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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.

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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.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Darwinists ignore L-word in proposed Texas science standards

Background --

The "strengths and weaknesses" language has been in the Texas science standards continuously since the 1980's. The language was added to the Texas textbook proclamations in the 1980's (I was told that the textbook proclamations were the de facto state standards back then) and added to the state science standards around 1997-98. "Strengths and weaknesses" was in the first drafts of the proposed new chemistry and astronomy standards and "strengths and limitations" was in the second drafts of the biology, chemistry, and physics standards but just the word "limitations" was retained in only the proposed final draft of the biology standards (there were eight science committees and one engineering & design committee, which doesn't count here).

A news article says,

. . . . with the "weaknesses" requirement removed and a new definition for science, the new plan makes it clear that supernatural explanations like creationism and intelligent design have no place in public classrooms, said Dan Quinn with the Texas Freedom Network, an Austin-based nonprofit group that opposes religious influence on public education . . . . .

Educators removed the "weaknesses" phrase in their first draft of the science curriculum.

That is not exactly true. There were eight science committees and two of them -- chemistry and astronomy -- retained the "strengths and weaknesses" language in the first drafts.
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After a public hearing that attracted more than 200 speakers, the phrase was back in the second draft, but "weaknesses" was changed to "limitations."

About 90 -- not 200 -- people signed up to speak at the hearing.

As noted above, "strengths and weaknesses" was in the first drafts of the chemistry and astronomy standards and "strengths and limitations" was in the second drafts of the biology, chemistry, and physics standards. The Darwinists objected to the "strengths and limitations" language as well as the "strengths and weaknesses" language.

The second draft was published before -- not after -- the hearing, but so soon before the hearing that apparently some of the speakers were not aware of the change.

The third and final draft says students should be able to analyze and evaluate scientific explanations. There is also a new requirement that students should be able "to evaluate models according to their limitations in representing biological objects or events," but it would take a mind-boggling leap for anyone to interpret that as applying to evolution, Quinn said, particularly when viewed through the plan’s new definition of science.

Why is the word "limitations" OK by itself if the phrase "strengths and limitations" is not OK? And why would it take a "mind-boggling leap" for anyone to interpret "limitations" as applying to evolution? Evolution is one of the most obvious applications of the term "limitations." The Darwinists are taking a pollyannish view of the retention of the term "limitations" so that they can declare victory. Anyway, omitting all terms like "weaknesses," "limitations," and "criticisms" would not prevent the Texas board of education from selecting textbooks containing criticisms of evolution (Texas is unusual in that the state selects and purchases textbooks for the entire state).

The old definition — which included phrases like "a way of learning about nature" and "may not answer all questions" — has been replaced with a definition from the National Academy of Sciences. It states that science involves using evidence to form explanations and make predictions that can be measured and tested. It also warns that questions on subjects that cannot be scientifically tested do not belong in science.

Well, then maybe the large part of evolution theory that cannot be scientifically tested does not belong in science.

In the end, the wording in the final draft may not matter because the board is not required to use it. In May, the board threw out a teacher-suggested language arts curriculum in favor of another that some board members have said they had only an hour to read before voting on it.

The state board will hold a second public hearing Jan. 21 and is scheduled to take a final vote on the new science standards in March.

As I said many times before, I proposed that the phrase "strengths and weaknesses" be replaced by "strengths and criticisms." "Criticisms" is a neutral, general term that covers limitations, real weaknesses, invalid criticisms (including pseudoscientific criticisms), criticisms of whole theories, and criticisms of imperfections in theories.

A related article is here.
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Labels:

8 Comments:

Anonymous L-Word said...

Drat! It doesn't seem to be an obscenity. Disappointed!

Saturday, January 10, 2009 2:21:00 PM  
Blogger Larry Fafarman said...

It's an obscenity to the Darwinists.

Saturday, January 10, 2009 2:52:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

<(Texas is unusual in that the state selects and purchases textbooks for the entire state). >
This is not at all unusual. About half the states are "adoption states," where materials are vetted at the state level and must be on the approved list before they can be sold in that state. Your state, California, is a huge adoption state.
--anonymous science textbook editor

Wednesday, January 14, 2009 6:03:00 PM  
Blogger Larry Fafarman said...

Anonymous said,
>>>>>>>> (Texas is unusual in that the state selects and purchases textbooks for the entire state). >

This is not at all unusual. About half the states are "adoption states," where materials are vetted at the state level and must be on the approved list before they can be sold in that state. Your state, California, is a huge adoption state.
--anonymous science textbook editor <<<<<<<

Note that I said "selects and purchases for the entire state." That statement was based on my vague recollection of the following statement in a NY Times article (page 1):

Most states, including New York, choose textbooks on a school-by-school or district-by-district basis, but Texas and California buy them through a formal statewide process.

