Two weeks from today the Texas State Board of Education will meet to consider and take a pivotal vote on science instructional materials that could be in school classrooms as early as this fall. It will also be the first meeting with Barbara Cargill, R-The Woodlands, serving as board chair.
Cargill, part of the SBOE’s hyper-partisan far-right bloc that has put politics ahead of education, is no friend of science. At least not a friend of sound science that is settled and based in fact. Cargill has repeatedly cast votes that would result in genuine harm to science education in Texas. So as the board prepares to take a critical vote on science education, and as Cargill begins her term at the SBOE helm, let’s review the new chairwoman’s stance on science education in and outside the SBOE.
What follows is a summary of Cargill’s attacks on established science and her willingness to use the SBOE as a vehicle to impose her personal ideology on Texas children, to the detriment of sound science education.
Opening the Door to Creationism
A few weeks back TFN Insider broke the news about a troubling new participant in the state’s science materials adoption — International Databases Inc., a New Mexico company apparently run by one person. International Databases is one of several publishers and vendors that have submitted science materials for consideration by the SBOE in a few weeks.
There are major problems with materials submitted by International Databases. A review by TFN and the National Center for Science Education found that the International Databases submission is laced with bunk science based on creationist arguments against evolution.
As it happens Cargill and her fellow far-right SBOE members opened the door to precisely this sort of junk-science. In 2009, Cargill was a key player in the last-minute changes to proposed science curriculum standards intended to call into question the established, mainstream science supporting evolution. At the time, TFN warned that creationists would attempt to use the new curriculum to get their propaganda into Texas classrooms. And unfortunately, we were right.
The Age of the Universe
Like her predecessor Don “Somebody’s Gotta Stand Up to Experts” McLeroy, Cargill has an anti-science legacy that lives on via YouTube . During the 2009 debate on science curriculum standards, she called into question the scientific consensus for the age of the universe by proposing a standard be amended as follows:
“(A) evaluate the evidence concerning the Big Bang model, such as red shift and cosmic microwave background radiation, and
the concept of an expanding universe that originated about 14 billion years ago, current theories of the evolution of the universe including estimates for the age of the universe;”
The amendment passed, striking the estimate of the age of the universe from the standards. Or as Cargill said:
“… leaves it open a little bit for (students and teachers) to discuss how many billions.”
The moment was captured on video and placed on YouTube by our friends at the National Center for Science Education. (You can also hear Cargill brush aside suggestions that the amended standard could allow a religious perspective for the age of the universe to be injected into science teachings.) Watch:
It was during that same debate that Cargill attacked science as not having “all of the answers,” saying she wanted to “add humility” to science. Video of Cargill questioning scientific evidence for the origin of life is also available from NCSE here:
Cargill Science ‘Expert’ — Ralph Seelke
During the science curriculum debate in 2009, Cargill nominated a prominent “intelligent design” proponent to review and make recommendations on the Texas science curriculum: Ralph Seelke of the evolution-denying, Seattle-based Discovery Institute. Seelke is a signatory of the infamous (Discovery Institute-sponsored) “Dissent from Darwinism” statement. He is also coauthor of Explore Evolution: The Arguments For and Against Neo-Darwinism (Hill House, 2008), which is a supplementary textbook that is intended to instill scientifically unwarranted doubts about evolution.
WOW! Science Camp
Cargill is one of the founders — and continues to be involved in — Wonders of the Woodlands (WOW!) Science Camp, a summer program held each year in conjunction with The Woodlands United Methodist Church. While it has since been scrubbed, as recently as 2009 the website for the camp linked to websites that promoted creationism in science instruction.