Texas Education Agency looking for social studies books reviewers (and math and fine arts)

December 2, 2013

Last time the SBOE approved social studies books in 2010, the process was contentious.  This photo, from The Christian Science Monitor, shows protests on the books; photo by Larry Kolvoord/Austin American-Statesman

Last time the SBOE approved social studies books in 2010, the process was contentious. This photo, from The Christian Science Monitor, shows protests on the books; photo by Larry Kolvoord, Austin American-Statesman

Good news a few days ago was that the Texas State Board of Education approved science books that teach real science, for use in Texas schools.

But the Road Goes On Forever, and the Tea Party Never Ends:  Social studies books are up for review, now.

TEA is looking for nominations for reviewers for books in social studies, math and fine arts.  Here’s the notice I got in e-mail:

The Texas Education Agency is now accepting nominations to the state review panels that will evaluate instructional materials submitted for adoption under Proclamation 2015.

To nominate yourself or someone else to serve on a state review panel, please complete the form posted at http://www.tea.state.tx.us/WorkArea/linkit.aspx?LinkIdentifier=id&ItemID=25769808256&libID=25769808258 and submit it to the TEA on or before Friday, January 24, 2014.

Proclamation 2015 calls for instructional materials in the following areas:

♦   Social Studies, grades K-12

♦   Social Studies (Spanish), grades K-5

♦   Mathematics, grades 9-12

♦   Fine Arts, grades K-12

State review panels are scheduled to convene in Austin for one week during the summer of 2014 to review materials submitted under Proclamation 2015. The TEA will reserve hotel lodging and reimburse panel members for all travel expenses, as allowable by law.

  • Panel members should plan to remain on-site for five days to conduct the evaluation.
  • Panel members will be asked to complete an initial review of instructional materials prior to the in-person review.
  • Panel members will receive orientation and training both prior to the initial review and at the beginning of the in-person review.
  • Panel members might be asked to review additional content following the in-person review.
  • Because many of the samples will be delivered electronically, panel members should be comfortable reviewing materials on-screen rather than in print.
  • Panel members should also have a working knowledge of Microsoft Excel.

Upon initial contact by a representative of the TEA, state review panel nominees begin a “no-contact” period in which they may not have either direct or indirect contact with any publisher or other person having an interest in the content of instructional materials under evaluation by the panel. The “no contact” period begins with the initial communication from the Texas Education Agency and ends after the State Board of Education (SBOE) adopts the instructional materials. The SBOE is scheduled to adopt Proclamation 2015 materials at its November 2014 meeting.

Nominations are due on or before Friday, January 24, 2014.  The nomination form is posted on the TEA website at http://www.tea.state.tx.us/WorkArea/linkit.aspx?LinkIdentifier=id&ItemID=25769808256&libID=25769808258.

If you have any questions, please contact review.adoption@tea.state.tx.us.

***********************************************************

Thank you for your commitment to serving Texas students.

Social Studies Staff, Division of Curriculum, (512) 463-9581

Social Studies in Texas include history, geography, economics, government (civics), and (oddly) psychology and sociology, and “special topics.”

Please pass word along to the teachers you know in social studies, fine arts and math.

We recall that old Bette Davis line, playing Margot Channing in “All About Eve”:  “Fasten your seatbelts.  It’s going to be a bumpy night.”

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Texas, the eyes of Darwin are upon you

September 20, 2013

Graphic from Colin Purrington, in commemoration of the kickoff of hearings at the Texas State Board of Education on science textbooks, September 18, 2013

Graphic from Colin Purrington, in commemoration of the kickoff of hearings at the Texas State Board of Education on science textbooks, September 18, 2013

Colin Purrington Tweeted, “Thanks, @ncse for helping keep Darwin in Texas science textbooks. #Whac-A-Mole #creationism #StandUp4Science pic.twitter.com/8dNYbqFELV.”

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Banned Books Week is coming, September 22-28, 2013

September 18, 2013

Got a stack of banned books ready?

Banned Books Week is September 22-28 for 2013.

Banner for Banned Books Week 2013

So THAT’s what Lady Liberty holds in her left hand. (Reading the Declaration of Indpendence can still get you into trouble in a few places — mostly not in the U.S., but even in the U.S.)

We still have banned books?  Is that bad?

Consider, first, that on September 17, 2013, the Texas State Board of Education opened hearings on science textbooks to be “adopted” for Texas schoolsRadical elements of the SBOE furiously organized to stack rating panels with people who want to censor science, to stop the teaching of Darwin’s work on evolution.  (No, I’m not kidding.)

