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.”


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:

Friends of science and evolution: Testify next week in the Texas textbook process?

July 14, 2011

I get important e-mail from the Texas Freedom Network; they’re asking for help next week to fight creationism and other forms of buncombe popular in Texas:

Science and the SBOE: One Week to Go

Next week, the Texas State Board of Education will take a critical vote on science in our public schools. We need people like you to make sure the vote is in favor of sound, well-established science.

Up for board consideration are science instructional materials submitted by a number of publishers and vendors who want their product used in Texas classrooms. Even before the board meets, far-right groups have been hard at work trying to ensure materials approved by the board attack and diminish evolutionary science and include the junk science of “intelligent design”/creationism.

The attacks include one from a little-know firm out of New Mexico, International Databases, which submitted instructional materials rife with creationist propaganda.

It gets worse. Far-right SBOE members last month appointed creationists with questionable scientific credentials to teams tasked with reviewing the materials and making recommendations to the board.

And new board chair Barbara Cargill upped the stakes when in a speech just last week she framed the debate over science as a “spiritual battle.”

The board will hold just ONE public hearing on the science materials. Your participation is crucial.

It is critical that you act now by clicking here to express your interest in testifying before the board on July 21.

Please note: The deadline to sign up to testify is 5 p.m. Monday.

We must insist that the SBOE keep junk science – including “intelligent design”/creationism – out of our children’s classrooms. The board must approve only instructional materials that are accurate, that are in line with sound and well-established science, and that will prepare Texas children to succeed in college and the jobs of the 21st century.

Texas Freedom Network advances a mainstream agenda of religious freedom and individual liberties to counter the radical right. www.tfn.org | www.tfninsider.org | General: tfn@tfn.org
Tell a friend to subscribe to TFN News Clips, Alerts or Rapid Response Teams. Subscribers may choose the issue areas that interest them. To change your TFN subscription preferences – or to unsubscribe – click here.
Copyright 2010, Texas Freedom Network

Trying to carve out time here.  Can you help?

Hearings will be most interesting.  Support for the Texas State Board of Education actually comes, often, from the Texas Education Agency (TEA).  TEA this week laid off just under 200 workers, to deal with the 36% budget chopping done to the agency by the Texas Lege.  Word comes this week that curriculum directors at TEA were let go, including the director of science curriculum.

It’s rather like the first 20 weeks of World War II in the Pacific, with the aggressors advancing on almost all fronts against science.  When is our Battle of Midway?

Information, resources: 

Texas Citizens for Science, new Facebook page

June 23, 2011

One more way to connect with Texas Citizens for Science, the defenders especially of good science in public school classrooms:

Texas Citizens for Science logo

Are you a member?

Hello, Friends of Texas Citizens for Science,

If you haven’t done so yet, please visit the new TCS Facebook Page at <http://www.facebook.com/pages/Texas-Citizens-for-Science/220812611277400?sk=wall> and become a Friend. TCS is only four Friends short of reaching the number to use a shortened URL.

Also, please make a note of our new TCS email address.

The July State Board of Education meeting will be important for us. I will attend and live blog the important parts.

Thank you all very much.

Steven Schafersman, President
Texas Citizens for Science

Pressure on Texas Board of Education to fix damage to social studies standards

February 18, 2011

Probably not enough pressure to get the board to act, but the Dallas Morning News turned a cannon on the Texas State Board of Education this morning, asking that they fix the damage done to social studies last year.

The paper’s editorial board keyed off of the Fordham Institute’s grading of state standards — Texas failed, with at D.

Here’s the editorial in its entirety — there’s more at the Dallas Morning News website and I encourage you to go read it there:

Editorial: Report offers new reason to rewrite standards

Just in case you think it’s only us warning about Texas’ new social studies standards, check out the awful grade that the respected Thomas B. Fordham Institute gave those benchmarks in a report released Wednesday.

A big, fat “D” is what Texas got for the history, economics, geography and cultural standards the State Board of Education approved last year for Texas’ elementary and secondary school students.

Some of that awful mark was for the way the standards are organized. Fordham researchers likened their confusing structure to a jigsaw puzzle. But much of the national organization’s critique was about how politicized the State Board of Education has made those standards.

