On 21 January 2009 the Texas State Board of Education (SBOE) began a two-day hearing on proposed changes in wording to the state science standards. The revised standards being considered did not include controversial “strengths and weaknesses” language. An amendment before the Board that would have restored this language failed (7-7 vote). The removal of this language is a victory for science education advocates in Texas.

Testifying at the Board meeting were several scientists, including Dr. Eugenie Scott, executive director of the National Center for Science Education (NCSE), Dr. David Hillis, professor of integrative biology at the University of Texas-Austin, Dr. Arturo DeLozanne, professor of cell biology at UT-Austin, Dr. Ronald Worthington, professor of anthropology at Southern Methodist University, and Dr. Gerald Skoog, professor in the College of Education at Texas Tech. Evolution opponents included a representative of the Discovery Institute, the Seattle-based organization that promotes intelligent design/creationism.

The battle is not over, however. The SBOE considered a flurry of amendments on the second day of the meeting. These amendments are intended to weaken the teaching of evolution; for example, one successful revision required that students “analyze and evaluate the sufficiency or insufficiency of common ancestry to explain the sudden appearance, stasis and sequential nature of groups in the fossil record.” The phrase “sudden appearance” is well-established as a creationist catchphrase. On the third day of the meeting, the board voted unanimously to adopt the standards as approved the previous day. The vote however is only preliminary, with a final vote on the standards expected at the Board’s 26-27 March meeting.

 


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