This comes in the middle of a rancorous fight in Texas over CSCOPE, a cooperative lesson-plan exchange set up by 800 Texas school districts to help teachers meet new Texas education standards adopted years ago (without new books!).  Critics labeled reading lists and any reading on religions other than Christianity “socialist” or “Marxist,” and complained that Texas social studies books do not slander Islam.

Then there is the flap over Persepolis, in Chicago.  With all the other trouble Chicago’s schools have several bluenoses worked to get this graphic “novel” banned (it’s not really a novel; it’s a memoir).  They complained about graphic violence in what is a comic book.  Persepolis tells the story of a young woman growing up in Iran during the Iranian Revolution.

The autobiographical graphic memoir Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi was pulled from Chicago classrooms this past May by Chicago Public Schools CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett due to “inappropriate” graphic language and images, specifically, scenes of torture and rebellion. Parents, teachers, and First Amendment advocates protested the ban, and as a result — while still pulled from 7th grade — Persepolis is currently under review for use in grades 8-10. (For details, see CBLDF Rises to Defense of Persepolis.)

Persepolis is an important classroom tool for a number of reasons. First, it is a primary source detailing life in Iran during the Revolution and the Iran-Iraq War . Readers of all ages get a glimpse of what life is like under repressive regimes and relive this period in history from a different perspective. It also begs detailed discussion of the separation of church and state. Furthermore, this is a poignant coming-of-age story that all teens will be able to relate to and serves as a testament to the power of family, education, and sacrifice.

In America, textbooks get attacked for telling the truth about Islam and not claiming it is a violence-based faith; and supplemental reading gets attacked when it presents the violence the critics complain was left out of the texts.

We need to think this through.

What banned books have you read lately?

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Cover of "Persepolis"

Persepolis has been made into a movie.


They’re coming for the science textbooks, again; join me in speaking up

July 23, 2013

I get e-mail, sometimes from the Texas Freedom Network. In this case, I’m happy to share. You need to know this.

Would you sign the petition?

Stand Up for Science

SUFS-Tex and T-Rex

Click Here to Sign the Petition

Dear Ed,

I’m worried about my kids’ future because of six words.

The Texas State Board of Education.

The state board has already begun working on its once-a-decade adoption of science textbooks for Texas classrooms. And for years, an anti-science faction of that board has done all it can to undermine the science of evolution and climate change by giving equal weight to nonscientific beliefs like climate change denial and the idea that dinosaurs and humans coexisted.

We’ve got news for those folks: Big Tex and T-Rex didn’t ride the range together.

It’s time to Stand Up for Science.

Click here to sign our petition and help us reach our goal of 5,000 signatures of Texans demanding that the State Board of Education approve science textbooks that are based on sound, peer-reviewed scholarship.

This fight is personal for me because from an early age, both my kids have loved science. In fact, my oldest son is enrolled in the “tech academy” at his middle school, where he’s learning about cool high-tech careers and honing computer skills that already put me to shame.

But whether you have school-aged kids or not, this fight is too important to the future of Texas and the nation to ignore. With over 5 million students, Texas is one of the country’s biggest buyers of textbooks. And that has an impact on other states because book publishers often follow our lead so that they don’t have to create different versions of the same science books.

I want my kids and every child to have classroom materials based on modern, mainstream science that gets them ready for college and prepares them for those high-tech jobs my son is learning about. Anything less handicaps their future and sets them up to fail.

For our children’s future, let’s win this.

Sign our petition to Stand Up for Science.

Regards,
Ryan Valentine
Deputy Director, Texas Freedom Network

They’re coming for Texas science textbooks, again; please stand up and speak out for science, for accuracy, for good education.

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One more time: Recognizing bogus history

May 14, 2012

2012 is an election year, a time when we make history together as a nation.  Potential turning points in history often get tarred with false interpretations of history to sway an election, or worse, a completely false recounting of history.  Especially in campaigns, we need to beware false claims of history, lest we be like the ignorants George Santayana warned about, doomed to repeat errors of history they do not know or understand.  How to tell that a purported piece of history is bogus?  This is mostly a repeat of a post that first appeared at Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub six years ago.

Recognizing bogus history, 1

Robert Park provides a short e-mail newsletter every Friday, covering news in the world of physics. It’s called “What’s New.” Park makes an art of smoking out bogus science and frauds people try to perpetrate in the name of science, or for money. He wrote an opinion column for the Chronicle of Higher Education [now from Quack Watch; CHE put it behind a paywall] published January 31, 2003, in which he listed the “7 warning signs of bogus science.”

Please go read Park’s entire essay, it’s good.