We were particularly struck by Fordham’s conclusion that the hard-right faction on the board, which dominated the writing of the standards, made the same mistake left-wing academics have made in approaching such subjects as history and economics. The Fordham study puts it this way:

“While such social studies doctrine is usually associated with the relativist and diversity-obsessed educational left, the hard right-dominated Texas Board of Education made no effort to replace traditional social studies dogma with substantive historical content. Instead, it seems to have grafted on its own conservative talking points.”

Oh, it gets worse. Back to the report: “The strange fusion of conventional left-wing education theory and right-wing politics undermines content from the start.”

For the record, Fordham is not a left-wing outpost of American thought. Its leader is Chester Finn, a former Reagan administration official and one of education’s most recognized voices. At the least, his organization’s critique is not a predictable one.

The institute echoes the complaint this newspaper has had since the 15-member Texas board rewrote the state’s social studies standards. Its hard-right faction at the time insisted on inserting its slant on those important subjects, such as suggesting Joe McCarthy wasn’t so bad, that international treaties are a problem and that the separation of church and state is misguided.

The warped view is why the revised board must go back and rewrite the standards this spring. And that should be possible.

Voters were so frustrated with the board’s work last year that they elected more moderate Republican members. Moderates now have enough of the upper hand to fix these standards before schools start planning for next year and before publishers start drafting new history and social studies textbooks.

Some on the new board may believe that rewriting the social studies standards will be too difficult. But surely Texas students deserve better than a “D” when it comes to what the state wants them to learn in some of the most critical subjects.


Texas fails among its peers

How big states fared on the Fordham Foundation report on social studies standards nationwide:

California: A-

New York: A-

Florida: C

Texas: D

National average: D

Institute for Creation Research loses bid to give creationism degrees in Texas

June 22, 2010

Remember the Institute for Creation Research?

Institute for Creation Research offices in Texas

Institute for Creation Research offices in Texas

This hoary old fundamentalist institution moved from California to Texas, hoping to take advantage of the generally fundie-friendly environment, and continue a practice of granting masters and doctorate degrees in science education to people who would get jobs in schools and teach creationism instead.  They had achieved that goal in California with a lawsuit the state regulators rather botched, and by setting up a special accreditation association that would give a pass to the teaching of non-science.

But when they got to Texas, the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (THECB) had a couple of alert people who blew the whistle on the process of getting a permit to grant degrees.  Real scientists and science educators were brought in to evaluate ICR’s programs.  They said the programs were not scientific and do not deserve to be accredited.

THECB stuck to the rulesICR threatened a lawsuit.  THECB stood fast.

ICR sued.

And then God intervened. At God’s instructions ICR filed legal papers so bizarre that they would, by themselves, expose ICR as a wacko group.  ICR’s loss came on the merits of their case, which were nil — it was summary judgment against ICR.  Summary judgment means that, even with all the evidence decided in favor of the losing party, that party loses on the basis of the law.

The court took note of just how bizarre were the papers ICR filed.  Frosting on the cake of embarrassment.

Judge Sam Sparks, in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas, Austin Division, stopped short of admonishing ICR for the briefs, and instead sifted the briefs to find judiciable claims — an act that will probably prevent ICR from getting a friendly hearing in any appeal.  Sparks wrote:

Having addressed this primary issue, the Court will proceed to address each of ICRGS’s causes of action in turn, to the extent it is able to understand them. It appears that although the Court has twice required Plaintiff to re-plead and set forth a short and plain statement of the relief requested, Plaintiff is entirely unable to file a complaint which is not overly verbose, disjointed, incoherent, maundering, and full of irrelevant information.

Whom God destroys, He first makes mad.

Sparks ruled ICR has no free exercise right to grant non-science degrees, no free speech right, and no due process claim to grant them, either.  ICR lost on every count of their complaint.



Cartoon on ICR suit against Texas, Babble.com

From Babble.com (Do you know who is the cartoonist?)

Liveblogging the Texas State Board of Education

May 21, 2010

Or, should that be “Texas State Soviet of Education?”

Steve Schafersman (of Texas Citizens for Science fame)  is live blogging for the Texas Observer, here.

Texas Freedom Network blogs it here.

Did I forget to mention that earlier?



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