One thing is certain -- adoption by the Texas Board of Education is considered to be a big prize by textbook publishers.

There are many potential variations involved:

(1) Who selects the textbooks -- the state, the local school districts, or whether the districts must choose from a state-approved list or get approval from the state for a selected textbook

(2) Who purchases the textbooks -- the state, the local district, both, or the students (by rental or purchase)

(3) Whether local districts may use state-unapproved or state-rejected textbooks if the districts pay for them.

This website gives detailed information about the textbook laws and regulations of the different states (published Jan. 2005 -- Recent rule changes are here). The website says,

Introduction --
States use one of two methods to select the textbooks used in their schools. Thirty states allow local agencies or schools to choose the textbooks they will use. A total of 20 states – known as textbook adoption states – choose at the state level what textbooks can be used by all districts. California is an adoption state at the elementary level but allows local agencies to select textbooks at the secondary level. Two U.S. territories, the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico, adopt textbooks at the territorial level. Washington D.C. is comprised of one school district, and adopts textbooks at the district level.

Forty-two states have provisions for providing free textbooks to students, although they often charge for textbooks that are damaged or lost through negligence. Many states waive fees for students unable to afford books. Washington D.C. and two U.S. territories, the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico, provide free textbooks for their students.

The table below indicates the governing level – state or local – of textbook selection for each state and whether or not states have free textbook provisions. Following the table, listed for every state are the legislative language and code citation on textbook selection and provision.


Here are the textbook adoption rules for Texas:

Texas
Textbook Adoption
: Texas adopts textbooks at the state level. The state board of education adopts textbooks at least every six years, although they are not to review more than one-sixth of the textbooks to be used in the foundation curriculum each year. Textbooks may be used for more than six years if the board finds the textbook to be sufficiently current (Tex. Educ. Code Ann. § 31.022). Upon evaluation, the board places each textbook on either a conforming list or a nonconforming list and votes whether or not to accept a textbook for statewide adoption. Each nonconforming list must include the reasons an adopted textbook is not eligible for the conforming list (Tex. Educ. Code Ann. § 31.024). Each year, during a period of time established by the state board of education, school districts must notify the board of the textbooks they select from either the conforming or nonconforming list for the foundation curriculum. Districts may use books not included on either the conforming or nonconforming list, but the board will pay only 70% of the cost of these textbooks, the remainder being the responsibility of the district (Tex. Educ. Code Ann. § 31.101).


Very interesting -- the state will pay 70% of the costs of unapproved textbooks! So what is the big fuss in Texas about? Supposedly the main reason for the fuss over the "strengths and weaknesses" language is concern over the effect on textbook selection! But the districts can choose unapproved textbooks and pay only 30% of the costs! That's not a hell of a lot of money, especially in consideration of the fact that the textbooks can be re-used for several years.

The Fordham Institute, which BTW is unreliable (their report on state science standards is especially bad) says,

The twenty-one states that currently have statewide adoption policies are mainly in the South and West and are dominated by California, Texas, and Florida, which account for as much as a third of the nation's $4.3 billion K-12 textbook market. Few el-hi [jargon for elementary-high] textbook publishers can afford to spend millions of dollars developing a textbook series and not have it adopted in these high-volume states. Publishers stand to make or lose a fortune in these states; California, for example, spent $442 million on K-8 textbooks in 1998-1999 (though textbook spending in California has plummeted in the wake of the state's recent budget crisis).

On the whole, the adoption process is similar in California and Texas. In both states, publishers present their wares at public hearings to members of a textbook review committee, which also hears testimony from representatives of advocacy groups. The textbook committee members, many of them teachers from around the state, review the instructional materials to see if they accord with state standards on content and match up with state curriculum guidelines. Committee members are wooed by publishers' sales representatives, who sometimes offer free trips, special seminars, innumerable sample books, and other perks. The committee then makes recommendations to the state board of education, which usually consists of elected and/or appointed members who are not specialists in history, reading, math, or science. The state board then makes the final decision whether to accept or reject a book, or perhaps adopt it contingent upon the publisher making specified changes.

The adoption process in California and Texas differs in two important respects. First, as noted earlier, California has prescriptive "social content" requirements while Texas has historically favored patriotic and socially conservative books. And California adopts textbooks statewide only for grades K-8, while Texas adopts for grades K-12, which gives Texas a disproportionate impact on high-school textbooks nationwide.

In the abstract, the adoption process sounds innocuous. Yet just about every scholar and analyst who has reviewed its workings has panned it. The best that can be said about statewide textbook adoption, according to these reviewers, is that textbook committees sometimes catch factual errors (e.g., the U.S. did not drop an atomic bomb on Korea), and that the tight deadlines of the adoption process put pressure on publishers to keep textbooks up-to-date. No one, however, has suggested that textbook adoption strengthens student learning or raises academic achievement.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009 9:39:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The NYT was wrong about the number of adoption states, as you found out. (Sometimes it happens, even to the NYT!)

