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Friday, November 21, 2008

Texas Requirement to Teach Weaknesses of Evolution Being Reviewed

Reprinted by permission of The Christian Post

By Lawrence Jones
Christian Post Reporter
Thu, Nov. 20 2008 09:17 AM EST

The Texas Board of Education on Wednesday heard public arguments for and against a current science standard that requires students to be taught the "strengths and weaknesses" of evolution.

The State Board is looking to update its state science standards and will vote on new guidelines next spring. The hearing on Wednesday was open to public comments on the proposed revisions to the state's science curriculum.

The current science guidelines, known as Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills, or TEKS, require that students be taught the "strengths and weaknesses" of all scientific theories, including evolution.

The board is considering whether to retain the current mandate, change the language to say "strengths and limitations," or eliminate the reference altogether, as a review panel had recommended.

Despite being just three words long, the phrase has stirred up a heated debate among educators, parents, and interest groups.

Those who support retaining the decade-old reference say it provides students a balanced viewpoint on evolution and allows them a chance to come to their own conclusions.

Those who oppose keeping the current standard say the "weaknesses" language undermines evolution while opening the door for religious teachings like creationism in the classroom.

A majority of board members are in favor of retaining the "strengths and weaknesses" requirement. They dismiss concerns by critics who say the board's intent is to sneak religion into the classroom.

"There's no one on this board that is trying to inject intelligent design or creationism," Board Vice Chairman David Bradley told the Houston Chronicle. "They are trying to whip up into a frenzy over something that is not going to happen. But by trying to remove strengths and weaknesses, yes, they will get a fight."

Around 90 people had signed up to testify before the board on Wednesday, The Associated Press reported.

Steven Schafersman with Texas Citizens for Science urged the board to remove the reference, saying, "Scientific theories are strong. They don't have weaknesses," according to AP.

Jonathan Saenz, a lobbyist for the Texas Free Market Foundation, wanted the reference to stay.

"This is just another attempt to stifle academic freedom and to ban any kind of free and open science inquiry on this issue," Saenz, who had planned to testify, told AP.

Critics of the reference say the "weaknesses" requirement harms science education. But Casey Luskin, a spokesman for the Seattle-based Discovery Institute, a think tank on intelligent design, said the requirement actually helps academics.

"It's a facade to pretend that there are no scientific weaknesses of evolution, and not teaching the scientific weaknesses to students will prevent them from learning about the facts of biology, and it will harm their critical thinking skills," Luskin told the Chronicle.

A survey released last week of science professors from public and private universities in the state found that 95 percent of respondents said they want evolution to be the only theory of the origin of life taught in public schools. A vast majority of those surveyed also said students would be harmed if the state requires the teaching of the "weaknesses" of evolution.

Proponents of keeping the "strengths and weaknesses" language, however, have downplayed the survey, saying a "culture of intimidation" prevents scientists from voicing any objections to evolution. They also point out that it was conducted for Texas Freedom Network, an organization which has actively lobbied for the teaching of evolution in public schools.

"It’s a self-selecting survey," Luskin told the Star-Telegram. "There’s a well-documented culture of intimidation that makes scientists uncomfortable expressing their doubts about Darwinism. This just serves to reinforce that climate of intimidation."

The new science standards adopted by the board next year will remain in place for the next decade.

Copyright 2008 The Christian Post. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.


1 comments:

cinemaphile85 said...

I think it's essential to teach students the weaknesses in any scientific theory, including evolution. But I hope "intelligent design" proponents realize that disproving or weakening one theory does not prove or strengthen their own.

 
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