FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Texas and Evolution

 

“I disagree with all these experts. Somebody has to stand up to these experts.”

“They are the experts, but science doesn’t operate on consensus.”

“Genetics is the foundation for modern biology, not evolution…Genetics goes back to a Christian monk who did precise data.”

–Don McLeroy, Chair of the Texas State Board of Education, March 27, 2009

The debate on the teaching of evolution and Texas continues to evolve, mutate and creatively adapt though news sources, ranging from the Dallas Morning News to the Discovery Institute, are declaring premature and decisive victories. It depends on whose version of events one would like to believe. As they say, “perception shapes reality.” The truth of the matter is that the story of the Texas State Board of Education (SBOE) is a sordid, implicit, complicated one and isn’t anywhere close to resolution. The continuing struggle is not about science or even scientific process. Or even about fifteen elected adults in agreement that their sole purpose in public service is to ensure that students in public schools are learning concepts in line with international scientific standards. (Seven of the members are ideologues; six are equivocating ideologues; and two, Berlanga and Nuñez, are clear, concise voices of reason who have the humility–and audacity–to defer to the experts.)

If the issue is not one of sound science, what is it then? It is a fierce battle over language and the concepts language can potentially carry into the classroom.

What has been decided in a final vote by the SBOE on March 27 is a document of words that will guide science curriculum standards for a decade. The final draft is a convoluted, compromised collection of doublespeak. As SBOE chair Don McLeroy publicly declared as a defense for why experts are not needed: “There is stasis in the fossil record.” Perhaps it is more accurate to say that there is stasis in the document, and that is a very sad milestone for Texas and beyond.

A larger issue is one of language and concepts, as guided by the document in question, making their way into textbooks. What is at stake could likely affect other states: Texas has economic clout as a buyer of textbooks which gives the SBOE the power to meddle in pre-publication matters in ways that publishers are willing to accommodate. SBOE’s range of power in mitigating language is directly based on the curriculum standards. Other states that do not have leverage in volume sales or a similar structure in adopting textbooks stand a good chance of being disadvantaged by decisions made in Texas.

One outstanding example of how this could play out for other states is in the wording of an amendment–now a standard–that requires students to “analyze and evaluate scientific explanations concerning any data on sudden appearance and stasis and the sequential groups in the fossil record.” According to Dan Quinn of the Texas Freedom Network, “McLeroy had argued that such data disproves the concept of common descent and will demand that publishers say as much in new textbooks [that] are adopted in 2011.”

Most news reports are accurate on one point. It is true that the SBOE discarded the two decades-old language of teaching the “strengths and weaknesses” of evolution theory. That decision came early in the proceedings; it was a compelling ruse for the string of compromised amendments that would follow. Amendments, now standards, that have groups like the Environmental Defense Fund issuing statements hours after the final vote. That is all to assume that the superorganism by the name of the Texas SBOE is capable of arriving at sound conclusions based on consensus as informed by the best and brightest minds that the scientific and activist community has to offer. In its current configuration, it is not.

LARAY POLK is a multimedia artist and writer who lives in Dallas, Texas. She can be reached at laraypolk@me.com

For transcripts/commentary from the three-day proceedings, see Texas Freedom Network at http://tfnblog.wordpress.com

More articles by:
Weekend Edition
May 25, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Melvin Goodman
A Major Win for Trump’s War Cabinet
Andrew Levine
Could Anything Cause the GOP to Dump Trump?
Pete Tucker
Is the Washington Post Soft on Amazon?
Conn Hallinan
Iran: Sanctions & War
Jeffrey St. Clair
Out of Space: John McCain, Telescopes and the Desecration of Mount Graham
John Laforge
Senate Puts CIA Back on Torture Track
David Rosen
Santa Fe High School Shooting: an Incel Killing?
Gary Leupp
Pompeo’s Iran Speech and the 21 Demands
Jonathan Power
Bang, Bang to Trump
Robert Fisk
You Can’t Commit Genocide Without the Help of Local People
Brian Cloughley
Washington’s Provocations in the South China Sea
Louis Proyect
Requiem for a Mountain Lion
Robert Fantina
The U.S. and Israel: a Match Made in Hell
Kevin Martin
The Libya Model: It’s Not Always All About Trump
Susie Day
Trump, the NYPD and the People We Call “Animals”
Pepe Escobar
How Iran Will Respond to Trump
Sarah Anderson
When CEO’s Earn 5,000 Times as Much as a Company’s Workers
Ralph Nader
Audit the Outlaw Military Budget Draining America’s Necessities
Chris Wright
The Significance of Karl Marx
David Schultz
Indict or Not: the Choice Mueller May Have to Make and Which is Worse for Trump
George Payne
The NFL Moves to Silence Voices of Dissent
Razan Azzarkani
America’s Treatment of Palestinians Has Grown Horrendously Cruel
Katalina Khoury
The Need to Evaluate the Human Constructs Enabling Palestinian Genocide
George Ochenski
Tillerson, the Truth and Ryan Zinke’s Interior Department
Jill Richardson
Our Immigration Debate Needs a Lot More Humanity
Martha Rosenberg
Once Again a Slaughterhouse Raid Turns Up Abuses
Judith Deutsch
Pension Systems and the Deadly Hand of the Market
Shamus Cooke
Oregon’s Poor People’s Campaign and DSA Partner Against State Democrats
Thomas Barker
Only a Mass Struggle From Below Can End the Bloodshed in Palestine
Binoy Kampmark
Australia’s China Syndrome
Missy Comley Beattie
Say “I Love You”
Ron Jacobs
A Photographic Revenge
Saurav Sarkar
War and Moral Injury
Clark T. Scott
The Shell Game and “The Bank Dick”
Seth Sandronsky
The State of Worker Safety in America
Thomas Knapp
Making Gridlock Great Again
Manuel E. Yepe
The US Will Have to Ask for Forgiveness
Laura Finley
Stop Blaming Women and Girls for Men’s Violence Against Them
Rob Okun
Raising Boys to Love and Care, Not to Kill
Christopher Brauchli
What Conflicts of Interest?
Winslow Myers
Real Security
George Wuerthner
Happy Talk About Weeds
Abel Cohen
Give the People What They Want: Shame
David Yearsley
King Arthur in Berlin
Douglas Valentine
Memorial Day
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail