The evolution of the Texas State Board of Education proves that oxymorons really can make sense and produce compelling imagery.
In an amazing vote, going against decades of ideological tradition that resolutely and continuously dismissed scientific evidence, the Texas State Board of Education just voted to remove statewide requirements designed to undermine the teaching of evolution.
An oxymoron is a term in which opposite or contradictory terms are combined to great rhetorical impact. Jumbo shrimp, disgustingly delicious and definitely maybe fit the bill.
Similarly, oxymoronic sentences can be constructed that yield a powerful message, one pithier than might arise via the use of more straightforward language.
Andy Warhol claiming, "I am a deeply superficial person," Yogi Berra pronouncing that "No one goes to that restaurant anymore - it's always too crowded," and the simple announcement that “We are not anticipating any emergencies” all fall into this category.
And now, beyond terms and sentences, we have a wonderful example of a political oxymoron: The evolution of the Texas State Board of Education.
The Texas State Board of Education finally listened to the advice of scientific experts and science teachers and voted to remove the requirement that students in Texas examine “all sides of scientific evidence” with respect to evolution. Although this language might sound completely innocuous, it most assuredly isn’t. As the Texas Freedom Network, a grassroots organization long fighting for high quality public education in Texas, explains it, “Creationists hoped that this… would force textbooks and classroom instruction to include anti-evolution arguments.” In fact, this is exactly what was happening all across the great state of Texas.
But the efforts of the Texas Freedom Network finally paid off and the Texas State Board of Education decided that Texas public school students should have the opportunity to experience science education based on science rather than political ideology. Texas Freedom Network President Kathy Miller described the impact of the Board’s decision clearly and succinctly:
"The politicians on the state board have finally listened to scientists and classroom professionals who know what students need to get a 21st-century education. This is an important victory for science, for science education, and most importantly, for Texas students. The culture wars have no place in our classroom, and today’s decision is one important step toward this board recognizing that."
The Texas State Board of Education hasn’t received accolades from scientists very often but their latest action is certainly praiseworthy. At the same time, as Kathy Miller points out, we shouldn’t assume that this is the end of the struggle to ensure that Texas students have the opportunity to be well educated: “Even now some state board members insist that the overwhelming scientific evidence behind evolution is wrong. So while today’s vote is gratifying, it likely won’t be the last time this board debates whether Texas kids should learn sound science in their 21st-century classrooms.”
For now, however, we have two things to celebrate: a positive decision about science education occurring on the day prior to the March for Science; and a new example of a great oxymoron.