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.
(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.