Of Pandas and Texas

Breaking news from today’s State Board of Education meeting. The long and short of it — the war on science is officially back on in Texas.

See TFN’s press statement for the basics. And watch TFN Insider for more in the days to come.

CREATIONIST GROUP PUSHES ANTI-EVOLUTION MATERIALS IN TEXAS SCIENCE CLASSES

Texas SBOE Asked To Consider Materials from Fringe Anti-Science Group

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
January 20, 2011

In a move that should not surprise anyone, a well-known creationist/“intelligent design” group appeared on a list of publishers that have indicated an intent to submit science curriculum materials for approval by the Texas State Board of Education (SBOE) later this spring. The formal inclusion of this creationist group means Texas will once again be ground zero for creationist attacks on 21st-century science, TFN President Kathy Miller said.

“In 2009 the State Board of Education approved new science curriculum standards that opened the door to creationist materials in Texas classrooms. Today we saw that one prominent creationist group intends to walk through that door,” Miller said. “Getting their materials in public schools has long been a top priority for creationists, and it’s clear that they intend to make Texas their flagship. Teaching inaccurate information rejected by the scientific community would be a huge disservice to Texas kids and a major setback for science education everywhere.”

Among the dozens of publishers who notified the SBOE of their intent to submit science materials for approval was a Richardson,TX-based group called the Foundation for Thought and Ethics (FTE). Approval of materials published by FTE, a self-described promoter of “intelligent design,” would create several serious problems for the board, including:

  • FTE’s troubled legal history – FTE published the “intelligent design” textbook (Of Pandas and People) that was ruled to be unconstitutional for use in public schools in the landmark decision Kitzmiller v. Dover (PA).
  • FTE’s well-established record of religious proselytizing through its textbooks – As recently as 2002, the group described its mission on IRS tax returns as “promoting and publishing textbooks presenting a Christian perspective of academic studies.”

The actual materials submitted for approval by FTE and other publishers will not be available to the public until March. The State Board of Education, however, has already begun appointing review panels – made up of citizens, educators and scientists – that will evaluate all materials for conformity to the state’s new curriculum standards as well as for factual accuracy.

There will be a public hearing on these materials at the board in April. The board will take a final vote on approval or rejection of these science materials at the conclusion of that April meeting. All materials approved by the board are available for purchase by local school districts for use in science classrooms.

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13 Comments

  1. Posted January 23, 2011 at 8:19 pm | Permalink

    Fallacies are notoriously vulnerable to sarcasm, wit, reposte, and general devastation. One uses the other guys force against him/her/it/them.

    Their mission statement, “The purpose of FTE is to restore the freedom to know to young people, especially in matters of worldview, morality, and conscience, and to return the right of informed consent to families in the education of their children.”

    Which seems to me to say that their position is that restoring freedom to know shold be subject to the consent of families (aka parents). And these freedoms to know and not to know have been taken away by (who?).

    As a parent, that happens when the kids get old enough to say “no”. Has there ever been a right to informed consent vested in families? What about uniformed consent? What does consent mean in a family? what if the child is smarter than the parents, which kids think is true anyway?

    Wiki says an “Affirmative conclusion from a negative premise is a logical fallacy that is committed when a categorical syllogism has a positive conclusion, but one or two negative premises
    .

  2. John Donovan
    Posted January 23, 2011 at 6:44 pm | Permalink

    Doc Bill is right about the politics. You aren’t going to sway an ideologue, certainly not through logic. Bring political pressure to bear on board members who are still amenable to persuasion–letters to the editor, support from normally non-political groups, large turnouts and lots of speakers at board meetings. Even if they agree with you, board members need the political cover of (at least the appearance of) a grounswell of support for their position. As FDR once said to a group of petitioners, “OK, you’ve convinced me. Now go out and bring pressure on me.”

  3. Doc Bill
    Posted January 23, 2011 at 5:59 pm | Permalink

    Gordon’s civil observation would be correct if this was a scientific discussion, but it isn’t; it’s political.

    The only thing that matters in politics is the vote. The honest thing to do would be to change the name of the state board from “education” to “ideology.”

