Committees to decide final proposals for Texas science standards on Dec. 4-6
The state board of education held a long hearing on the proposed science standards on Nov. 19, with many public commenters (about 90 signed up, though not all spoke). The main issues were the "strengths and weaknesses" language of the first drafts of the chemistry and astronomy high-school standards and the "strengths and limitations" language of the second drafts of the biology, chemistry, and physics high-school standards. The Integrated Physics and Chemistry committee did not participate in the revision of the first draft, hence there is no second draft of the IPC standards. Four of the science committees -- IPC, environmental systems, aquatic science, and Earth and Space Science -- never added the "weaknesses" or "limitations" language. The "strengths and weaknesses" language has been in the state science-education regulations for about 20 years (the language was in the textbook proclamations for about the first 10 years). In comments I submitted, I proposed using the word "criticisms" instead of "weaknesses" or "limitations."
For more background info, see the two "Texas controversy" post-label groups in the sidebar of the home page. The second drafts and the instructions for submitting comments are here.
I will next send in a comment recommending that the committees ignore a survey report of Texas college biologists. I will make the following points:
(1) The timing of the release of the full survey report and the press releases and news reports was very unfair, only 1-2 days before the Nov. 19 hearing and just a few days before the final revisions of the proposed standards on Dec. 4-6, not leaving enough time to challenge the results of the survey.
(2) Only about 45% of the survey's addressees responded, and there are a lot of reasons to believe that the respondents were not a representative group.
(3) The reported questions were loaded, ambiguous, and/or unnecessarily restrictive.
(4) The survey results are not consistent with the "strengths and weaknesses" language and the "strengths and limitations" language in some of the proposed standards.
(5) The full report of the survey reported the results for only a small fraction of the 59 questions in the survey. Furthermore, survey results reported in the full report were cherry-picked by press releases and news reports to give the false impression that the respondents almost universally oppose the "weaknesses" language.
(6) The names of some scientists who did not respond were revealed by the full report's identification of the one institution that sent in no responses. In today's climate of political correctness, merely being known to have not responded to the survey could damage one's career.
(7) The responses to the question about the compatibility of religion and evolution should have no influence on the state science standards -- people should not be told what their religious beliefs are supposed to be.
(8) The survey's sponsor, the Texas Freedom Network, is a Darwinist outfit that strongly opposes the "weaknesses" and "limitations" language. Though this fact alone is not sufficient to disqualify the survey, it is a negative factor when viewed in combination with other factors.