State board of education poised to embarrass Texas again

State board of education poised to embarrass Texas again
Board requires attacks on evolution for Texas public school students
Editorial - Austin American Statesman - 11/22/2008 - original
Once again Texas is poised to court national disgrace because of the State Board of Education and the anti-evolution agenda of some of its members.

Whether there are enough votes on the 15-member board to end its efforts to force religious doctrine into public schools through the back door won't be known for a while. The board might take a preliminary vote on standards for the public school science curriculum, and by extension the textbooks students use, in January. A final decision on the science curriculum will come in the spring.

A debate is raging over a state board requirement that students be taught the strengths and weaknesses of scientific theories as early as middle school. That "strengths and weaknesses" language is a way to attack evolution and clear the path for religious doctrines like creationism and intelligent design to be taught.

The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that prohibiting the teaching of evolution is a violation of the separation of church and state. So the education board uses criticism of evolution as a way to get around that prohibition and impose religious belief into the study of life on Earth.

Fully 95 percent of college science and biology teachers in Texas oppose weakening the teaching of evolution by offering alternative explanations. The "strength and weakness" clause only confuses students by inserting a religious doctrine into the study of science.

That, of course, doesn't help students. It only hurts them when it comes to learning accepted scientific theory. But that's fine with board members, who are unconcerned about the detrimental effects of their policies.

Too many members of this board are on a religious mission, not an educational one. That's clear to anyone who has followed its members and their efforts to inculcate conservative religious views into public education over the years.

"Once again, Texas is in the national spotlight, and scientists, science teachers and education news writers all over the United States are waiting to see what new foolishness is going to happen in Austin this time," Steven Schafersman, president of Texas Citizens for Science, told the board this week. "Once again our state is going to experience the embarrassment of having anti-scientific, anti-evolutionists on the state board try to game the process and force the new science standards to contain anti-scientific language."

Evolution is proven, accepted science, and requiring teachers to attack it in middle school and high school is a dreadful policy that perverts science education.

Texas lawmakers need to defang this board before it does permanent harm to public education.