9:17 – The Texas State Board of Education meeting has begun, and we have some encouraging news. Dallas member Mavis Knight, a strong supporter of sound science standards, is participating by videoconference. It appears that Mary Helen Berlanga from Corpus Christi is not present, but no motion can pass on a 7-7 tie. So if all votes hold from January, the pro-science board members should be able to block bad amendments today. (We said “if” and “should be able.”)
The board has not yet reached the agenda item on science standards.
9:24 – A representative of the right-wing Texas Public Policy Foundation is talking to the board about early revisions of the social studies standards, which the board will take up after science. We’re waiting for a copy of the document the representative is presenting to the board.
9:40 – Board member Terri Leo decries any suggestion to leave out of the social studies standards important historical figures to make room for “multicultural” issues and personalities. “I’ve never heard of half of these people,” Leo says of one proposed list of names. Well, we haven’t seen the list of proposed names or those who might be left out, and everyone agrees that key historical figures should be covered in social studies classrooms. But that Ms. Leo has never heard of someone in history is hardly a sound criterion the state should be following for deciding who gets in and who gets left out of standards.
9:53 – Board member Cynthia Dunbar is suggesting that the board should perhaps start the social studies process over. Let’s recap: board members have appointed members to social studies writing teams, who have already met once. The board has received one report on their work, from the Texas Public Policy Foundation. The teams have not finished their work. In fact, a representative of the Texas Education Agency has informed the board that writing teams were still very early in the revision process. Ms. Dunbar, however, is concerned that the writing teams will present drafts based on “entrenched” interests (“academia,” she says), not parents and others. (Are many teachers not parents?) Chairman Don McLeroy wants to cancel the social studies revision process at this point and then come up with a new proposal for how to proceed.
10:01 – It appears the board will defer a decision until tomorrow on how to proceed on social studies standards.
10:03 – By the way, we now have the document presented by Brooke Dollens Terry of Texas Public Policy Foundation. Following are the names she says have been added to the standards for third grade. (Terri Leo says she has never heard of half of the names being added, but it’s unclear if she means for all the standards or just for third grade.)
Grace Hopper, Margaret Knight, Quanah Parker, Dr. Hector P. Garcia, Maya Lin, Maya Angelou, Sandra Cisneros, Kadir Nelson, Jean Pinkey, Angela Shelf Medear, Elisabet Ney, Carmen Lomas Garza, and Bill Martin.
10:07 – The board is about to begin its debate on science.
10:09 – Board member Ken Mercer of San Antonio moves to add “strengths and weaknesses” back into the science standards.
10:12 – Mercer: This about allowing students to discuss and question strengths and weaknesses of all scientific theories. He claims receiving 15,0000-16,000 e-mails on this from around the state.
10:15 – Mercer goes down the “microevolution” vs. “macroevolution” path again. And he brings up “Piltdown man” and a list of other “weaknesses” he claims plague evolutionary theory.
10:19 – OK, it looks like board member David Bradley’s computer screen has TFN Insider up. Good morning, Mr. Bradley!
10:20 – Member Bob Craig of Lubbock offers a substitute amendment. “I am fully cognizant to the difference between faith and science. But I believe they can co-exist.” He argues that what the writing teams suggested in December still allows students to freely discuss all aspects of science. Mr. Craig proposes to keep the work group language (without “strengths and weaknesses”) but adds “including discussing what is not fully understood so as to encourage critical thinking by the student.”
10:26 – Dallas member Geraldine “Tincy” Miller supports Mr. Craig’s motion.
10:30 – This should be interesting. Mr. Mercer and other creationists have argued that taking “strengths and weaknesses” out of the standards will bar students from discussing and asking questions. Mr. Craig’s amendment addresses that, explicitly affirms the right of students to discuss and question while keeping phony “weaknesses” out of textbooks.
10:32 – Mavis Knight speaks in favor of Mr. Craig’s motion.
10:34 – The creationists have a difficult decision to make here. Is this about the freedom of students to ask questions, as they have argued, or is this about promoting phony attacks on evolution in textbooks?
10:36 – Pat Hardy speaks in favor of Mr. Craig’s motion.
10:37 – Terri Leo opposes Mr. Craig’s motion. She says the language is “too ambiguous.” She wants teachers to tell students specific “weaknesses.”
10:38 – Lawrence Allen supports Mr. Craig’s motion.
10:39 – By the way, Texas Freedom Network supports Mr. Craig’s motion (although we hadn’t seen it until now). It’s a wise and responsible way to ensure that students are free to ask questions. That’s how they learn.
10:41 – Cynthia Dunbar opposes Mr. Craig’s motion. She notes a comment from Ms. Miller that she (Ms. Miller) is a committed Christian. Ms. Dunbar says that religious beliefs are irrelevant to what the board should so. Oh, really? Then why have her creationist colleagues and their allies questioned the faith of those who oppose putting “strengths and weaknesses” in the standards.
10:43 – Rick Agosto opposes Mr. Craig’s amendment. “If it’s not ‘fully understood,’ then I don’t consider that science.”
10:44 – Once again, Mr. Craig has moved that the board retain the language proposed by writing teams in December (without “strengths and weaknesses”) but add to the expectation that students analyze and evaluate scientific explanations: “including discussing what is not fully understood so as to encourage critical thinking by the student.”
10:46 – Barbara Cargill opposes Mr. Craig’s motion. She says “strengths and weaknesses” language protects the ability of teachers to tell students “weaknesses” of evolution (however phony those “weaknesses” are, apparently). “Darwinists have tried to smother all the challenges … (and) weaknesses of evolution.”
10:52 – Mr. Mercer opposes Mr. Craig’s motion. “What are they afraid of? Why all this national attention over one word, ‘weaknesses’?”
10:54 – McLeroy calls a 10-minute recess.
11:08 – They’re back. Ms. Knight moves to change Mr. Craig’s amendment to read: “fully understand IN ALL FIELD OF SCIENCE.” So the wording would be: “including discussing what is not fully understood in all fields of science.” The board accepts that change without objection. We’re back to Mr. Craig’s motion.
11:12 – Mr. Craig’s motion fails 6-8. We’re back to Mr. Mercer’s original amendment adding back “strengths and weaknesses.”
11:13 – Mr. Mercer’s motion fails 7-7!!!
11;15 – This is huge victory for sound science education in Texas. Moreover, the creationists’ opposition to Mr. Craig’s motion exposed their hypocrisy about wanting to ensure that students can ask questions about science.