Another first-hand report from the science review panel meeting last month in Austin has emerged, and it seems to corroborate some of the concerns about the flawed process expressed last week by biology panel participant Jimmy Gollihar. Specifically, it raises more questions about what State Board of Education Chairwoman Barbara Cargill, R-The Woodlands, was doing at that meeting.
This report comes from a member of the physics review panel, John Blanton, who writes about the experience on his blog Skeptical Analysis. During a break in the review session, Blanton struck up a conversation with biology reviewer Ide Trotter, long-time supporter of “intelligent design”/creationism, when suddenly:
…Barbara Cargill joined us in our conversation. Dr. Trotter and I were discussing Intelligent Design when she walked up, and I am afraid she was confused and thought I was a creationist. She remarked “I’m one of you,” and gave us a reassuring clap on the shoulder. She conferred for a moment with Dr. Trotter over some notes, and she went off to visit other volunteers.
(Blanton is not an “intelligent design” supporter, as he makes clear in his account.)
So not only did Cargill engage in extensive discussions with members of the biology panels (per Gollihar’s letter), now we learn that she was lending moral support to panel members who shared her personal anti-evolution beliefs.
As a reminder, TFN asked Cargill on August 1 some basic questions about the integrity of the review process and her participation in that process. We’ve yet to receive a satisfactory reply. Given the additional details emerging from multiple sources, we think the chair has an obligation to provide the public with some answers. Here, again, are the questions:
• When you attended the review team meeting on Wednesday, July 30, did you try in any way to influence the decisions of any review team members on questions of a particular submission’s content, TEKS coverage or factual accuracy?
• It appeared that you spent considerable time with the high school biology review teams on Wednesday. In talking to the biology reviewers, did you discuss the coverage of evolution/human origins and related issues in instructional materials?
• Is it your position that:
- It is appropriate for an SBOE member to join the formal deliberations of a review team?
- It is appropriate for an SBOE member to engage in extensive discussions with members over issues regarding the content of specific textbook submissions?
- It is appropriate for an SBOE member try to influence the decisions of that review committee?
• Do you have any concerns about a process that could allow SBOE members – in a meeting where the public has no access – to lobby review team members for specific recommendations to textbook publishers?