Putting Party Politics Ahead of Texas Kids

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This is the clearest case yet of anti-evolution extremists putting political partisanship ahead of giving Texas kids a sound science education. Now the State Republican Executive Committee (SREC) is pressuring Republicans on the Texas State Board of Education to require that public school students learn phony “weaknesses” of evolution in their science classrooms.

The committee passed a resolution on March 7 insisting that Republican board members bow to the Texas GOP platform on the issue. The platform, passed at the GOP state convention in June 2008, includes the following plank:

We support objective teaching and equal treatment of strengths and weaknesses of scientific theories, including Intelligent Design.

Of course, every one of the so-called “weaknesses” promoted by evolution deniers has been debunked by mainstream science. Moreover, a federal court ruled in 2005 that teaching the religion-based “intelligent design” concept in public schools is unconstitutional. But the SREC apparently believes that Republican officeholders should simply check their brains at the door and follow party orders.

The committee’s resolution is clearly aimed at three Republican state board members who voted with five Democrats against retaining the “strengths and weaknesses” requirement in state science curriculum standards in January. That bipartisan majority correctly argued that evolution opponents are trying to use the requirement to teach pseudoscience in public schools. The board’s seven creationist Republicans are trying to reverse the decision in a final vote on the standards later this month.

Austin SREC member Brian Russell offerd the resolution. Mr. Russell has also served as treasurer of Legacy PAC, a Christian-right political action committee based in Austin. Before the SREC passed its resolution, Legacy hosted a lecture by State Board of Education member Cynthia Dunbar, R-Richmond. An individual who attended the lecture reports that Ms. Dunbar — who charges that public education is “unconstitutional” and “tyrannical” — called for the three pro-science Republican board members to obey the party platform and change their votes. She even suggested opposing the re-election of the three. (She said it was “unfortunate” that one had already won re-election to her seat last year.)

Ms. Dunbar has her own problems obeying the GOP platform or even remembering what she has said in the past. When she ran for office in 2006, Ms. Dunbar said she supported teaching “intelligent design” in public schools. Now, however, she says she opposes doing so. Yet the 2008 Texas GOP platform still calls for it. So either Ms. Dunbar isn’t telling the truth or she’s guilty of rank hypocrisy. Or perhaps both.

In any case, here’s the truth: the board’s bipartisan majority voted responsibly in January to ensure that Texas kids learn sound science, not pseudoscience based on ideology. They refused to dumb down the science curriculum with phony arguments against evolution, and they protected school districts from costly court battles if they were to teach “intelligent design.” They deserve the thanks of all Texans, regardless of party, who want our kids to get a 21st-century education that prepares them to succeed in college and the jobs of the future.

Shame on those who would put party politics in the way of that important goal.

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27 Responses to “Putting Party Politics Ahead of Texas Kids”

  1. Charles Says:

    Some number of years from now, the Religious Right, Texas Republican Party, and the Texas SBOE are going to look back wistfully on their great losses on the big issues and write some big piece of crap like the following:

    “[The] servile instincts [of slaves] rendered them contented with their lot, and their patient toil blessed the land of their abode with unmeasured riches. Their strong local and personal attachment secured faithful service … never was there happier dependence of labor and capital on each other. The tempter came, like the serpent of Eden, and decoyed them with the majic word of ‘freedom’ … He put arms in their hands, and trained their humble but emotional natures to deeds of violence and bloodshed, and sent them out to devastate their benefactors. ”

    —Confederate President Jefferson Davis
    The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government (1881)

    And I reiterate Tony Campolo:

    “What scares me is that Christianity in America today sees nothing wrong with being allied with political conservatism. Conservatives are people who worship at the graves of dead radicals. Stop to think about that. The people who started this country, George Washington, Jefferson, Hamilton, these were not conservatives; these were the radicals of the time. In fact, conservatives always look back on people who they despised and make them into heroes. If you were to listen to the religious right today, they would make you believe that Martin Luther King was one of their flock. In reality, they hated him and did everything they could to destroy him.”

  2. Larry Fafarman Says:

    The Texas GOP sees the “strengths and weaknesses” language as being good for Texas kids, so the Texas GOP is not “putting party politics ahead of Texas kids.” Putting one thing “ahead” of something else means willfully sacrificing one thing in order to benefit something else. If, for example, the Texas GOP proposed cutting taxes by reducing education spending by half, that would be putting party politics ahead of Texas kids.

