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.

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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, March 27, 2009

Update on hearings on Texas science standards

Live blogging of the March 25-27 meetings of the Texas SBOE are in several posts on the Texas Freedom Network blog.

A Dallas Morning News article said,

AUSTIN – In a decision watched by science educators across the nation, the State Board of Education on Thursday narrowly turned aside a last-ditch effort by social conservatives to require that "weaknesses" in the theory of evolution be taught in science classes in Texas.

Board members deadlocked 7-7 on a motion to restore a longtime curriculum rule that "strengths and weaknesses" of all scientific theories – notably Charles Darwin's theory of evolution – be covered in science classes and textbooks for those subjects.

The tie vote upheld a preliminary decision by the board in January to delete the strengths-and-weaknesses rule in the new curriculum standards for science classes that will be in force for the next decade. That decision, if finalized in a last vote today, changes 20 years of Texas education policy.

Because the standards spell out what must be covered in textbooks, science educators and publishers have been monitoring the Texas debate closely. As one of the largest textbook purchasers in the nation, Texas influences what is sold in other states.

As I have pointed out many times, no school system in the world -- including Texas -- is required to use Texas-approved textbooks.[1]. Local school districts in Texas can use state-unapproved textbooks if the districts pay the full cost, which isn't much. If a biology textbook costs, say, $100 and is used for five years, that costs only about $20 per student per year. A popular biology textbook, "Biology" by Ken Miller and Joe Levine, already comes in regular, California, and Texas editions.

The science standards adopted by the board also will figure into questions used on the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills.

Voting for the requirement were the seven Republican board members aligned with social conservative groups. Against the proposal were three other Republicans and four Democrats. Critics of evolution managed to add a few small caveats to the curriculum, but none as sweeping as the strengths-and-weaknesses rule.

I am surprised that three Republicans snubbed the Texas Republican Party's recent resolution asking the GOP members of the board to support the "strengths and weaknesses" language. Only one more vote was needed to restore the language to the state standards -- it was not as if the GOP members were asked to vote for something that might not pass anyway.

Evolution critics scored some victories before the standards for all elementary and high school science classes were tentatively adopted Thursday.

The most significant was a change brought by board Chairman Don McLeroy, R-College Station, who proposed that students be required to study the "sufficiency or insufficiency" of common ancestry and natural selection – two key Darwin tenets – in examining fossil records and cell structure, respectively.

Ironically, this change is really bad, whereas the "strengths and weaknesses" language that was removed -- which had been in the standards for about 20 years -- was harmless.
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