Texas-funded online charter school declares evolution optional
The Texas Education Agency has approved the expansion of an online charter school that allows students to skip lessons on evolution, the Observer has learned. With the addition of several new regions (Corpus Christi, Austin, and San Antonio), the Texas Virtual Academy at Southwest now can enroll up to 1,500 students in the eastern half of Texas for grades K-8.
The school, which receives public funding and operates under state rules, uses a curriculum developed by K12 Inc, a publicly traded company co-founded by Bill Bennett, the conservative former secretary of education and drug czar. (Bennett served as the chairman of K12 Inc. until 2005, when he stepped down over remarks he made suggesting that aborting black babies would reduce the crime rate.)
According to K12 and the Virtual Academy’s Web site, learning evolution is optional:How does K¹² teach Evolution?
The concepts of evolution and creationism do not come up in grades K-2. In later grades, we teach evolution as a theory broadly accepted in the scientific community as an organizing theory of biology. We believe that a complete education includes understanding the basics of what this theory is about, even if one disagrees with it. K¹² emphasizes that parents have every right to explain to their children why they do or do not accept the theory and what they believe instead, including the concept of creationism. If parents aren’t interested in any teachings surrounding the theory of evolution, they can skip these lessons.
There we go again with that "organizing (or central or unifying or whatever) theory of biology" hogwash. I am ready to have a conniption fit every time I see it.
IMO a complete education also includes understanding the basics of Intelligent Design and other scientific or pseudoscientifc criticisms of evolution.
Online schools often cater to homeschooling parents, many of whom are Christian conservatives who believe in creationism. The Virtual Academy appears to be marketing its evolution-optional policy as a selling point.
The dogmatic hard sell of evolution in the public schools -- avoiding weaknesses, describing evolution as "central to biology," and not allowing evolution disclaimer statements -- is a major factor in parents' choice of homeschooling.
Nonetheless, the Texas Virtual Academy receives public funding and must abide by Texas’ education standards known as the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS). It’s the law. The TEKS require that each “student knows the theory of biological evolution.”
In the case of homeschooled students, it is impossible to enforce a requirement that evolution be taught.
“Parents could opt out of those classes but their child is still held responsible for learning the curriculum,” said TEA spokeswoman Debbie Graves Ratcliffe. “[T]hey need to do so with the understanding that their child could still be tested over that material.”
She said she’s never heard of a public school advertising an opt-out policy for evolution.
The above warning should be in K¹²'s above statement about evolution but is not. Parents are taking a big risk when they skip the lessons in evolution. Evolution is a big part of the College Board's AP biology exam and is likely a big part of the College Board's SAT Biology Subject Test and other standardized tests. Students may also need a knowledge of evolution for biology courses in college -- for example, evolution is important in cladistic taxonomy. As I said before, one can know and use evolution theory while believing that some or all of it is untrue.
As I said, I don't even remember studying evolution in my high school biology classes in the early 1960's, but evolution is much more important now, considering that it is the basis of cladistic taxonomy. Still, though, there is no question in my mind that the importance of evolution is now often grossly exaggerated.
The Texas Citizens for Science website says,
NEW! 2008 August 15 - Texas Education Agency Approves Expansion of Online K-8 Education for Texas Virtual Academy Using the Anti-Science K12 Curriculum Once Promoted by William Bennett
Texas Citizens for Science President Dr. Steven Schafersman is preparing a column that exposes the anti-science K12 curriculum used by the new Texas Virtual Academy (TXVA) at Southwest Schools in Houston, Texas. The TXVA was designed to funnel public tax money to Christian Fundamentalist and Biblical Literalist families who homeschool their children, and now it has just been approved by the TEA for use in large cities throughout the state. The TXVA uses the discredited K12 curriculum once promoted by William Bennett, which avoids the e-word and allows parents to keep their children ignorant of evolutionary biology.
That last statement in bold simply isn't true -- according to the preceding quote from the K¹² website, the K¹² curriculum includes evolution and even teaches it "as a theory broadly accepted in the scientific community as an organizing theory of biology," and the K¹² website adds, "We believe that a complete education includes understanding the basics of what this theory is about, even if one disagrees with it."
The TCS article says,
The TEA plans to help homeschooled students remain undeducated about evolution by keeping state 10th-grade end-of-course biology exams free of evolution questions (except having a few "weaknesses" of evolution questions).
For starters, the TEA is not supposed to "plan" any kind of policy -- the TEA is only supposed to implement policies and is supposed to be neutral about the evolution controversy. And even if evolution were eliminated from state 10th grade end-of-course biology exams, evolution would remain in the College Board tests in biology and in college courses in biology.
The column will be linked here soon, but for now please see the News Articles and Editorials that have covered this topic since 2001.
TCS President Schafersman had dealt with this topic in a 2003 article, and he thought the danger was over, but this ugly, smelly beast did not die a natural death, but kept out of sight until the Commissioner of Education could release it to the thousands of families that want to give their children a religious, anti-scientific education at public expense.
2001 and 2003? Before the Kitzmiller v. Dover case, I wasn't even aware that a big controversy over evolution was going on. The Kitzmiller decision was a pyrrhic victory for the Darwinists -- it has almost no precedential value but it has aroused a hornets' nest of opposition to the dogmatic teaching of Darwinism in the public schools. In my case, bashing Judge Jones has become sort of a hobby with me.
Labels: Evolution education (new #2)