    I have followed the controversy over the new Texas science standards very closely for a long time (my blog “I’m from Missouri” has about sixty articles on the subject, including 15 articles about ousted former Texas Education Agency science director Chris Comer — the articles are in three “Texas controversy” post-label groups and one “Chris Comer” post-label group) and I am astonished that I am just now learning that the 2008 Texas GOP platform included support for the “strengths and weaknesses” language! Moreover, that GOP platform also included support for teaching Intelligent Design in the public schools! Also, I am surprised that so many GOP members of the Texas board of education — three — broke ranks by voting against retaining the “strengths and weaknesses” language. I thought that the fight over the “strengths and weaknesses” language was over, but apparently not. The date on the resolution, March 7, was several days ago — how come this resolution has not been reported in the general media? Has the Texas GOP issued a press release announcing the resolution? I checked four other concerned websites — Texas Citizens for Science, Texans for Better Science Education, The Freemarket Foundation, and the 21st Century Science Coalition, and only the Texans for Better Science Education website mentioned the resolution (there was just a link to the resolution but no discussion of the resolution’s contents or significance).

    I was amused that the resolution uses the term “Darwinist,” a term that many Darwinists consider to be derogatory. LOL

    TFN says,
    –Of course, every one of the so-called “weaknesses” promoted by evolution deniers has been debunked by mainstream science. —

    I disagree — there continues to be big debates over alleged “weaknesses” in evolution theory. But even if all weaknesses promoted in the past have been already debunked, the Texas science standards should still be capable of accommodating any weaknesses introduced in the future.

    TFN says,
    –Moreover, a federal court ruled in 2005 that teaching the religion-based ”intelligent design” concept in public schools is unconstitutional. —

    Never before in American history has so much weight been given to the opinion of a single judge. Moreover, this judge is a crackpot judicial activist who (1) showed extreme prejudice against Intelligent Design and the Dover school board defendants — regardless of whether or not ID is a religious concept — by saying that his decision was based on his cockamamie notion that the Founders based the establishment clause upon a belief that organized religions are not “true” religions and who (2) copied the opinion’s ID-as-science section nearly verbatim from the plaintiffs’ opening post-trial brief.

    TFN says,
    –Ms. Dunbar has her own problems obeying the GOP platform or even remembering what she has said in the past. When she ran for office in 2006, Ms. Dunbar said she supported teaching “intelligent design” in public schools. Now, however, she says she opposes doing so. —

    The March 7 GOP resolution did not press or even mention the ID issue, so what Ms. Dunbar is doing now is consistent with this resolution.

    Also, as I said before, IMO the importance of the Texas science standards has been exaggerated, because no local school district in Texas or public school system outside of Texas is required to use Texas-approved textbooks.

    I was not going to submit any more comments to the Texas Education Agency about the proposed Texas science standards, but because this Texas GOP resolution may result in reconsideration of the “strengths and weaknesses” language, I will send in a comment repeating my proposal of replacing “strengths and weaknesses” with “strengths and criticisms.” “Criticisms” is a general term that covers real weaknesses, invalid criticisms, criticisms of whole theories, and criticisms of imperfections in theories.

  3. Ben Says:

    Larry, why are you trying so hard to drum up traffic to your blog?

  4. Charles Says:

    I cannot even imagine.

  5. Rocket Mike Says:

    The Republican Party leadership seems to be trying to alienate conciencious mainstream Republicans that endorse modern science. These people are so wrapped up in their regressive dogma that they can’t see the damage they are trying to instill in public high school curriculum standards. Anyone that does not toe their line will be thrown under the bus. It is time for patriotic Republicans that respect the scientific method and the US Constitution to take back their party and regain the respect they used to have.

    Larry, the courts have recognized the duplicity of the changing ploys that regressive religionists have used to try to advance their agenda in public school classes. Just changing the names or even the definitions of terms does not make this duplicity any more moral or constitutional. I learned higher moral standards in Vacation Bible School.

  6. Larry Fafarman Says:

    My last comment was apparently passed over for posting — maybe it was because the comment was mildly abusive. Here is the comment again with the abusive parts removed —

    Ben Says:
    –Larry, why are you trying so hard to drum up traffic to your blog? –

    I mention my blog only when appropriate. Here I mentioned my blog’s approximately 60 articles about the Texas science-standards controversy in order to help explain my surprise that I was not aware of the 2008 Texas GOP platform’s support for the “strengths and weaknesses” language (as well as the platform’s support for teaching ID).

  7. Larry Fafarman Says:

    Charles Says:
    — I cannot even imagine. —

    Cannot even imagine what?

