The Skeptical Teacher

Musings of a science teacher & skeptic in an age of woo.

Archive for March 23rd, 2009

The Textbook Saga in Texas Continues…

Posted by mattusmaximus on March 23, 2009

This week is a very important one for science education in the United States because the Texas State Board of Education is finalizing textbook selection. The importance of paying attention to textbook selection in Texas cannot be overstated, especially since creationists in Texas are attempting to influence science textbooks. It’s also a big deal because the state of Texas has a disproportionate influence on textbook availability across the country – since Texas is such a large market for textbooks, publishers will tend to cater the manner in which subject matter is presented to the whims of the Texas Board of Education.

So, when the Texas BoEd is stacked with (mostly) creationists, who know they have the power to influence how science texts around the country treat topics such as evolution, climate change, and stem-cell research, it is worth paying attention to how they plan to pick textbooks. That’s because even though Texas may be far away, these anti-scientific religious fundamentalists in the Texas government could have a very real, and negative, effect on the quality of science education in your school.

texas textbooks

Fortunately, there are those who favor good science education over complete nonsense in Texas, and they are doing their best to monitor and correct the situation. For example, there’s the Texas Freedom Network, the Texas Citizens for Science and the National Center for Science Education. The NCSE writes in a recent update on the Texas situation…

With evolution sure to be a hotly debated topic at the next meeting of the Texas state board of education, with a bill just introduced in the Texas legislature aimed at restoring the contentious “strengths and weaknesses” language to the standards, and with a different bill aimed at exempting the Institute for Creation Research’s graduate school from the regulations governing degree-granting institutions in Texas, there’s no shortage of news from the Lone Star state. NCSE, of course, continues not only to report on the antics of creationism in Texas but also to help concerned Texans to combat them: Texans wishing to express their concerns about the standards to the Texas state board of education, which is expected to have its final vote on the standards at its meeting in Austin on March 25-27, 2009, will find contact information and talking points in the Taking Action section of NCSE’s website and on the Texas Freedom Network’s website.

To give you some idea of the stupidity that the good citizens of Texas (and indirectly the rest of us) have to deal with from these creationist nuts, check out some of this revealing – and embarrassing – information which recently became public about Don McLeroy, the chair of the Texas BoEd and staunch creationist…

With Texans still reeling from the detailed profiles of the chair of the Texas state board of education, avowed creationist Don McLeroy, published in the Austin American-Statesman (March 8, 2009) and the Texas Observer (February 20, 2009), Texas Citizens for Science (March 14, 2009) recently disclosed that McLeroy endorsed a bizarre creationist screed entitled Sowing Atheism: The National Academy of Sciences’ Sinister Scheme to Teach Our Children They’re Descended from Reptiles — aimed, of course, at Evolution, Creationism, and Science, issued by the National Academy of Sciences and the Institute of Medicine in February 2008 to general acclaim. McLeroy, however, praises Sowing Atheism for showing “how the NAS attempts to seduce the unwitting reader by providing scanty empirical evidence but presented with great intellectual bullying — both secular and religious.”

Okay, so once again we see the creationist conspiracy theory claim made: scientists are nothing but a bunch of godless heathens who want to destroy religion (specifically Christianity) and thus spread immorality, atheism, communism, and presumably all manner of evil in the world while leading to the destruction of all that is good. Thus, anyone who wants to teach kids evolution in school must be on the side of EEEVIIIILLLLLLLL!!!!

The NCSE goes on to outline more lunacy from Don McLeroy…

On its blog (March 18, 2009), the Texas Freedom Network summarized the themes of the book — “Scientists are ‘atheists.’ Parents who want to teach their children about evolution are ‘monsters.’ Pastors who support sound science are ‘morons'” — and pointedly asked, “Is that the sort of message Chairman Don McLeroy and his cohorts on the State Board of Education have in mind for Texas science classrooms if they succeed in their campaign to shoehorn ‘weaknesses’ of evolution back into the science curriculum standards?” Mavis Knight, a member of the Texas state board of education who supports the integrity of science education, wryly commented to the Dallas Observer (March 18, 2009), “So much for neutrality in the chairman’s position.” Looking forward to the board’s impending vote on the standards, she added, “I am confident several of us will hold firm, but it’s the swing votes you have to concern yourself with — and I don’t know how much pressure is being put on the swing voters. … It definitely won’t be boring.”

So, the leader of the creationist whackjobs on the Texas BoEd isn’t content to say that just scientists are evil in their desire to teach good, sound science – he has to go on and state that all religious people who are pro-science (such as those supporting the Clergy Letter Project) are doing so as well.

The thing which is so revealing about this kind of mentality is its exclusivity – from their point of view, these fundamentalist whackjobs view anyone who doesn’t agree with them 100% as the enemy. Creationists have, for many years, attempted to get away with claiming the mantle of morality for themselves, but their efforts are particularly ineffective when many religious people come out against their anti-science. Personally, I’m an atheist, but I more than welcome any allies to the pro-science cause, religious or not. And I must admit that it gives me a certain degree of pleasure to see the Don McLeroy’s of the world squirm & froth when confronted by other religious folk who call them to task for their pseudoscientific ravings.

If you care about good science education in our public schools, I encourage you to get involved. When enough of us stand up for science, we all win!

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