Strengths and Weaknesses of Evolution May Be Out of Texas Science Standards

UPDATE:
The Texas Board of Education approved the science standards BUT teachers will be required to have students “scrutinize” all sides of the theories. Read more here for more details.

We are in the Round Top Texas area for two weeks participating in a very large collection of antiques shows held twice a year in the Spring and Fall. It is the largest gathering of antiques dealers in the USA. Not only is this the season for antiques in this part of Texas, it also the season for the blossoming of the Texas Bluebell which creates beautiful carpets of blue around the State.

Texas Bluebells
Texas Bluebells

It is also the season when the Texas Board of Education is meeting in Austin (just 30 miles west on highway 290) to vote on the adoption of the new Texas Science Standards (Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills). The new standards removed language that was included in the prior set of science standards that required the so called “strengths and weaknesses” of any theory be included in text material and classroom instruction. In the new science standards this requirement was removed.

In January, the Board of Education voted (7 to 7) to keep the “strengths and weaknesses” idea out of the Standards. The board is meeting this week, and this morning upheld (via a preliminary vote) its earlier vote (7 to 7), thereby keeping the strengths and weaknesses issue out of the science standards. The final vote will come tomorrow (Friday). The Dallas News reported it this way:

A last-ditch effort by social conservatives to require that Texas teachers cover the “weaknesses” in the theory of evolution in science classes was rejected by the State Board of Education Thursday in a split vote.

Board members deadlocked 7-7 on a motion to restore a long-time curriculum rule that “strengths and weaknesses” of all scientific theories – notably Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution – be taught in science classes and covered in textbooks for those subjects.

Voting for the requirement were the seven Republican board members aligned with social conservative groups. Against the proposal were three other Republicans and four Democrats.

Eugenie C. Scott, Executive Director of The National Center for Science Education has been an active force in bringing the scientific side of the issue to the Texas Board of Education. Here is a video of her testimony given on March 25, 2009.

I’ve explored the issues of creationism, intelligent design, and now we add to our discussion the notion of forcing teachers to discuss the “strengths and weaknesses” of any theory, although most of the focus was on evolution. The use of this statement was seen by many scientists and science educators as a wedge tactic enabling creationists as represented by Discovery Institute to teach a religious view of the origins. Although the statement won’t be part of the new science standards, the fact that the vote was 7 to 7 shows the degree of split that exists in the minds of the Texas Board. The issue will not end with the vote on Friday. Indeed, a member of the Texas State Legislature is going to file a bill that will supercede the Boards’ decision.
You might be interested in Scott’s new book Evolution vs. Creationism: An Introduction, Second Edition. evolutionvscreationism2nded-medimg_assist_custom