  8. Ben Says:

    Larry, this might surprise you, but I’ve had several comments passed over on this blog. (Yes, all of them were directed at you.) So, in case you’re feeling persecuted or unfairly censored, disabuse yourself of that notion. Be a big boy.

    By the way, have you ever considered the possibility that Satan has infected your brain with the intent of making you deny something as obvious as evolution? You do believe in Satan, right?

  9. Charles Says:

    Rocket Mike.

    I could not agree with you more. The Republican Party and its so-called “base” are dominated today by conspiracy theorists, latter-day John Birchers, religious loonies, pompous/bombastic radio personalities, mean-spirited authoritarians; neofascist ideologues, Sarah Conner wannabies, wild-theory tax protesters, war mongers, Ebenezer Scrooge types, dumb rednecks, science-sackers, racists, misogynists, and on, and on, and on and on…. It is a national disgrace, and my words hardly do it justice. Here is the leadership and membership of today’s Religious Right, neocon-run Republican Party:

    Dwight Eisenhower, Howard Baker Jr., Everett Dirksen, Barry Goldwater, Richard Nixon, Nelson Rockefeller, Gerald Ford. Would you ever see them at a social mixer with the above bunch? Not on this planet and not in this dimension either. Where did the real Republican Party go?

    Smart rednecks are okay.

  10. Charles Says:

    Yes Larry. I know that all but two of those people are dead now, so they really could not attend a social mixer today. That’s not the point. Get a life.

  11. Rocket Mike Says:

    Charles,
    I don’t count Richard Nixon among my admired Republicans, even though I voted for him—-twice.

  12. Charles Says:

    I did not mean that he should be admired. However, despite all of his quirks and paranoia (and the bad things that came out of it), he was a moderate force compare to the current crowd. He was also a political and diplomatic genius. Have a nice day Mike, and thanks for your comment.

  13. Larry Fafarman Says:

    Rocket Mike Says (March 14, 2009 at 2:39 pm) —
    –Larry, the courts have recognized the duplicity of the changing ploys that regressive religionists have used to try to advance their agenda in public school classes. Just changing the names or even the definitions of terms does not make this duplicity any more moral or constitutional.–

    But changing the names and the definitions helps make it lawsuit-proof.

    IMO scientific issues in the evolution controversy should be declared to be non-justiciable. It is like trying to answer the question of how many angels can dance on the head of a pin. Questions are considered to be non-justiciable when there “is a lack of judicially discoverable and manageable standards for resolving the question.” Vieth v. Jubelirer, 541 U.S. 267 (2004). Also, appellate courts would not want to just rubber-stamp district court decisions on whether ID is science, nor would appellate courts want to review or listen to weeks of expert scientific testimony. You Darwinists should forget about running to the courts.

    As I have pointed out before, teaching criticisms of evolution — even pseudoscientific criticisms — serves the following purposes: broadening students’ education, encouraging critical thinking, helping students learn the material, helping to prevent or correct misconceptions, and helping to assure that technically sophisticated criticisms of evolution are taught by qualified science teachers.

    Charles Says (March 15, 2009 at 12:33 am) —
    –Yes Larry. I know that all but two of those people are dead now, so they really could not attend a social mixer today. That’s not the point. Get a life.–

    WHAT????? I didn’t respond to your comment. I didn’t even participate in the discussion — which you were having with Rocket Mike — which led to your comment.

    BTW, according to my records, Baker is the only one in the list who is living.

  14. Ben Says:

    Larry, can you give us a valid criticism of evolution that wasn’t planted in your head by Satan?

    Ha! Trick question. You wouldn’t be able to distinguish between the two, would you?

  15. JC Dufresne Says:

    In response to a post I made on dailykos a few days ago a fellow commented the following:
    My favorite question for creationists – If carbon dating misleads us about the age of things, why did God cause carbon 14 to decay at a rate which doesn’t reflect his handiwork?

    The usual response is a sputtering, stumbling rationalization attributing God with some motive to hide the truth from us.

    … which naturally leads one to ask how the creationist knows God’s motives and even assuming he’s right, what does it say about God that he intentionally misleads us? After all, if God intentionally misleads us, doesn’t that also mean the Bible could be intentionally misleading?

    So my question to Larry is what do you think about carbon dating?

  16. JC Dufresne Says:

    On the topic of the Republican party platform calling for teaching ID in schools I have to say that obviously they don’t get that when a Republican appointed federal judge says no about something then maybe you ought rethink your position.