The majority of states that approve books at the state level also provide state funds for purchase.

"But the districts can choose unapproved textbooks and pay only 30% of the costs!"
May not sound like much, but multiply it by the number of students in a district and it's a lot. School districts don't have to budget for books at all, so they don't, therefore the 30% simply isn't there if you want to buy a nonconforming book. There is very heavy pressure from administrators to purchase only books that have made the list.

"One thing is certain -- adoption by the Texas Board of Education is considered to be a big prize by textbook publishers."

Uh... yeah. That's an understatement. California is the other biggie, even though it's only K-8. It's not just a plum prize, either. Publishers have gone bankrupt by misjudging what TX or CA will "list", because the entire investment in program development must be made up front, before the books are submitted for approval. If they don't make the list, many millions of dollars of investment is almost entirely lost (because TX and CA typically require state-specific editions, only some of which can be reused and even then it costs $$ to reuse them.)

Enough for now. I need to get back to work. There's a lot more to learn about the industry, if you want to keep digging around. (You might look up the HISTORY of textbook adoption. There's a REASON that they are mostly southern and western states.) Anyway, I have been doing this for over two decades and have not had to compromise my own professional integrity with regards to the teaching of evolution, anyway. I'm trying to decide if I'll have time to follow the SBOE "experts" in real time next week. But I also want to watch the inauguration!

Thursday, January 15, 2009 7:41:00 AM  
Blogger Larry Fafarman said...

Anonymous said,
>>>>>>> "But the districts can choose unapproved textbooks and pay only 30% of the costs!"
May not sound like much, but multiply it by the number of students in a district and it's a lot. <<<<<<

Suppose an unapproved biology text costs $100 -- so the school district needs to kick in $30. If the district uses the text for five years, that's only $6 per year per student.

>>>>>> School districts don't have to budget for books at all, so they don't, therefore the 30% simply isn't there if you want to buy a nonconforming book. <<<<<<

They don't have to, but they might want to. Also, the school districts can buy their own supplemental materials, and in the Dover Area school district, the "Of Pandas and People" Intelligent Design books were donated. Also, Texas pays the full cost of books on the "nonconforming" book list -- I have to find out what "conforming" and "non-conforming" mean. Anyway, there is obviously more here than what first meets the eye.

>>>>>> Publishers have gone bankrupt by misjudging what TX or CA will "list", because the entire investment in program development must be made up front, before the books are submitted for approval. <<<<<<

But the NYT article says that the textbook publishers have made revisions to suit the Texas board of education, and the publishers have probably done the same in California, so the publishers do not have to judge in advance what is expected.

>>>>>> I have been doing this for over two decades and have not had to compromise my own professional integrity with regards to the teaching of evolution <<<<<<

The biology textbooks really should include some criticisms of evolution. As I have pointed out, teaching even pseudoscientific criticisms of evolution broadens students' education, encourages critical thinking, increases student interest, helps students learn the material, helps prevent and correct misconceptions, and helps assure that technically sophisticated criticisms of evolution are taught by qualified science teachers. You could even include some stuff on co-evolution -- LOL.

Thursday, January 15, 2009 11:14:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"But the NYT article says that the textbook publishers have made revisions to suit the Texas board of education, and the publishers have probably done the same in California, so the publishers do not have to judge in advance what is expected."

Clearly, a NYT reporter must know more about textbook adoption in TX and CA than I do.

I'm done posting comments here. If you were as open-minded as you like to think you are, you wouldn't argue with someone who has first-hand experience with the subject you're blogging about.

Thursday, January 15, 2009 1:13:00 PM  
Blogger Larry Fafarman said...

>>>>>> "But the NYT article says that the textbook publishers have made revisions to suit the Texas board of education, and the publishers have probably done the same in California, so the publishers do not have to judge in advance what is expected."

Clearly, a NYT reporter must know more about textbook adoption in TX and CA than I do. <<<<<<

Well, he gave examples of textbook changes requested by the Texas BOE and examples of textbooks that the Texas BOE approved after requested changes were made.

>>>>>> I'm done posting comments here. If you were as open-minded as you like to think you are, you wouldn't argue with someone who has first-hand experience with the subject you're blogging about. <<<<<

Well, then good riddance. You are the one who has a closed mind. As for your "first-hand" experience, maybe others have had experiences different from yours. I don't need commenters here who think that they know it all and who won't engage in a reasonable discussion.

Thursday, January 15, 2009 3:18:00 PM  

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