Can’t Be Bothered

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The Texas State Board of Education’s public hearing on proposed new public school science curriculum standards lasted until nearly midnight on Wednesday. Parents, scientists, teachers, clergy and businesspeople waited for hours for the chance to voice their concerns about the standards — particularly what students should learn about evolution. Many traveled to Austin from other parts of Texas, clearly understanding how important this debate is. Board members, however, apparently want to avoid a repeat at the January hearing.

Today board Chairman Don McLeroy, R-Bryan, announced that testimony at the January 21 hearing will be limited to four hours — 8 a.m. to noon. That’s it. If folks are still waiting to testify at noon, we guess, then that’s just too bad for them.

Creationists who control the board have argued that teaching students arguments against evolution is simply a matter of academic freedom. Apparently, however, limiting public discussion about the wisdom of such a policy is just fine with them.

The January meeting will be the last — and only the second — public hearing on science curriculum standards that will be in place for a decade. Yet McLeroy and other board members appear to have decided that they can’t be bothered to listen for more than a few hours.

Speakers who support watering down instruction on evolution were outnumbered by about 8-1 on Wednesday by those who support giving Texas kids a science education that’s appropriate for the 21st century. We’re left to wonder if creationists who control the state board would support hearing more testimony in January if their supporters had carried the day this week.

Don’t like the decision? Let state board members know by e-mailing them at sboesupport@tea.state.tx.us.

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10 Responses to “Can’t Be Bothered”

  1. Joseph Martin III Says:

    Yes, what a nice way for them to try to discourage those of us, who traveled considerable distances to make a statement. Well I will still drive the 200 miles from McKinney to Austin to support sound science, whether I am allowed to speak or not.

  2. Larry Fafarman Says:

    –Today (Nov 21) board Chairman Don McLeroy, R-Bryan, announced that testimony at the January 21 hearing will be limited to four hours — 8 a.m. to noon. That’s it. If folks are still waiting to testify at noon, we guess, then that’s just too bad for them. —

    Well, maybe the board just got tired of hearing the same old tired arguments over and over again in the hearing on Nov. 19, e.g.,

    (1) The “weaknesses” and “limitations” language is just a plot of the Discovery Institute to sneak religion into science classrooms (never mind that the “weaknesses” language was introduced long before the DI existed).

    (2) Teaching the “weaknesses” or “limitations” of evolution theory will severely harm students, the state of Texas, and the nation.

    (3) Many religious people see no conflict between evolution and religion. So what — people should not be told what their religious beliefs are supposed to be.

    Just repeating these same arguments over and over again is a public demonstration, not a hearing. However, I agree that the board should try to accommodate as many commenters as possible — some people seeking to comment might actually have something new to say.

    .The “weaknesses” and “limitations” terms actually have a lot of support in the standards-drafting committees. “Strengths and weaknesses” was in the first drafts of the chemistry and astronomy standards. The “strengths and weaknesses” language was dropped in the second draft but the biology, chemistry, and physics committees added the “strengths and limitations” language. Only the standards for Integrated Physics and Chemistry, Environmental Systems, Aquatic Science, and Earth and Space Science did not have “weaknesses” or “limitations” in either the first or second drafts (the Engineering Design and Problem Solving standards don’t count). The Integrated Physics and Chemistry committee did not participate in the revisions of the first drafts and hence there is no second draft for the IPC standards. Because of evolution theory, the “weaknesses” and “limitations” terms are the most contentious in the biology standards and so it is especially noteworthy that the second draft of the biology standards included “limitations.”

    Also, of the seven board members who have shown support for the “weaknesses” language, the two who were seriously challenged in the recent election kept their seats. The board is more likely to listen to the general electorate than to scientists, teachers, clergy, etc.. And the question of whether to teach both strengths and weaknesses (or criticisms or limitations) does not require any scientific expertise to answer, so there is no reason to give any extra weight to scientists’ opinions on that question.

    –Speakers who support watering down instruction on evolution were outnumbered by about 8-1 on Wednesday by those who support giving Texas kids a science education that’s appropriate for the 21st century.–

    Perhaps one of the reasons for that 8-1 lopsidedness is that there was practically no advance publicity of the hearing — I am on the email list of the science department of the Texas Education Agency and I do not recall receiving any email notice about the hearing. Maybe some Darwinist insider(s) got the word out to Darwinist organizations and individuals.

    Also, I am disturbed by the timing of the release of the reports on the survey of Texas college scientists. The reports were released only 1-2 days before the state board of education’s Nov. 19 oral hearing on the proposed science standards, not giving enough time to debate the significance of the survey results. Some commenters at the oral hearing favorably cited the survey’s results.

    I have proposed that the term “criticisms” be used instead of “weaknesses” or “limitations.” The term “criticisms” does not imply anything about whether a specific criticism is valid or not, and a pseudoscientific or otherwise invalid criticism should not be called a “weakness” because it is not a real weakness. Also, a “criticism” can be an attack on an entire theory or just an attack on an imperfection in a theory. “Criticism” is a fairly neutral term.

    Just spoonfeeding students the strengths of scientific theories is a bad idea. Teaching criticisms of scientific theories — even pseudoscientific criticisms — serves the following purposes: broadening students’ education, encouraging critical thinking, helping students learn the material, increasing student interest, helping to prevent misconceptions, and helping to assure that technically sophisticated criticisms are taught by qualified science teachers.