And it got me thinking about whether there are similar warning signs for bogus history? Are there clues that a biography of Howard Hughes is false that should pop out at any disinterested observer? Are there clues that the claimed quote from James Madison saying the U.S. government is founded on the Ten Commandments is pure buncombe? Should Oliver Stone have been able to to more readily separate fact from fantasy about the Kennedy assassination (assuming he wasn’t just going for the dramatic elements)? Can we generalize for such hoaxes, to inoculate ourselves and our history texts against error?

Bogus science section of Thinkquest logo

Perhaps some of the detection methods Park suggests would work for history. He wrote his opinion piece after the Supreme Court’s decision in Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, Inc., in which the Court laid out some rules lower courts should use to smoke out and eliminate false science. As Park described it, “The case involved Bendectin, the only morning-sickness medication ever approved by the Food and Drug Administration. It had been used by millions of women, and more than 30 published studies had found no evidence that it caused birth defects. Yet eight so-called experts were willing to testify, in exchange for a fee from the Daubert family, that Bendectin might indeed cause birth defects.” The Court said lower courts must act as gatekeepers against science buncombe — a difficult task for some judges who, in their training as attorneys, often spent little time studying science.

Some of the Daubert reasoning surfaced in another case recently, the opinion in Pennsylvania district federal court in which Federal District Judge John Jones struck down a school board’s order that intelligent design be introduced to high school biology students, Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District.

Can we generalize to history, too? I’m going to try, below the fold.

Here are Park’s seven warning signs, boiled down:

Park wrote:

Justice Stephen G. Breyer encouraged trial judges to appoint independent experts to help them. He noted that courts can turn to scientific organizations, like the National Academy of Sciences and the American Association for the Advancement of Science, to identify neutral experts who could preview questionable scientific testimony and advise a judge on whether a jury should be exposed to it. Judges are still concerned about meeting their responsibilities under the Daubert decision, and a group of them asked me how to recognize questionable scientific claims. What are the warning signs?

I have identified seven indicators that a scientific claim lies well outside the bounds of rational scientific discourse. Of course, they are only warning signs — even a claim with several of the signs could be legitimate. [I have cut out the explanations. — E.D.]

  1. The discoverer pitches the claim directly to the media.
  2. The discoverer says that a powerful establishment is trying to suppress his or her work.
  3. The scientific effect involved is always at the very limit of detection.
  4. Evidence for a discovery is anecdotal.
  5. The discoverer says a belief is credible because it has endured for centuries.
  6. The discoverer has worked in isolation.
  7. The discoverer must propose new laws of nature to explain an observation.

Voodoo history

Here, with thanks to Robert Park, is what I propose for the warning signs for bogus history, for voodoo history:

  1. The author pitches the claim directly to the media or to organizations of non-historians, sometimes for pay.
  2. The author says that a powerful establishment is trying to suppress his or her work.  Bogus history relies more on invective than investigation; anyone with an opposing view is an “idiot,” or evil.
  3. The sources that verify the new interpretation of history are obscure, or unavailable; if they involve a famous person, the sources are not those usually relied on by historians.
  4. Evidence for the history is anecdotal.
  5. The author says a belief is credible because it has endured for some time, or because many people believe it to be true.
  6. The author has worked in isolation, and fails to incorporate or explain other, mainstream versions of the history of the incident, and especially the author fails to explain why they are in error.
  7. The author must propose a new interpretation of history to explain an observation.

Any history account that shows one or more of those warning signs should be viewed skeptically.

In another post, I’ll flesh out the reasoning behind why they are warning signs.


Still no fireworks at Texas SBOE . . . yet

July 21, 2011

July 21, Austin — The board reconvened at 5:35.  An amendment to the approval of Tech System’s chemistry supplement was quickly passed.  Without any discussion, physics and IPC (“integrated physics and chemistry” — science for kids who will not be interested in science, and for teachers who can’t make them interested — but I digress), approved on raise-of-hand, quick votes — both in under three minutes total.

Biology! Staff notes there are some noted errors contested by publishers; the board again discusses what constitutes an error.  Craig begs for delay to tomorrow, since no one on TEA staff appears to have any biology expertise to rule on whether an error is an error.

Publisher in question is Holt McDougall — the #1 biology textbook publisher, for textbooks in high schools and junior colleges.  Holt asked for a hearing on the errors.  If I understand the discussion, the board is saying they’ll stick with the panel recommendations, since they are doing that for all other publishers. In short, the process is unclear to those who invented the process and those who are ruling on the product.  This would be a good essay from Richard Feynman, wouldn’t it?

Dollars to doughnuts, those members who now claim not to be able to figure out whether errors of biology are errors of biology, will be saying soon that they are competent to rule on key theories of science (evolution).

[Remember to see the immediately previous post, for links to Texas Freedom Network and Texas Observer blogs also covering this process live.]

