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Viva la Evolution: The Creationists Return to Austin

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Designing woman: July has been a grim month for Texas education. First there was the report that students taking early versions of the state's new end-of-course exams failed miserably. The worst performance was 42 percent in physics, but at least students know where their cell phones come from — China, where the physicists live.

Then there was this week's report that nearly 60 percent of Texas middle- and high-school students get suspended or expelled from school at some point, a fact that "alarms state leaders."

Thank heavens for state leaders, then, like those fine people on the State Board of Education, who this week will answer the alarm and get down to ensuring that Lone Star students get the best education the 19th century can provide. That's right, it's evolution versus creationism time again.

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Texas Freedom Network

We know what you're thinking: Weren't the creationists turned back in 2009, when board moderates rejected efforts to introduce intelligent design — code words for the "Book of Genesis" — into the state's science curriculum? Ha! The folks recently described by board chairwoman Barbara Cargill as "six true conservative Christians" don't give up that easily.

While the board rejected egregious attempts to introduce creationism in 2009, it adopted "compromise" language that leaves "true conservative Christians" another bite at the apple. (And just look at how the first one turned out.)

"One day they slammed the door on creationism," says Dan Quinn, spokesman for the Texas Freedom Network, a progressive watchdog group. "The next day they ran around the house throwing open all the windows to let it in another way."

On Thursday, the board will adopt a list of accepted science "supplemental materials" — e-books and online instructional items. Normally the board would be undergoing a lengthy public process to adopt new textbooks, but the state blew all that book money on tasers for Rick Perry's security detail. You could have seen some of the proposed supplemental materials if you'd bothered to file a public records request. You did that, right? No? So much for "let there be light."

Cargill, one of the six holy elect, has limited the public hearing about the material to four hours, with each speaker getting two minutes. Then the board can vote to select whatever material it chooses. Fortunately, the six holies are a minority on the 15-member board. Unfortunately, Democrat Mary Helen Berlanga of Corpus Christi has decided to skip the meeting and take a vacation.

All that "alarm" must have tuckered the poor dear out. —Patrick Williams

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