In 2009, science-respecting members of the State Board of Education succeeded in scrubbing the state's science curriculum standards of a requirement to discuss the "weaknesses" of evolution, which would have opened the gates to less scientific theories, namely intelligent design and creationism. But it wasn't a wholesale victory, as Kathy Miller, who directs the SBOE-watchdog Texas Freedom Network, warned at the time.
"The word 'weaknesses' no longer appears in the science standards. But the document still has plenty of potential footholds for creationist attacks on evolution to make their way into Texas classrooms," she said. "Through a series of contradictory and convoluted amendments, the board crafted a road map that creationists will use to pressure publishers into putting phony arguments attacking established science into textbooks."
Those remarks, it appears, were prescient.
"We told you this would happen," TFN spokesman Dan Quinn wrote in a blog post this morning.
SBOE chair Barbara Cargill, a Republican from The Woodlands, spoke to a Senate Education Committee last Tuesday about CSCOPE, the state's shouldn't-be-controversial-but-is curriculum management system. Here's what she said:
"Our intent, as far as theories with the [curriculum standards], was to teach all sides of scientific explanations ... But when I went on [to the CSCOPE website] last night, I couldn't see anything that might be seen as another side to the theory of evolution," she says, according to TFN's transcript and brief video clip. "Every link, every lesson, every everything, you know, was taught as 'this is how the origin of life happened, this is what the fossil record proves,' and all that's fine, but that's only one side."
Cargill does not specify what the other side to the evolution theory might be. Whatever her theory of choice is, TFN's Miller called the comments "a big red flag."
"Senators must ask hard questions about whether she will pressure publishers into writing textbooks to conform to her personal beliefs instead of sound science and once again put the culture wars ahead of our children's education," she said in a statement today.
And so, while legislation last session weakened the SBOE's stranglehold on what goes into Texas' (and others') textbooks and November elections ushered in more moderate board members, the battle for school children's minds remains pitched.
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