Committees' final proposal for new Texas science standards now available
The drafting committees' final proposal for the new Texas high-school science standards has apparently been available for a few days and I was not aware of it. The following announcement on the Texas Education Agency's latest (December 19) update of the main webpage for the new science standards was ambiguous about the availability of the final draft (it says, "Documents that reflect changes from Draft 2 to the committee recommendations and that explain the reasons for the changes will be posted soon" ):
Science TEKS Review Committee Recommendations to the SBOE
The following documents are the science TEKS review committee recommendations for revisions to the science TEKS. Documents that reflect changes from Draft 2 to the committee recommendations and that explain the reasons for the changes will be posted soon.
Click on each item below to download a PDF.
Kindergarten – 5th grade science
6th-8th grade science
High School science
The controversy is over the High School science standards.
Unfortunately, the final proposal for the high-school standards has neither the "strengths and weaknesses" language, which was in the first drafts of the chemistry and astronomy standards, nor the "strengths and limitations" language, which was in the second drafts of the biology, chemistry, and physics standards. However, this final proposal does have the word "limitations" in the biology standards:
(3) Scientific processes. . . . . .The student is expected to:
- - - -
(D) evaluate models according to their limitations in representing biological objects or events
The addition of this "limitations" joker to the biology standards is especially significant because of the controversy over evolution theory. This "limitations" language in the final draft of the biology standards -- as well as the "strengths and limitations" language in the second draft of the biology standards -- blows a big hole in the Darwinists' theory that there is no controversy about evolution theory in the scientific community.
The paranoid Darwinists are “protesting too much” — as the saying goes — about words like “weaknesses” and “limitations.” Omitting those words would not prevent the adoption of textbooks that present weaknesses and/or limitations of evolution. The Darwinists are making a tempest in a teapot and a mountain out of a molehill.
As I said before, I recommended the term “strengths and criticisms.” “Criticisms” is a neutral, general term that covers limitations, real weaknesses, invalid criticisms (including pseudoscientific criticisms, which IMO should be studied by students as an educational exercise), criticisms of whole theories, and criticisms of imperfections in theories.
Another bad thing about the standards is that they redefine “scientific theories” as being “well-established and highly reliable explanations.” I have not seen “scientific theories” defined in this way in any standard dictionary. There are strong scientific theories and weak scientific theories. Also, the standards contain philosophies of science, which do not belong in state science standards.
Improper usages of the term "evolution" continue -- there is still talk of "geological evolution," "evolution of the universe," and "evolution of the Earth and planetary systems." The term "evolution" should not be applied to directionless changes (e.g., changes in continents) but should only be applied to developmental change (e.g., biological evolution) or changes that follow a pattern (e.g., stellar evolution).
I don't know why these recommendations are called "proposed recommendations" -- these are the committees' final recommendations. I also don't know why these recommendations are dated January 5, 2009.
These are only recommendations -- the state board of education does not have to accept them. The board can change the new standards at the January meeting by majority vote. It is believed that of the 15 members of the board, seven are in favor of the "strengths and weaknesses" language (and presumably would also support the "strengths and limitations" language and other similar language), six oppose the language, and two are undecided.
The main webpage for the proposed standards no longer has instructions for emailing comments on the standards but I presume that comments can still be sent to email@example.com. Comments should probably also be emailed to the board of education at firstname.lastname@example.org. Instructions on how to participate in the board of education's January 21st oral hearing are here (you must register in advance -- beginning at 8:00 AM January 16 -- to testify). The Texas Freedom Network reported that board chairman Don McLeroy decided to limit the oral testimony period to four hours, which I think is really unfair, especially considering that a lot commenters spend a lot of time and/or money to attend the oral hearings. However, many of the commenters have turned the oral hearings into a public demonstration -- there is a lot of repetition of the same testimony, e.g., different commenters repeat over and over again the largely irrelevant point that many religious people see no conflict between evolution theory and religion.
Background information is in the two "Texas Controversy" post-label groups listed in the sidebar of the home page.
The Texas Freedom Network  and the National Center for Science Education  also have reports on the final drafts from the committees.