Educators applaud Texas board's final proposal on science
Educators applaud Texas board's final proposal on scienceBy MATT FRAZIER - Ft Wrorth Star-Telegram - 12/31/2008 - originalThe final proposal for the stateís science curriculum has scientists and watchdog groups proclaiming victory in a battle to protect Texas public school classrooms over the next decade from what they call "watered-down science" -- specifically during the instruction of evolution.
Much of the concern over earlier versions of the proposed curriculum centered on a requirement that students be able to analyze the "strengths and weaknesses" of scientific theories, a phrase that some say is being used by creationists -- including some members of the State Board of Education -- to subvert the teaching of evolution.
But with the "weaknesses" requirement removed and a new definition for science, the new plan makes it clear that supernatural explanations like creationism and intelligent design have no place in public school science classrooms, said Dan Quinn with the Texas Freedom Network, an Austin-based nonprofit watchdog group.
"The old standards were so vague, people can interpret them any way they want to," Quinn said. "Itís a very important move forward that says teachers and curriculum writers are unanimous in wanting our kids to get a 21st century education."
Educators removed that "weakness" phrase in their first draft of the science curriculum. After a public hearing that attracted more than 200 speakers, the phrase was back in the second draft, but "weaknesses" was changed to "limitations."
The third and final draft says students should be able to analyze and evaluate scientific explanations. There also is a new requirement that students be able "to evaluate models according to their limitations in representing biological objects or events," but it would take a mind-boggling leap for anyone to interpret that as applying to evolution, Quinn said.
Particularly when viewed through the planís new definition of science.
The old definition -- which included phrases like "a way of learning about nature" and "may not answer all questions" -- has been replaced with a definition from the National Academy of Science. It states that science involves using evidence to form explanations and make predictions that can be measured and tested. It also warns that questions on subjects that cannot be scientifically tested do not belong in science.
The head of the State Board of Education has said that science should admit the possibility of the supernatural when natural explanations fail. But Chairman Don McLeroy has also said that he is not trying to put creationism in public schools.
In the end, the wording in the final draft may not matter because its use is not required. In May the board threw out a teacher-suggested language arts curriculum in favor of another that some board members have said they had only an hour to read before voting on it.
The State Board of Education will hold a second public hearing Jan.21 and is scheduled to take a final vote on the new standards in March.