Texas’s creationism controversy continues, today with new articles in The San Antonio Express and The New York Times.
Melissa Ludwig’s article in the San Antonio paper gets right to the problem, that the Institute for Creation Research proposes to train educators to do what the law says they cannot do:
Science teachers are not allowed to teach creationism alongside evolution in Texas public schools, the courts have ruled. But that’s exactly what the Dallas-based Institute for Creation Research wants them to do. The institute is seeking state approval to grant online master’s degrees in science education to prepare teachers to “understand the universe within the integrating framework of Biblical creationism,” according to the school’s mission statement.
Last week, an advisory council made up of university educators voted to recommend the program for approval by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board in January, sparking an outcry among science advocates who have fended off repeated attempts by religious groups to insert creationism into Texas science classrooms.
“It’s just the latest trick,” said James Bower, a neurobiologist at the University of Texas at San Antonio who has publicly debated creationists. “They have no interest in teaching science. They are hostile to science and fundamentally have a religious objective.”
The 43-page site visit report by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (THECB) is available for download in .pdf form at the San Antonio Express site (and thanks to the Express for making this available!). This report provides details that regulators should check carefully, such as the library for ICR is in California and unavailable to students. Up-to-date science articles are unavailable to these graduate students, it appears from the report. In science, journal articles provide the most recent research, and often the most interesting work. Graduate students would be expected to rely heavily on such sources for much of their work.
In the Times, the focus is on just getting the facts out. Perhaps understandably, some officials did not want to talk to the Times:
The state’s commissioner of higher education, Raymund A. Paredes, said late Monday that he was aware of the institute’s opposition to evolution but was withholding judgment until the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board meets Jan. 24 to rule on the recommendation, made last Friday, by the board’s certification advisory council.
Henry Morris III, the chief executive of the Institute for Creation Research, said Tuesday that the proposed curriculum, taught in California, used faculty and textbooks “from all the top schools” along with, he said, the “value added” of challenges to standard teachings of evolution.
“Where the difference is, we provide both sides of the story,” Mr. Morris said. On its Web site, the institute declares, “All things in the universe were created and made by God in the six literal days of the creation week” and says it “equips believers with evidences of the Bible’s accuracy and authority through scientific research, educational programs, and media presentations, all conducted within a thoroughly biblical framework.”
Notable is the absence of consultation with the science community in Texas. Texas officials avoid meeting with scientists, as if they know what the scientists will tell them about programs to offer creationism.
The report to the THECB includes a section on legal compliance. ICR has required building occupancy permits and no obvious OSHA citations, the report says.
The legality of teaching creationism gets no mention. It’s not legal, of course. Generally, a program to train people must not train them to violate a state’s laws, or federal laws. If no one asks that question, the answer that it’s not legal won’t get made.