Friday, March 27, 2009

Going on All Fours

An electorate that prefers feudalism often tends to give Texas education a slant back into the dark ages. Yesterday, the state narrowly avoided becoming more of a joke than it already is. By a margin of nothing, a tie vote from our state's School Board kept evolution from being hounded out of science curricula.

That may sound like an item from the early nineteenth century, but you see in our state we have a huge number of voters who are afraid of anything rational. It contradicts the foundations of their entire system. If we go rational it injures their sense of worth.

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.

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.

Board member Ken Mercer, R-San Antonio, proposed that the rule be put back into the standards, arguing that evolution advocates were trying to stifle classroom discussion of Darwin's theory that humans gradually developed from lower life forms.

"I don't see how we can say there is no disagreement about evolution. There is disagreement," said Mercer, taking issue with science teachers and academics who told the board that the theory of evolution is universally accepted in the scientific community. He cited a document by hundreds of scientists questioning some of Darwin's tenets.

He also charged that evolution advocates have a history of falsifying evidence and drawing erroneous conclusions to support their position.
The language adopted by board members on evolution and other scientific theories states that students shall "analyze and evaluate scientific explanations using empirical evidence, logical reasoning and experimental and observational testing."

Action on the science standards caps several months of debate. The issue last flared up when the board adopted new biology textbooks in 2003, when social conservatives tried to reject books that were deemed too pro-evolution but failed.

This being a new century really threatens those elements that prefer faith, because it's comfortable, to functional. Sadly, the same elements who proclaim their faith sustains them insist that we have to act on its basis too.

The right wing likes to think if they just had the rest of us under control, it would make the world work out better for them. The shame of it all is that we have to keep combating rampant ignorance to keep their kids, as well as ours, from being denied their rights to education.

P.Z. Myers had a rant worth sharing this morning on the occasion of a winger who waxed self-righteous over the death of children on their way to a ski trip in Montana.

Once again, I am confirmed in my opinion that Christianity is a breeder of evil, a cesspit in which the most hateful and inhuman commitment to lies and delusions can ferment. Don't ever preach at me about Christian morality: I've seen it, and it is empty of love for humanity, replaced with sanctimonious idolatry and commitment to dead, dumb superstition.

While I think there are exceptions, it is always a source of amazement that so many base a belief system devoid of acceptance for their fellow men on teachings that emphasize love and tolerance.

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Blogger Judith said...

Speaking of the dark ages, did you see that that nutjob that protests military funerals because he thinks God hates gays is publicly thanking God for sending the flooding to North Dakota as another punishment?

Since they are the most highly churched population in the country, and have upheld a ban on him protesting within 300 feet of the families, once they have dried off in ND I would expect they will have some choice words for him.

11:04 PM  

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