Oy.  Twenty minutes of discussion on whether to ask a representative from Holt to explain why Holt thinks designated errors are not errors.  Board doesn’t know their own process — are errors noted by a vote of the review panel, or by a simple designation from any panelist without discussion.

Motion to hear from the publisher.  Mavis Knight wants to know why a motion is required, if the SBOE rules say the board can call a publisher any time.  (“And, Texas doesn’t execute innocent people, either.”) Garza discusses issue before the vote.  Debatable motion?  Yes.  “I don’t think we’re going to learn anything new from the publisher.”  (Who said that?)

Knight speaks in favor of hearing, to learn how the publisher got to their conclusion that the designated error is not an error.  Soto agrees.  Ratliff favors the motion, too — “to make sure that what we’re about to approve for the next decade is the best possible material” — and because the board doesn’t know whether the question from the panel represents a consensus or a wild hare.  Clayton — “is [the publisher] also a biologist, and can he address the issue?”  “I wonder if we’re wasting our time listening to a publisher instead of a biologist.”

[Lost some text -- sorry]

6:06, motion to listen to publisher fails, 7-7.

Update, after adjournment:  Board voted to approve Holt-McDougall’s supplement on the condition that the publisher change things identified as errors by the review panel.  Board, by voting not to hear the publisher, failed to note that the “errors” are contested.  View of  biologists present is that the board is ordering Holt-McDougall to introduce errors.  Before final approval, can we get the board to come down on accurate science’s side?  This is the quiet erosion of good science I feared.

Board then pulled out three products for discussion, approving the others (biology, remember) on a hand vote.  Products pulled out are Adaptive Curriculum, Learning.com’s Adaptive Curriculum on their platform, and Technical Laboratory Systems’ SciTEX Biology.

Gail Lowe says the objection is the addition of Haeckel’s embryo drawings.  This is an old issue with Texas creationists.  They jumped on the Discovery Institute’s claim that Haeckel’s drawings show evolution, but where evolution doesn’t occur.  (Haeckel fudged drawings, biologists have known for years — but his fudged drawings haven’t been used to make his erroneous point in 50 years . . .).

Publisher steps up and shows photographs that they have agreed to substitute.

Somehow, the creationists fail to notice that what has happened is they are insisting on photographs that show evolution in stead of a drawing.  (Turns out the drawings are not Haeckel’s after all — just line drawings of embryoes).  Creationist Gail Lowe excitedly makes the motion to accept the product with photos instead of line drawings.  (Somewhere a Discovery Institute wizard is having a heart attack.)

Board proceeds to make similar motion for Learning.com’s version of Adaptive Curriculum’s stuff.

6:25 p.m.

Lowe complains of spelling, punctuation and subject-verb agreement issues on the slides for SciTEX Biology.  Motion to insist they be corrected before they make it to classroom.  Discussion . . . (discussion?  discussion?)

The science is right, but the spelling is wrong.  [To this old copy editor, this strikes me as bizarre.]  “In the future we need to appoint at least one member to each panel who is an expert in the English language.”  (missed which guy said that)

Motion to approve, with errors to be fixed, passes.

Item 8, biology supplements, as amended, is approved.

No fight.

Counsel says there must be a formal motion to reject the materials from the ID/Creationist guys.  Motion passes.

I’m a fireworks fan, but missing fireworks in this room is a good deal.

Board adjourned for the evening.  Votes on other issues, and final approval, tomorrow.


War on science, war on education: Evolution under fire at Texas education board

July 21, 2011

Ryan at the Texas Freedom Network laid out the stakes:

Just a reminder about what new chairwoman Barbara Cargill — and her five “conservative Christian” allies on the State Board of Education — have in mind for the meeting this week:

I am a little bit concerned in looking at some of these science online supplementary materials. I looked at one of the links and there was a picture of a — a graphic of a human fetus next to a gorilla fetus talking about how they only differ by one amino acid. Therefore, universal common decent. So that is of some concern. And I am not quite sure if we are going to have the votes to overturn that. We will work diligently to rectify and correct some of that. But remember we lost a conservative seat, so we’re down to six.

In this unguarded moment, Cargill drops the double-speak and is honest about her plan for the first meeting over which she will preside as chair  — pressure publishers to censor scientific information from their materials and to insert bogus information questioning evolution. And she knows exactly what her task is: to get the extra votes necessary to accomplish this.

Stay tuned to TFN Insider on Thursday and Friday as we give you a front-row seat at the contentious hearing and board vote.

Live blogging the meeting starting at about 10:00 a.m today at TFN Insider at at Steve Schafersman’s blog, from the Texas Citizens for Science.

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