Texas: Here We Go Again


Battles over evolution in Texas are so frequent that you could set your watch by them. The Texas State Board of Education will approve new textbooks in November and, as usual, they’ve got a bunch of creationists acting as reviewers of those textbooks.

It looks like the Lone Star State’s reputation as a hotbed of anti-science fanaticism is about to be reinforced. At least six creationists/”intelligent design” proponents succeeded in getting invited to review high school biology textbooks that publishers have submitted for adoption in Texas this year. The State Board of Education (SBOE) will decide in November which textbooks to approve. Those textbooks could be in the state’s public school science classrooms for nearly a decade.

Among the six creationist reviewers are some of the nation’s leading opponents of teaching students that evolution is established, mainstream science and is overwhelmingly supported by well over a century of research. Creationists on the SBOE nominated those six plus five others also invited by the Texas Education Agency to serve on the biology review teams. We have been unable to determine what those other five reviewers think about evolution.

Although 28 individuals got invites to review the proposed new biology textbooks this year, only about a dozen have shown up in Austin this week for the critical final phase of that review. That relatively small overall number of reviewers could give creationists even stronger influence over textbook content. In fact, publishers are making changes to their textbooks based on objections they hear from the review panelists. And that’s happening essentially behind closed doors because the public isn’t able to monitor discussions among the review panelists themselves or between panelists and publishers. The public won’t know about publishers’ changes (or the names of all the review panelists who are in Austin this week) until probably September. Alarm bells are ringing.

As they should be. Among the creationist reviewers are Ray Bohlin, a fellow at the Discovery Institute and VP of Probe Ministries, and Walter Bradley, one of the original DI fellows and a longtime creationist.

Comments

  1. Doc Bill says

    I don’t know what influence the creationists on the textbook review committee will actually have. Hard to say. It could be that the textbook publishers will remain firm and the committee will only recommend supplementary material. In the previous round last year “supplementary” material included some wacky stuff out of a house in Albuquerque posing as a “company.”

    Still, it’s hard slog to keep this stuff out and it’s a case where the DI isn’t just a clown car, but one of those Stephen King scary clowns out to do you harm. The DI are right here, in the house and it’s not good.

  2. exdrone says

    Wouldn’t it be cheaper if they just reprinted some biology textbooks from the 1920s?

  3. Draken says

    That would be 1820s, exdrone.

    The image of the Discovery Toot as a clown car filled with ITs keeps sticking.

  4. erichoug says

    I took biology in Houston back in the eighties and I can’t really remember anyone getting their nose bent out of shape about Evolution. Although I also can’t remember them teaching me a lot about Evolution either.

    I do remember that you had to get a parents permission slip for the sex ed portion of my health and that the few friends of mine that spent the time in the Library during those lessons actually spent the time reading a rather comprehensive sex guide that one of them had smuggled in.

    I do know that in Houston the quality of a school district is something that many people are very worried about. Parents are worried for their kids, home owners are worried for their property values, Businesses want quality applicants and builders want a good school district they can sell to the parents, homeowners and businesses above. Teaching Creationism or dumbing down the curriculum doesn’t help anyone. Even if you are a christian, you would have to be a fanatical lunatic to limit your kids options by teaching them theology instead of something useful.

  5. steffp says

    Never ending story…
    For someone outside the US, all that Christian anti-science stuff is just laughing stock. Hell, it’s not even a Christian majority position to deny evolution, not with 1.2 billion Catholics officially advised to accept the concept, and most mainstream protestants following suit… It’s just a loud-mouthed evangelical faction that propagates creation, Intelligent design and whatnot.
    I just wonder how many Texan Oil Companies employ research chaplains instead of geologists to find the oil the creator is said to have placed in strange places. Or was it the flood?
    Breeding stupidity at home must be compensated by brain-draining the rest of the world, something that’s not really working any more…

  6. mildlymagnificent says

    Even if you are a christian, you would have to be a fanatical lunatic to limit your kids options by teaching them theology instead of something useful.

    Don’t know about lunatic, but certainly stubborn to the point of obsessiveness. Relentless is the best word I can think of.

