Note to readers: the law passed earlier this week. Well, what would you expect of a state that was the scene of the Scopes “Monkey” trial in 1925? Could this happen here? Could Perry label it an “emergency” issue? Remember, when asked in New Hampshire by a young boy whether Texas teaches creationism, he said it did. Wrong answer. It doesn’t. The law is the work of the Seattle-based Discovery Institute and its Center for Science and Culture. The institute is best known for its advocacy of intelligent design. The law encourages teachers to “present the scientific strengths and scientific weaknesses of existing scientific theories covered in the course being taught.” The National Center for Science Education points out that the only examples given in the bill of “controversial” theories are “biological evolution, the chemical origins of life, global warming, and human cloning.” The State Board of Education has been a battleground for this issue in Texas. Here is an excerpt from a report by the Texas Freedom Network (April 25, 2011): Science in Texas public schools would take a shocking leap backward if the State Board of Education approves newly proposed instructional materials that promote creationism and reject established, mainstream science on evolution, spokespeople for the Texas Freedom Network (TFN) and the National Center for Science Education (NCSE) said today. In addition, public schools using those creationism-based materials could face expensive legal challenges even as they struggle with massive budget cuts at state and local levels. “Two years ago State Board of Education members thumbed their noses at the science community and approved new curriculum standards that opened the door to creationism and junk science,” said TFN President Kathy Miller. “Now they are getting exactly what they wanted — the chance to make Texas the poster child for the creationist movement. The state board would be aiding and abetting wholesale academic fraud and dumbing down the education of millions of Texas kids if it doesn’t reject these materials.” The Texas Education Agency has made available on its website science instructional materials — all of them web-based — that publishers and other vendors have proposed for high school biology classes across the state. Materials approved by the state board in July could be in Texas science classrooms for nearly a decade…. * * * * The composition of the SBOE has changed, and it is no longer dominated by members who want to inject religious ideas into every curriculum standard. Even so, this is one of those fights that is never going to go away. The Scopes trial was 87 years ago, and we are debating it still. Tennessee is already being ridiculed for passing its law. Texas could suffer the same fate. This is one of those bills that members don’t want to pass, but are afraid to vote against. Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that here.
Politics & Policy