Texas Board of Education approves new science standards

Monday, March 30, 2009

AUSTIN, Texas — State education leaders have forged a compromise on the teaching of evolution in Texas, adopting a new science curriculum that no longer requires educators to teach the weaknesses of all scientific theories.

Evolution proponents, who wanted the State Board of Education to drop the 20-year-old requirement that both “strengths and weaknesses” of scientific theories be taught, said the new plan uses confusing language that allows creationist arguments into Texas classrooms. Creationism is the religious belief that life and the university were created in their original form by a diety.

The State Board of Education voted 13-2 on March 27 to put in place a plan that would instead require teachers to encourage students to scrutinize “all sides” of scientific theories.

Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills, which will be in place for the next decade, governs what teachers are required to cover in the classroom, the topics students are tested on, and the material published in textbooks.

“Through a series of contradictory and convoluted amendments, the board crafted a road map that creationists will use to pressure publishers into putting phony arguments attacking established science into textbooks,” said Kathy Miller, president of the watchdog group Texas Freedom Network.

But board member Barbara Cargill said the new standards were “more clear in the language and using words that aren't seen as code words” that helped convince the board to “agree that this is how we'll teach all sides of scientific explanation, using scientific evidence.”

Supporters of the changes also applauded the efforts to encourage critical thinking in science classrooms.

The state of Texas, one of the largest textbook purchasers in the nation, has significant influence over the content of books marketed across the country. Publishers compete to have their books approved by the state board, which has authority to review all books and recommend approval to local school districts.

With new biology textbooks up for adoption in 2011, the new curriculum determines what will be required of publishers who want to be approved to sell books in Texas.

Federal courts have ruled against teaching creationism and the similar theory of intelligent design in public schools.

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