    I knew a couple of people like this a few years ago. And yes, they knew that the stance they were taking on evolution/YEC meant that their children couldn’t study anything, nor get any jobs, related to biology, geology, astronomy, a lot of physics. And I’m in Australia where these folk get a lot less public and community support than many Americans. Very sad for the kids.

  7. says

    Doc Bill,

    Texas is one of the only states where the state government provides an approved list of textbooks that the school districts must use. As such, because it’s the fourth most populous state in the union, it has a huge influence on the textbooks that get printed and are available to school districts throughout the rest of the country. That’s why Texas standards that say give equal time for creationism, deny AGW climate change, insist the Indian Wars were a good thing, and require Jefferson Davis and Newt Gingrich be covered in history books but make Thomas Jefferson and Lincoln optional matter.

  8. Michael Heath says

    erichoug:

    Even if you are a christian, you would have to be a fanatical lunatic to limit your kids options by teaching them theology instead of something useful.

    mildlymagnificent responds:

    Don’t know about lunatic, but certainly stubborn to the point of obsessiveness. Relentless is the best word I can think of.
    [bolded by Heath]

    I knew a couple of people like this a few years ago. And yes, they knew that the stance they were taking on evolution/YEC meant that their children couldn’t study anything, nor get any jobs, related to biology, geology, astronomy, a lot of physics. And I’m in Australia where these folk get a lot less public and community support than many Americans. Very sad for the kids.

    I hold this is a particularly insidious form of child abuse.

  9. chilidog99 says

    Actually, it is my understanding that modern printing methods and the rapidly expanding prevalence of e-text books mean that Texas’s influence on text books outside of Texas is overstated.

  10. Don Williams says

    chilidog99 at 9:

    1) It may surprise you to know that there are a lot of schoolchildren out there who can not afford a laptop computer. Probably the majority of them in fact. If content is static — and is to be passed downto several generations over 9 years or so — then a printed textbook is a far cheaper and more robust storage method than laptops.

    2) Textbook prices are horrendous — if the Department of Education didn’t have its head up its ass, it would fund development of a standard set of textbooks for the K12 curriculum, print them in mass quantities and offer them as a default cheap solution to the large number of poor districts. We have districts in Philly that have trouble finding paper and pencils — while educational funds go to pay a pack of morons in DC to warm some chair seats without adding value.

  11. Don Williams says

    The fact that a pack of stupid morons can put their finger on the scale when it comes to chosing science textbooks in Texas is not the full extent of the problem.

    WHO decides what will be the REQUIRED content of the K12 curriculum?

    Who decides the detailed outline of what topics will be covered in each subject? What is the basis of their authority?

    WHY is there no public debate of that subject — no public record of who made the decisions and their basis for doing so?

    WHO speaks for the children and asks what gives the educational establishment the right to waste $Billions of dollars and years of children’s time on utter claptrap — while CONCEALING the real knowledge that citizens of a free republic need to know?

  12. Don Williams says

    Of course, given the massive subsidy that the American People give to academia, including exemption from taxes, you would think the universities would have developed cheap, high quality textbooks for the poor school districts.

    The American People really, really need to lay their foot up the ass of our spoiled, pampered universities. Start demanding they contribute something to society instead of whoring for wealthy donors and sucking up to rich foreigners. Tenured professors have become like the fat, corrupt, hypocritical bishops of the medieval period.

  13. slc1 says

    Don Williams @ #12

    While the blogs resident Bolshevik is ranting about tenured professors, he might consider the athletic departments in Division 1 schools. Talk about bloating and overpaid Athletic directors and coaches (is Alabama head coach Nick Saban really worth 5.62 mil/year?). Meanwhile, the players, especially in football and basketball, which include a high percentage of Afro–Americans from poor families get bubkis. Talk about conspiracies, how come the Justice Department isn’t investigating the NCAA for running an illegal monopoly?

    http://www.sportsonearth.com/article/42924176

  14. slc1 says

    Re Don Williams @ #10

    Doesn’t ole Don realize that that would interfere with local control of schools? Communism I say, Communism.