  3. fair, or “balanced”? « Tony’s curricublog Says:

    […] and unanimously from the scientists and science teachers. (The 8:1 estimate is reported by the Texas Freedom Network (TFN), and sounds about right from my listening to the 7 hourse of testimony, although I […]

  4. Larry Fafarman Says:

    –fair, or “balanced”? « Tony’s curricublog Says: November 23, 2008 at 2:55 pm
    […] and unanimously from the scientists and science teachers. (The 8:1 estimate is reported by the Texas Freedom Network (TFN), and sounds about right from my listening to the 7 hourse of testimony, although I […] —

    There must be a lot of scientists and science teachers on the four standards-drafting committees that approved the “strengths and weaknesses” language (first drafts of the chemistry and astronomy standards) and the “strengths and limitations” language (second drafts of biology, chemistry, and physics standards). Two fundies on the state board of education defeated serious challengers in the last election. Public opinion polls show that a large part of the public wants both the “strengths and weaknesses” of evolution theory to be taught in public schools, and a surprisingly large part of the public wants only creationism to be taught (what is there to teach about “poof”-type creationism?).

    Also, that recent survey of the Texas college biologists and the reports on it were biased. Many of the survey questions were loaded or ambiguous, and the biologists were never directly asked whether they were in favor of removing the “strengths and weaknesses” language from the state science standards. Some inconvenient results of the survey were not reported in press releases and news reports. And the survey’s response rate was only about 45% and many of those who didn’t respond may have been turned off by the obvious bias in some of the questions.

    So don’t count the fundies out just yet.

    As I said, IMO the word “criticisms” should be used in place of “weaknesses” or “limitations.”

  5. TFN Says:

    Science is based on research and evidence, not public opinion. If the majority of people believed the sun revolves around the earth, it would still be foolish to teach students such nonsense in science classes. That two far-right members of the state board won re-election is not a sound argument for teaching pseudo-science in public schools. Evolution deniers have failed to provide scientific evidence to support their “weaknesses” claims. Those who wish to conduct scientific research and publish their evidence in peer-reviewed journals in an attempt to “disprove” evolution are certainly free to continue trying. Unless and until they succeed, however, public school students should learn established, mainstream science supported by overwhelming scientific research and evidence.

    As for the report, Dr. Eve is a respected research specialist, and a response rate of 45 percent is remarkably high for a survey of this type. In addition, it is false to claim that survey recipients “were never directly asked whether they were in favor of removing the ‘strengths and weaknesses’ language from the state science standards.” In fact, they were asked their opinions on that. See page 11 of the report.

  6. Larry Fafarman Says:

    TFN Says (November 24, 2008 at 2:43 am) —
    –Science is based on research and evidence, not public opinion.–

    That is not the issue here — the issue here is whether the new science standards should include the “strengths and weaknesses” language or similar language (“strengths and limitations,” “strengths and criticisms,” etc.)

    — a response rate of 45 percent is remarkably high for a survey of this type. —

    That doesn’t change the fact that this was an informal survey, not a scientifically conducted survey. As I said, many of those who didn’t respond might have been turned off by the obvious bias in some of the questions.

    –it is false to claim that survey recipients “were never directly asked whether they were in favor of removing the ’strengths and weaknesses’ language from the state science standards.” In fact, they were asked their opinions on that. See page 11 of the report. —

    Wrong — here is what the full report of the survey said:

    –The survey further queried respondents about whether the State Board of Education “should amend the [state’s science] curriculum to exclude discussion of the ‘weaknesses’ of evolution as advanced by proponents of creationism and intelligence design theory.”–
    — from http://www.tfn.org/site/DocServer/FinalWebPost.pdf?docID=861

    The above question in the survey did not ask the simple question that was before the board: should the “strengths and weaknesses” language that has been in the state science-education regulations for about 20 years be removed? The above question in the survey asked whether the standards should specifically exclude discussion of weaknesses, not whether the “weaknesses” language should be dropped. Also, the above question in the survey is loaded — the “weaknesses” provision in the state science standards says nothing about ‘the “weaknesses” of evolution “as advanced by proponents of creationism and intelligent design theory.” In fact, the “weaknesses” language does not even mention evolution at all, though I will concede that it is generally assumed that evolution is one of the main targets of the “weaknesses” language. And how do the survey’s respondents feel about the teaching of creationism and intelligent design as invalid criticisms of evolution? How do the survey’s respondents feel about the teaching of other criticisms of evolution? We don’t know. Also, press releases and news reports of the survey did not report the figures for the significant minorities that disagreed “strongly” with excluding such discussions — 15% — and that disagreed “somewhat” with excluding such discussions — 13% (6% were “not sure” and 67% strongly agreed or agreed somewhat). BTW, in referring to page numbers of the report, it would help if you would distinguish between the page numbers of the PDF file and the page numbers on the document itself (page 11 on the document itself is page 16 of the PDF file).

    Also, I presume that the standards-drafting committees consist mostly of scientists and science teachers, yet four of the eight science committees proposed either “strengths and weaknesses” language (first drafts of the chemistry and astronomy standards) or “strengths and limitations” language (second drafts of the biology, chemistry, and physics standards — BTW, the Integrated Physics and Chemistry committee did not participate in the revision of the first draft).

  7. jdg Says:

    Larry Fafarman you have no clue what you are talking about. When the scientific community says their are no “weaknesses” in evolution, then there are none. Quit forcing your religion on others

  8. jdg Says:

    Larry Fafarman

    Look at this website so that you can educate yourself on who are the “real” dissenters from darwin. http://openparachute.wordpress.com/2008/01/23/who-are-the-dissenters-from-darwinism/

  9. Larry Fafarman Says:

    jdg Says (November 28, 2008 at 10:00 pm) —
    –Larry Fafarman

    Look at this website so that you can educate yourself on who are the “real” dissenters from darwin. —

    I have been blogging about the evolution controversy for about 2-1/2 years and my blog has hundreds of articles about the subject. I don’t need to “educate” myself on who are the “real” dissenters from Darwin.

  10. jdg Says:

    Apparently, you do need to be educated if you believe that evolution has problems.

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