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.


No fireworks at Texas SBOE – quiet erosion of science? (Live blogging)

July 21, 2011

July 21, 2011, Austin — Far fewer people than usual signed up to testify on the electronic science book supplements the Texas State Board of Education is considering in lieu of new textbooks (no money for texts from the legislature, you recall).

So, in keeping with Chairman Barbara Cargill’s wishes, testimony concluded at 4:06 p.m. CDT, just six minutes later than scheduled.

Good deal.  The air conditioning in the first floor hearing room still doesn’t work well.

Since 2003, the most visible difference in these hearings is the back wall.  That’s where the electrical outlets are, and so those seats get taken up by publishers, lawyers, lobbyists, and a few bloggers.

These events are being live-blogged by Steven Schafersman from Texas Citizens for Science (at the Texas Observer site), and by the Texas Freedom Network’s blog, Insider.  I’ll add notes below as we progress.

When the board reconvenes at 4:30, the board will take up consideration of the supplemental materials.  If they follow the testimony, there will be a quick vote to approve all of the supplements still standing.

But this may be where the fireworks get lighted.

Most witnesses asked the board to simply approve the supplemental material favored by staff at the Texas Education Agency and by the panels of teachers and experts the board appointed earlier.  Those recommendations excluded the only pro-creationism materials by a small, first-time publishing company.

Andrew Ellington, the biology whiz from the University of Texas, gave another great presentation — limited to two minutes under the new rules.  Most pro-evolution witnesses got no questions.

Josh Rosenau, the out-of-state champion for evolution (from the National Center for Science Education – NCSE, and Sciblogs blogger at Thoughts from Kansas) made the case for hard science.  Walter Bradley, the champion for creationism, didn’t show up.  He sent a substitute to read his testimony, in which he urged rejection of all the proposed materials because they don’t savage Darwin.  He also gave thanks to God for the Texas SBOE.

Schafersman wrote, and you may wish to note:

My friends at Texas Freedom Network (TFN), Ryan Valentine and Dan Quinn, are also live blogging this meeting at TFN Insider. Josh Rosenau of the National Center for Science Education is also here live tweeting at at @JoshRosenau and @NCSE (using hashtag #txtxt). TFN informs me they are also live tweeting at #SBOE. Abby Rapoport of the Texas Observer will also be tweeting about this meeting using #SBOE.

______________

The Board reconvened promptly at 4:30.  After a typical, SBOE-style confused discussion of the process, submissions for science supplements for grades 4, 5, 6 and 7 were quickly approved on a show-of-hands vote.  The room has an electronic voting system which could offer quicker results.  A show-of-hands is folksy and friendly, but leaves a poor record for tracking.  Is this an intentional stab against transparency?

Discussion stalled at 8th grade materials.  Question raised about whether striking a publisher’s materials requires just one objection or a majority vote (should be majority vote — the chair’s description sorta said that).

One publisher disputed two of 132 found errors — staff agreed with the publisher that there was no error.  Chemistry.  Chair Cargill announces that chemistry, physics and IPC curricula for high schools will be considered first — biology last.  (Fireworks then?).

[Much of this discussion carries little significance.  Among the errors officially tallied:  “Judgment” is misspelled.  Gail Lowe makes it clear that she has what she thinks are significant errors identified for one publisher, in the biology materials- Pearson,Technical Laboratory Systems, Chemistry I think.  Fines can be levied for publishers who fail to correct errors.]

This discussion is so much inside baseball that the board takes a recess to figure it out.

It looks like — correct me if I’m wrong — the board is working to take potshots at some publisher’s biology stuff, and kill it.


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.

More, resources:


Easy energy

July 21, 2011

You can’t buy the poster from Max Temkin anymore — it’s sold out — but the idea remains:

Max Temkin's poster print "Plastic Spoon" - copyright 2011 Max Temkin

Just wash your spoon, eh?

Tip of the old scrub brush to Grist. For the search engines, full text of the poster below the fold.

Read the rest of this entry »


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