guidelines.

  9. I see this as the major reason that the University of Texas at Austin doesn’t want to be forced to accept the best graduates from Texas high schools. The best educated student from Texas high schools are ruining Texas’ best university because their education is so terrible.

  10. In the end this will deystroy the states economy. Companies are going to pull out and go to states with good education systems. Why? Because their best employees will refuse to relocate to Texas. Who wants to move their famlies to a state whose education system is regularly ranked 50th out of 50, whose violent crime rate is often in the top 10 of the nation, whose rate of poverty is often in the top 10, whose level of gun violence is often in the top 2 or 3, whose supreme court is so corrupt that they can’t be trusted to rule impartially on any case that involves a large donner to their re-election campaigns. (I got almost all of this information from various Texas Monthly magazines) Governor Perry is a fool is helping to deystroy this state.

  11. Everyone preceding me on this blog has essentially stated my thoughts and feelings, thus I will summarize by simply writing one word:


  12. @Sam Ogden:

    Maybe at some point good science’ll jazz ‘em for real, like it’s done me.

    Hey, we can hope, right?

    As a damn-near native (since age 4) Texan who grew up southern baptist & used to write anti-evolution “research” papers in high school… I often reflect upon my life and wonder how I became an atheist & biology major in the middle of this massive state. Srsly, I can’t find a “cause” other than “my brain started working…”

    I suppose there’s hope for almost anyone.

  13. I’m also a native Texan (since birth), and I went to Catholic school until junior high. Still came out all right. :P

    At this point, we need to figure out what to do moving forward.

  14. This is sad indeed. What a huge injustice to the students.

    @Anthony McClung,

    Hopefully more will follow suit; if there are people who actually become interested in science and truth, they will find their way out as well.

  15. @cjo:

    At this point, we need to figure out what to do moving forward.

    Spent some time today with some smart people talking about it. Already some great ideas floating around. I’ll be sharing everything I know with you guys here. So stay tuned, and be ready to keep swinging.

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