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The Texas state board of education is scheduled to hear testimony on the state's science standards on November 19, 2008, and the treatment of evolution is likely to be a contentious issue.
Writing in the Houston Chronicle (October 22, 2008), the chief executive officer of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, Alan I. Leshner, deplores the recent appointment of three antievolutionists to a committee charged with reviewing a draft of Texas's state science standards. "The new standards will shape how science education is taught in Texas for the next decade, and it would be a terrible mistake to water down the teaching of evolution in any way," he writes, adding, "At a time when most educators are working to prepare students for 21st century jobs, the board members' action threatens to confuse students, divide communities and tarnish Texas' reputation as an international science and technology center."
"The State Board of Education's decisions in the coming months will affect both the college preparation and future job qualifications of our children. Our students deserve a sound education that includes the latest findings of scientific research and excludes ideas that have failed to stand up to scientific scrutiny." That was the message of the 21st Century Science Coalition's advisory committee -- Daniel I. Bolnick, R. E. Duhrkopf, David M. Hillis, Ben Pierce, and Sahotra Sarkar -- delivered in twin op-eds recently published in two Texas newspapers, the Waco Tribune (October 19, 2008), and the Austin American-Statesman (October 21, 2008).
Three antievolutionists have been appointed to a six-member committee to review the draft set of Texas state science standards, and defenders of the integrity of science education are livid. "The committee was chosen by 12 of the 15 members of the board of education, with each panel member receiving the support of two board members," as the Dallas Morning News (October 16, 2008) explains. Six members of the board "aligned with social conservative groups" chose Stephen C. Meyer, the director of the Discovery Institute's Center for Science and Culture, Ralph Seelke, a biology professor at the University of Wiconsin, Superior, and Charles Garner, a chemistry professor at Baylor University.
Texas's newspapers are beginning to express their editorial support of the draft set of science standards, released by the Texas Education Agency on September 22, 2008, and applauded for their treatment of evolution by the Texas Freedom Network, Texas Citizens for Science, and the newly formed 21st Century Science Coalition.
A new coalition of Texas scientists voiced its opposition to attempts to dilute the treatment of evolution in Texas's state science standards, which are presently undergoing revision. At a news conference in Austin on September 30, 2008, representatives of the 21st Century Science Coalition challenged the idea that students should be told that there are "weaknesses" in evolution.
A recent article in the Fort Worth Weekly (August 3, 2008) warns of the impending battle over the place of evolution in Texas's state science standards. "The basic fight is expected to be over what kids are taught about evolution -- which takes up only about three days of teaching in a 180-day school year," Laurie Barker James writes.
As NCSE previously reported, Chris Comer, the former director of science at the Texas Education Agency who was forced to resign over a dispute involving "intelligent design" creationism, filed suit in federal court, seeking an injunction against TEA's "policy of neutrality with respect to the teaching of creationism in the Texas public schools." The Dallas Morning News (July 3, 2008)
Chris Comer, the Director of Science at the Texas Education Agency (TEA) who was forced to resign over a dispute involving intelligent design, has filed suit in Federal District Court for redress.