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My biggest motivation for creating my own blogs was to avoid the arbitrary censorship practiced by other blogs and various other Internet forums. Censorship will be avoided in my blogs -- there will be no deletion of comments, no closing of comment threads, no holding up of comments for moderation, and no commenter registration hassles. Comments containing nothing but insults and/or ad hominem attacks are discouraged. My non-response to a particular comment should not be interpreted as agreement, approval, or inability to answer.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Summary of criticisms of proposed Texas science standards


My original post about these standards was long-winded and had no summary of my criticisms. I am commenting here only about the high school standards.

A website for receiving comments about the proposed standards has not been posted yet.

(1) Create a core set of science standards that applies to all disciplines. Each discipline -- e.g., biology, chemistry, and physics -- now has a complete set of independent standards and there is no core set of standards. So, e.g., three of the disciplines define or discuss "theory" and others do not, two of the disciplines have the "strengths and weaknesses" language and others do not.

(2) Retain Rule 3A's "strengths and weaknesses" language, which has been in the standards for 20 years or more:

(A) The student is expected to analyze, review, and critique scientific explanations, including hypotheses and theories, as to their strengths and weaknesses using scientific evidence and information.

This language is unfortunately missing in the proposed biology standards. Scientific and pseudoscientific criticisms of prevailing theories should be taught by science teachers, not by unqualified parents, Sunday school teachers, etc.. Also, teaching weaknesses of prevailing scientific theories broadens students' education, encourages critical thinking, and increases student interest.

(3) Remove definitions and discussions of the term "scientific theory." These non-standard definitions are going to create chaos because textbooks tend to be tailored to suit Texas and hence are likely to adopt these definitions. The definition of "scientific theory" should be left to standard dictionaries.

(4) All philosophy of science and attempts to define the meaning of the word "science" should be removed. This stuff is too subjective, arbitrary and contentious to be included in state science standards.

(5) Correct inappropriate uses of the word "evolution." The word "evolution" generally connotes "development" or a pattern of "progression." The word should not be used to describe random and directionless change. So the expressions "biological evolution" and "stellar evolution" are OK, but "evolution of continents" is not.

(6) I see nothing wrong with directly mentioning human evolution in the standards, even though the science standards of only about 5 states currently directly mention it. Human evolution is not now in the proposed standards.

(7) The proposed standards do not have that outrageous cockamamie idea that evolution is central to biology, but I am going to speak out against this idea anyway in case someone tries to insert it.

(8) New item added 10/23/08 -- Reword the "strengths and weaknesses" language to say "scientific strengths and scientific and pseudoscientific weaknesses," which should exclude creationism and supernaturalism because those things do not pretend to be scientific.

IMO there should just be national standards and no state standards (only Iowa does not have any state science standards of its own) -- but that is a another matter.

General principles:

(1) There is no constitutional principle of separation of pseudoscience and state.

(2) The squeaky wheel gets the grease. If flat-earthers, geocentrists, etc. ever get enough political clout to have their ideas seriously considered for inclusion in science curricula, we can cross that bridge when we come to it.

The National Center for Science Education has an article -- with links to other websites -- about these proposed standards.

I have been commenting extensively on a Houston Chronicle Evo.Sphere blog article about the proposed standards.

I decided to make the first use of my "No trolls" (or "Please don't feed the trolls") symbol.

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4 Comments:

Blogger Jim Sherwood said...

Human evolution got less mention in eight states, between 2000 and 2008, and more mention in only two, as far as I can tell; according to your map on Aug. 31. Those were Kansas and Florida, in which the Darwin-fanatics had a chance to bring heavy pressure to bear, after the goofy ruling by Judge Jones.

I think that creationists and fundamentalists dislike theories of human evolution much more than they dislike theories of lower animal evolution. So it's probably for that reason that human evolution was de-emphasized, while overall treatment of evolution actually increased nationally between 2000 and 2008. It's also why direct mention of human evolution was left out of the Texas standards, I assume.

Sunday, September 28, 2008 4:28:00 PM  
Blogger Larry Fafarman said...

>>>>>> Those were Kansas and Florida, in which the Darwin-fanatics had a chance to bring heavy pressure to bear, after the goofy ruling by Judge Jones. <<<<<<

Jim,

Yes -- Judge "Jackass" Jones really threw a "monkey"-wrench into the works of the debate.

>>>>>> I think that creationists and fundamentalists dislike theories of human evolution much more than they dislike theories of lower animal evolution. So it's probably for that reason that human evolution was de-emphasized, while overall treatment of evolution actually increased nationally between 2000 and 2008. <<<<<<

A recent national survey of science teachers showed that only 17% of the respondents do not cover human evolution at all and that about 47-48% spend 3-5 hours or more on the subject (which IMO is more time than the subject deserves in a K-12 biology course), despite the fact the map chart shows that human evolution is now "directly mentioned" in the science standards of only about 5 states, is not mentioned at all in the science standards of most states, and is "implied, but not mentioned explicitly" in the science standards of the remaining states. Also, I think that the time spent on human evolution is in addition to the time spent on "general evolutionary processes" -- otherwise the figure of 35% for 1-2 hours on human evolution in comparison to the figure of 9% for 1-2 hours on "general evolutionary processes" would not make sense.

I think that another reason why human evolution is generally avoided in the standards is that it has controversial implications about real or imagined racial differences.

>>>>>> It's also why direct mention of human evolution was left out of the Texas standards, I assume. <<<<<<

I suspect that another reason why human evolution is not mentioned in the proposed Texas biology standards is that the Darwinists want to make a priority of getting rid of the "strengths and weaknesses" language, which has been in the biology standards for 20 years or more and has now been omitted from the proposed biology standards. The Darwinists probably figure that adding human evolution at the same time would make it that much harder to get rid of the "strengths and weaknesses" language. And since a lot of teachers may teach human evolution anyway, the question of whether to mention it directly in the standards is no big issue.

Sunday, September 28, 2008 7:49:00 PM  
Anonymous 'Nonymous said...

"we can cross that bridge when we come to it"

Do you have a bridge for sale?

Tuesday, September 30, 2008 4:10:00 AM  
Blogger Larry Fafarman said...

>>>>>> Do you have a bridge for sale? <<<<<<

No, I just have a bridge where I charge an arm and a leg in tolls to Darwinists, originalists, pettifoggers, assorted trolls, and other idiots who need to cross it.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008 8:31:00 AM  

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