I'm from Missouri

This site is named for the famous statement of US Congressman Willard Duncan Vandiver from Missouri : "I`m from Missouri -- you'll have to show me." This site is dedicated to skepticism of official dogma in all subjects. Just-so stories are not accepted here. This is a site where controversial subjects such as evolution theory and the Holocaust may be freely debated.

Location: Los Angeles, California, United States

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.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Important update about proposed Texas science standards

Steven Schafersman reports on the Houston Chronicle's Evo.Sphere blog that standards drafting committees have already made the first revisions of the proposed Texas science standards (Science TEKS -- Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills), but the Texas Education Agency has not posted the revised standards yet. There will not be much time for commenting on the revised standards:

The SBOE will receive and discuss the revised science standards during their November 19-21 meeting, one day--Nov 19--will be devoted to public testimony, and the science panels will have one last attempt to revise the standards to final form during December 4-6. After that, only the SBOE can revise the science standards by majority vote during their January 2009 meeting. The standards receive final adoption in March 2009 and are to be used by teachers and textbook publishers for the next ten years.

As I said, the Texas science standards have a lot of influence well beyond the borders of Texas.

Schafersman's article has links to the six reviews written by the recently appointed panel of experts. Evolution News & Views also has links to these reviews.

I posted the following comment -- which should appear shortly -- under Schafersman's article:
The original post says,
--The panels all carefully reviewed all the expert and public feedback and the two comparisons, and made revisions or not by consensus.--

So you are saying that the panels (committees) for all the different disciplines have already made the first revisions in the original draft of the standards. Where are these revised standards?

The Texas Education Agency was very tardy in starting to accept public comments about the original draft of the standards -- the TEA started accepting public comments about 4 weeks after the original standards were released and just days before the review of the public comments, and the TEA caused further delay by asking that public comments be submitted on a PDF comment form that could not save or email entered data! There simply was no time or not enough time for review of public comments. I am really going to keep after the TEA this time and try to make sure that they are not so tardy again. Also, I am going to urge that the TEA accept comments in a blog-type format so that commenters will be able to see and comment on the comments of others.

--All eight high school science panels agreed to use the same language about the definition, nature, and methods of science in their course introductions.--

Sounds good -- in my comments on the original draft, I pointed out that having inconsistent and possibly conflicting core principles for the different branches of science was creating problems. I would of course like to see what uniform language was adopted. I am especially concerned about (1) excessive philosophizing about science and (2) giving non-standard definitions of "scientific theory."

--All eight high school science panels removed the notorious term "weaknesses" from rule 3A, although some small differences remain in the remaining language.--

So you are saying that the two committees (chemistry and astronomy) that retained the "strengths and weaknesses" language in the original draft dropped that language in the first revision.

--the old standards contained a Creationist leftover from a 20-year old textbook Proclamation and the original 10-year old TEKS: the unscientific TEKS process skill or rule 3A, which ask that students to know the "strengths and weaknesses" of scientific explanations. --

This is the first time that your opening post said that the "strengths and weaknesses" language is 20 years old (or thereabouts) instead of only 10 years old -- I had to correct you twice about that (and the first time you were very rude about my even bringing up the issue).

--Seven radical religious right and Creationist members of the SBOE want to keep the "strengths and weaknesses" language in,--

There you go again with name-calling and stereotyping. Do you really know the motives of all the board members who want to retain the "strengths and weaknesses" language?

-- although over a thousand Texas scientists have joined together to form a 21st Century Science Coalition, and signed a statement asking the SBOE to "encourage valid critical thinking and scientific reasoning by leaving out all references to 'strengths and weaknesses,' --

The question of whether to retain the "strengths and weaknesses" language does not require any scientific expertise to answer, so the opinions of scientists should not carry any extra weight here.

-- . . . which politicians have used to introduce supernatural explanations into science courses. --

The "strengths and weaknesses" language is around 20 years old and you have not presented one single example of where politicians have used it to introduce supernatural explanations into science courses. As I said, there are sound pedagogical reasons for teaching criticisms of scientific theories, even criticisms that are known to be pseudoscientific. Those reasons are: broadening students' education, encouraging critical thinking, helping students learn the material, increasing student interest, correcting misconceptions, and helping to assure that technically sophisticated criticisms are taught by qualified science teachers. For example, IMO the Second Law of Thermodynamics is not a valid criticism of evolution, but analyzing the SLoT as a criticism of evolution is a worthwhile educational exercise for students.

I am going to propose that the original rule 3A "scientific strengths and weaknesses" language be reworded to "scientific strengths and scientific and pseudoscientific criticisms." This wording has the following features:

(1) This language makes no assumptions about whether the criticisms are scientific or pseudoscientific.

(2) A pseudoscientific criticism is not a real "weakness," so the term "weaknesses" was changed to "criticisms." My original proposed rewording had the term "weaknesses."

(3) The term "scientific and pseudoscientific criticisms" excludes creationism and supernaturalism because those things do not pretend to be scientific.

-Two science professors and one pseudoscientific think-tank administrator who are anti-evolutionists and Intelligent Design Creationists: --

The "pseudoscientific think-tank administrator," Stephen Meyer, is a philosopher of science and so is eminently qualified to be a reviewer of the Science TEKS because so much of the Science TEKS consists of philosophy of science.

--It is my intention to analyze the feedback of the three anti-evolutionists, and this will be done soon. --

Why not analyze the feedback of the three evolutionists too? Is their feedback above criticism just because they are evolutionists?

--even by enlisting the support of out-of-state pseudoscientific zealots. --

There you go again with that ridiculous "out-of-state" thing -- the fact that Meyer and Seelke are from out-of-state has absolutely no bearing on the quality of their reviews of the state science standards.

Also, as I pointed out, the two SBOE supporters of the "weaknesses" language who were seriously challenged in the recent elections held onto their seats -- see




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