4 p.m. – The State Board of Education hearing on proposed new public school science standards is finally starting. Former state board member Joe Bernal, D-San Antonio, is up first. Bernal calls on board members to listen to real science experts who object to teaching students phony arguments about “weaknesses” of evolution. It doesn’t take long for far-right board members to challenge Bernal’s comments.
Board member David Bradley, R-Beaumont reminds Bernal that the state board in 1988 first adopted the “strengths and weaknesses” requirement in the science standards. Board member Terri Leo launches an attack on the TFN Education Fund’s survey of Texas university biology professors, which showed that science faculty overwhelmingly oppose teaching “weaknesses” or alternative concepts like “intelligent design”/creationism in public school science classroom. She says there has been no challenge showing that the current “weaknesses” requirement has been abused in public schools to promote religious concepts. She conveniently ignores how far-right board members (like herself) tried to force textbook publishers to water down instruction on evolution in 2003.
4:10 – Leo calls supporters of evolution “militants” and says having science classrooms teach evolution unchallenged would violate federal law. There is no such law.
Leo says if teaching “weaknesses” of evolution were such a problem in Texas, the Texas Freedom Network certainly would have filed suit against the offending teachers by now. Putting aside the fact that TFN does not have a legal arm to sue anyone, why not just write sound science standards that won’t create a situation where teachers can run afoul of the law by bringing creationist-fabricated “weaknesses” into the classroom? Why do we need a lawsuit to force this board to do what is right?
4:14 – The board is supposed to hear testimony first from people who want to speak on issues other than biology and evolution. Chairman Don McLeroy, R-Bryan, says he doesn’t want their testimony lost amidst the comments from the many folks who have come to testify about evolution. But there must not be many of them. The first person up after Bernal makes it clear that the board’s nomination of Discovery Institute vice president Stephen Meyer, a creationist and strident evolution denier, to the curriculum review panel was a serious error.
4:35 – Board members like Cynthia Dunbar, R-Richmond, and Barbara Cargill, R-The Woodlands, (both of whom are creationists) argue that requiring the teaching of “weaknesses” of evolution hasn’t led to teaching religious ideas in science classrooms. They miss the point. Requiring the teaching of those phony “weaknesses” undermines the science education of schoolchildren.
4:43 – An evolution critic calls opposition to teaching “weaknesses” of evolution an example of “tyranny and censorship.” He goes so far as to compare such efforts to Nazi totalitarianism. Audible snickers from audience members who have been clearly insulted by the testimony are drawing an overwought rebuke from Leo.