  17. Wen Says:

    Curiosity overcomes me…what would Mr Fafarman have us teach to critically examine the theory of gravity? What to critically examine atomic theory? Apparently this gentleman is unaware that people, much more knowledgeable than K-12 students, have been working for 150 years to find flaws in the theory of evolution. Perhaps the SBOE whould devote itself to a regulation that the deficiencies in the Bible be taught in the classroom as well.

  18. jdg Says:

    Larry F is a evolution/holocaust/aids denier. He has his anti-science “blog”

  19. jdg Says:

    Just remember everyone that pseudo weaknesses of evolution will NOT be taught in my classroom even if more anti-science passes. Many science teachers share this sentiment in my deparment/district. We have our creationist teachers in “check”

  20. JC Dufresne Says:

    Fortunately Barbara Cargill is in no longer in the classroom but I worry that more like her are out there.

  21. TXatheist Says:

    Larry, I’d like to hear a criticism/weakness of evolution.

  22. Larry Fafarman Says:

    TXatheist Says:
    –Larry, I’d like to hear a criticism/weakness of evolution.–

    Coevolution (which I used to spell co-evolution). A summary of my thoughts about coevolution is at —
    http://im-from-missouri.blogspot.com/2009/01/summary-of-thoughts-about-co-evolution.html

    My blog has other articles about coevolution in a post-label group titled “Non-ID criticisms of evolution” —
    http://im-from-missouri.blogspot.com/search/label/Non-ID%20criticisms%20of%20evolution

    In my studies of coevolution, Darwinian evolution theory was potentially a science stopper. Biologists often just generally assume that coevolution is the result of “mutual evolutionary pressure” between different species and have no desire to investigate further. My hypothesis that Darwinian coevolution is not always possible motivated me to investigate further.

  23. Larry Fafarman Says:

    jdg Says:
    –Larry F is a evolution/holocaust/aids denier. He has his anti-science “blog”–

    That’s just an ad hominem attack — and I have not discussed AIDS on my blog or anywhere else.

    jdg Says —
    –Just remember everyone that pseudo weaknesses of evolution will NOT be taught in my classroom even if more anti-science passes. —

    In Peloza v. Capistrano School District, the courts ruled that a teacher could be required to teach evolution even if teaching it is against his religion.

    Teaching criticisms of evolution — even pseudoscientific criticisms — serves the following purposes: broadening students’ education, encouraging critical thinking, helping students learn the material, preventing or correcting misconceptions, and helping to assure that technically sophisticated criticisms of evolution are taught by qualified science teachers and not by unqualified parents and unqualified Sunday School and social studies teachers.

    JC Dufresne Says (March 16, 2009 at 1:33 pm) —
    — On the topic of the Republican party platform calling for teaching ID in schools I have to say that obviously they don’t get that when a Republican appointed federal judge says no about something then maybe you ought rethink your position. —

    Judge Jones has been excommunicated from the party. Anyway, why should anyone pay any attention to a decision which — according to the judge — was based on his cockamamie notion that the Founders based the establishment clause upon a belief that organized religions are not “true” religions?

    — So my question to Larry is what do you think about carbon dating? —

    I haven’t thought about it and I have no opinion about it. However, a lot of things in nature can be deceiving.

  24. Ben Says:

    Larry, you might be interested in this upcoming Nightline debate:

    http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/cgi-bin/PrintStory.pl?document_id=2008877678&zsection_id=2003925728&slug=satan18m&date=20090318

    Perhaps the debaters will determine, once and for all, whether Satan has caused you to deny evolution.

  25. Charles Says:

    “Teaching criticisms of evolution — even pseudoscientific criticisms — serves the following purposes: broadening students’ education, encouraging critical thinking, helping students learn the material, preventing or correcting misconceptions, and helping to assure that technically sophisticated criticisms of evolution are taught by qualified science teachers and not by unqualified parents and unqualified Sunday School and social studies teachers.”

    Hi Larry. I just got finished watching “Legally Blonde 2” with my 15 year old daughter. After doing that and reading the statement above, I broke out into laughter. I am sending Elle Woods out to your house to do a dipstick on your sanity.

  26. Larry Fafarman Says:

    Charles Says,
    –Hi Larry. I just got finished watching “Legally Blonde 2″ with my 15 year old daughter. After doing that and reading the statement above, I broke out into laughter.–

    What in the hell does “Legally Blonde 2” have to do with my comment?

    –“I’m always kicking their butts — that’s why they don’t like me.”–
    — Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger

  27. Ben Says:

    The only way that Larry compares to Arnold is that people mock them both on occasion.

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