  4. Posted January 22, 2011 at 5:45 pm | Permalink

    Name calling the shameless is fruitless. Logical dissection and analyss of falacious reasoning may lack sturm and drang, but is scientifically and logicla more germane.

    See list of falacies that leap from the pages of our anti-scientific foes flow from a more careful study of excess verbosity and posturing.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_fallacies

  5. Charles
    Posted January 22, 2011 at 3:55 pm | Permalink

    The price of continuing to have the freedom to be a United Methodist, Episcopalian, Lutheran, Northern Baptist, Moderate Southern Baptist, Congregationalist, Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Russian Orthodox, Greek Orthodox, Coptic Church [and the list goes on and on] in Texas is at stake here. The real goal of the conservative bloc on the Texas SBOE is to use science class and social studies class to convince your children that you are not a real Christian and that you attend an apostate church. They wish to rescue your children from you, your parenthood, and your legitimate interests as a parent. They wish to turn your children into Christian fundamentalist clones like themselves and use your hard-earned tax dollars to do it.

    Answer: ” I am mad as hell, and I’m not going to take it anymore.”

  6. Adrian Russell-Falla
    Posted January 22, 2011 at 1:55 pm | Permalink

    “ground zero for creationist attacks on 21st-century science”
    I would have referenced “creationist attacks on the last 150 years of scientific discovery”

  7. Ron Smith
    Posted January 22, 2011 at 11:35 am | Permalink

    Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the classroom….. they’re baaacckkk! You would think they would know better in the light of the Dover decision- but- if they did that- they wouldn’t be the Texas SBOE. I live in Indiana, but I feel I have a dog in this fight too- despite protestations from textbook publishers to the contrary, Texas unfortunately has a disproportionate influence on the national school textbook choices. The Tea Party did well in our elections here in November, and given the heavy overlapping of birthers, climate warming deniers, and creationists in the Teabagger ranks, I wouldn’t be surprised if they tried something like that here.

  8. Mark Duigon
    Posted January 22, 2011 at 9:26 am | Permalink

    Can the United States offer aid to this Third World Country? Or do we have to wait until after they secede?

  9. John Donovan
    Posted January 22, 2011 at 9:22 am | Permalink

    I agree this is appalling if hardly surprising. As both a Buddhist and a Jew–and with two kids in public elementary school–I’m not about to let my kids be brainwashed by this bilge. TFN is a great outfit but this blog is just an echo chamber. If you’re pissed off, do something about it. At the very least write to your local paper, certainly the SBOE and show up for their meeting in April.

  10. Doc Bill
    Posted January 21, 2011 at 9:01 pm | Permalink

    Go to the FTE website and you’ll see that they’re a bunch of flaming creationists. It appears they are still flogging Pandas, along with a bunch of books and videos by Disco Tute fellows: Privileged Planet, Icons of Evolution and a bunch of other similar useless, pitiful, creationist junk.

    Explore Evolution, the Disco Tute’s other mindless “supplement” is published by Hill House publishers, self-publishers, so EE isn’t even published by a publisher!

    Unbelievable. Crap.

    Let’s not forget that creationist Stephen Meyer is still (as far as I know) on the textbook selection panel. Nice, a creationist on a science textbook selection panel. Well played, Texas.

    What’s next, a Christian theocrat and uncredentialed pseudo-historian on the social studies textbook panel? Oh, Barton. Sorry, my bad.

  11. Martha Griffin
    Posted January 21, 2011 at 6:23 am | Permalink

    My understanding is that the way HB1 reads right now, there is no money appropriated by the legislature for supplemental science instructional materials.

  12. Charles
    Posted January 20, 2011 at 6:42 pm | Permalink

    One comment:

  13. Posted January 20, 2011 at 3:59 pm | Permalink

    It might be a propitious time to discuss equal opportunity censorship which tit for tat proscribes social(ist) science for Christian Creationism on a book by book, or perhaps paragraph by paragraph basis. Perhaps Creationism banned could be balanced with the banning of Social Psychology. unit for unit.

    Perhaps color coding the course books would help.

    This nation was founded on the principle of religious repression, non-establishment religionists risked jail time or death for their adherence to proscribed beliefs. This authority belongs to the state legislatures who could devolve said authority to local school boards, thereby simplifying which zip code is more comfortable to true believers, regardless of belief.

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