Friday, August 24, 2007

Will the Texas State Board of Education Oppose Teaching ID?

Lightseeker at Texas Kaos takes heart in a Houston Chronicle article assessing the views of the Texas State Board of Education members on the teaching of evolution versus intelligent design in the schools. The board is scheduled to revise the science curriculum in the 2007-2008 calendar, and many expect proponents of intelligent design to launch an aggressive campaign to include the teaching of ID in the classroom.

First the good news:

In Interviews with The Dallas Morning News, 10 of the board's 15 members said they wouldn't support requiring the teaching of intelligent design. One board member said she was open to the idea. Four board members didn't respond to the newspaper's phone calls.....

Other board members who said they believe the curriculum should continue to include evolution and not be changed to accommodate intelligent design were: Geraldine "Tincy" Miller, R-Dallas; Barbara Cargill, R-The Woodlands; Gail Lowe, R-Lampasas; Bob Craig, R-Lubbock; Mavis Knight, D-Dallas; Rick Agosto, D-San Antonio; Lawrence Allen, D-Houston; and Mary Helen Berlanga, D-Corpus Christi.

Note that Gail Lowe, who calls herself a creationist, represents District 14, including Denton County.

And then there is this reassuring quote.

"Creationism and intelligent design don't belong in our science classes," said Board of Education Chairman Don McLeroy, who described himself as a creationist. "Anything taught in science has to have consensus in the science community and intelligent design does not."

It's reassuring, because McElroy's appointment last month by Governor Rick Perry kicked up a firestorm of protest over concerns that he was an anti-science, religious ideologue. We should take McElroy's quote to mean that evolution will be taught in our public schools according to scientific consensus, right?

Maybe not. Here's another quote from the Houston Chron article by McLeroy.

McLeroy, R-College Station, said he doesn't want to change the existing requirement that evolution be taught in high school biology classes. But he joined several of his colleagues in arguing that biology textbooks should cover the weaknesses of the theory of evolution [emphasis added].

The Texas Freedom Network highlighted a speech McLeroy delivered to the Grace Bible Church in 2005.

McLeroy recounted the controversy over teaching evolution during the State Board of Education’s adoption of new biology textbooks in 2003. McLeroy was one of only four members on the 15-member panel who voted to reject the textbooks. Those four members argued that the textbooks failed to discuss what they called the “weaknesses” of evolutionary theory. They were backed by the Discovery Institute, a Seattle-based organization that opposes evolution and promotes “intelligent design” as an alternative. McLeroy said:

“It was only the four really conservative, orthodox Christians on the board [who] were willing to stand up to the textbooks and say they don’t present the weaknesses of evolution. Amazing."

So don't think for one minute that Perry appointed McLeroy to be chairman of the board with the concession that he not advocate his views on creationism. The "weaknesses" argument is code for ID, which in turn is creationism wrapped up in enough jargon to make a claim that it passes scientific muster. It doesn't, but that's for another post.

TFN leaves us with this warning.

In the 2006 elections, religious conservatives increased their numbers on the state board to eight – a majority. The board is currently overhauling all public school curriculum standards. The board is scheduled to take up revisions to science standards – including standards dealing with evolution – in 2007-08.

Even Lightseeker warns us to "pay attention, even while celebrating this , apparent, step forward."

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