But they didn’t exactly lose either. Have you heard about this? I’m not April fooling, I swear! The Texas State Board of Education met last week and made decisions about how to teach evolution in elementary and secondary schools. Specifically, they argued about whether to include a phrase requiring students to study the “strengths and weaknesses” of all scientific theories, including evolution, in the state science standards. Apparently that phrase used to be in the standards but was removed since it’s a favorite phrase of the critics of Darwin’s theory of evolution. The Creationists tried to get a few almost-as-bad alternative phrases into the standards instead. Luckily, the Creationist agenda was defeated, but they did succeed in getting language in the standards that would require students to “analyze, evaluate and critique” scientific explanations and examine “all sides” of the scientific evidence. So, this opens the door for allowing critiques of Darwinian evolution into classrooms and textbooks.
Salon.com has a pretty good explanation of the situation:
Dan McLeroy, the Texas State Board of Education chairman, a dentist and self-described creationist, led the charge to mandate teaching the “strengths and weaknesses” of the theory of evolution. After three days of high-pitched argument on both sides, the 15-member board, by a vote of 8-7, rejected the language, relieving textbook authors and publishers of the pressure to insert what opponents called “junk science” into their pages. But in a compromise that alarms and dismays many science education advocates, the board did adopt language that attempts to cast a shadow of doubt over the validity of the central evolutionary concepts of natural selection and common ancestry.
The situation isn’t as bad as the mass freakout on Twitter would lead me to believe, but it’s not good either. My first thought when I heard about this was, “Well, I guess our kids are going to private school, or we’re moving back to the east coast.” Austin is great, but the fact that there is even a shadow of a doubt that my kids will be able to get a complete and unbiased science education is definitely one of the downsides of living in Texas. I think the New York Times editorial sums it up best:
One can only hope that teachers in Texas will use common sense and teach evolution as scientists understand it.
If you want to read up on this issue a little more, check out Texas on evolution: Needs further study on Salon.com or Evolutionary Semantics, Texas-Style on the New York Times website. Or, just use Google–everyone seems to have something to say about this.