Groundhog Day came 24 hours early in Texas this year.
As it has done so often in the past, on February first the Texas State Board of Education ignored the opinion of experts and opted to ensure that kids are taught the best misinformation and lies creationists have to offer.
The situation in Texas is every bit as depressing as it is common. Acting on the Board’s instructions, a panel of educators and scientists reviewed the state’s science curriculum standards. The expert panel was charged with making recommendations to simplify the standards, standards that teachers found all but impossible to implement.
The panel did its work and made its recommendations, recommendations which included removing an array of requirements both promoting creationism and presenting incorrect biological information.
Not surprisingly, many of the panel recommendations were adopted by the State Board of Education. Equally unsurprising, the recommendations that centered on halting the promotion of creationism and offering an accurate portrayal of evolutionary theory were summarily dismissed by the Board. When it comes to creationism, the opinions of experts simply don’t matter to the Board – which isn’t surprising given that the past chair of the Board, Don McLeroy, infamously pronounced that “Somebody’s got to stand up to experts.” McLeroy uttered those frightening comments during another of the Board’s attacks on biological education.
Texas Freedom Network, an organization fighting to ensure that Texas students receive the best possible education has consistently wrestled with the State Board of Education over its insistence that creationism be taught in Texas public schools. Kathy Miller, TFN’s president, summarized the Board’s latest action clearly and succinctly when she said:
“This is like watching the sequel to a bad movie. Once again we see the board overruling and rewriting the work of classroom professionals and other experts who know better than anyone else how to teach our kids. Teachers are practically begging the board to stop forcing them to waste classroom time on junk science standards that are based mostly on the personal agendas of board members themselves, not sound science. But these politicians just can’t seem to stop themselves from making teachers’ jobs harder.”
It’s worth noting that, in addition to promoting terrible science and awful pedagogy, the actions of the State Board of Education are also causing distress among religious leaders. The science standards the Board is mandating reflect the religious views of one narrow perspective and are at odds with the teachings of the vast majority of the world’s religions. Indeed, members of The Clergy Letter Project, more than 14,000 clergy members from all across the United States, are opposed to the actions of the Board, arguing instead that religious belief should not shape the way science is presented to children in public schools.
When dogma overrules expertise we all suffer. When opinion replaces fact in our public schools the suffering may continue for generations.