  15. slc1 says

    Re Don Williams @ #11

    There’s a hilarious essay by the Nobel Prize winning physicist Richard Feynman several years ago about his experiences in serving on a panel in California which was supposed to choose mathematics textbooks. Having heard a couple of presentations by the late Prof. Feynman, he might have made it as a stand up comedian.

  16. Don Williams says

    SLC
    1) Here’s an interesting account of how your alma mater does admissions nowadays:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2013/08/04/education/edlife/lifting-the-veil-on-the-holistic-process-at-the-university-of-california-berkeley.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

    The money quote:

    “After the next training session, when I asked about an Asian student who I thought was a 2 but had only received a 3, the officer noted: “Oh, you’ll get a lot of them.” She said the same when I asked why a low-income student with top grades and scores, and who had served in the Israeli army, was a 3.

    Which “them”? I had wondered. ”
    —————-
    Note: the cited scale is 1-5 with 1 being highest rated for admission. 3 unlikely to be admitted unless a lot of accepted students decided to go elsewhere and reject Berkeley

    I myself think that any system that rejects highly talented students is similar to the mandarin system that made once-mighty China into the “sick man of Asia”.

  17. Don Williams says

    Hmmm. It seems there are some brain cells still functional in the California educational community — they are looking at producing their own open source textbooks to cut the $400 Million cost for K12 textbooks:

    http://www.opensourcetext.org/

    Which makes the creationist versions a hugely expensive form of vanity press. Wonder why those Texans opposed to high government taxes aren’t raising hell about that?

    With offset, high volume printing it would take -what? $4.00 to print a 300 page text book? (Digital printing is cost effective only for low volume runs.)

    Note the comment about college textbooks rising in price at THREE! times the rate of inflation. Profiteering
    a la the drug industry.

  18. slchonda says

    Re Don Williams @ #16

    Well, Don Williams’ alma mater, UVA, gives preference to out of state students because they pay out of state tuition rates and also discriminates against students from Northern Virginia in order to obtain geographic diversity, ignoring the fact that the best high schools in the state are in Northern Virginia (e.g. Fairfax Co.,, Falls Church, and Arlington Co.). Thus students from ole Don’s former neck of the woods are admitted with lower SATs then NV schools who don’t make it.

    When I applied to UCB a million years ago, they accepted everybody with a 3.0 or better GPA, although,in the event of ties, they looked at SATs. This was possible because the state population was much smaller then and the university was about the same size as it is now. If I were applying today, I probably wouldn’t get in and would be shuttled off to one of the smaller campuses (UCI, UCD, UCR, etc.), just like students in Northern Virginia are shuttled off to George Mason and James Madison.

  19. slchonda says

    Re Don Williams @ #17

    Biology professor Larry Moran at the Un. of Toronto has written several posts on his Sandwalk blog about the textbook issue. He is fairly knowledgeable on the subject, being the author of a widely used (in Canada) biology textbook,. As he points out, authors expect to obtain some remuneration for their efforts, which are time consuming so there is a floor under the publishers’ price. The real answer to this problem is to put textbooks on DVDs (blank DVDs can be bought in bulk for less then 40 cents each) for those students who have home computers. Thus, printed texts could be restricted to those students who don’t have home computers or access to same.

  20. dingojack says

    Donnikens – Laptops are too expenisive?* You realise there are hand-cranked laptops being produced (about 10yrs ago, from memory) for the third world. They cost about $20 upfront, electricity cost – elbow grease.
    Bang goes that theory.
    Dingo
    ——–
    * but then again, I remember being shocked about Americans consiering a backyard pool as a sign of luxury
    BTW The Australian government is rolling back it’s program to make sure that every schoolchild has a laptop , now that they’re so ubiquitous and cheap.
    Two countries sharing a language but separated by attitude.

  21. Don Williams says

    Re dingojack at 20:

    1) Care to provide a Citation for the $20 laptop?

    The el cheapo One Laptop per Child model costs $200 and does not
    have the ability to read the cheap DVDs that SLC mentioned ( and I think there
    would be additional labor costs in copying the data to the DVD.)

    http://www.amazon.com/gp/browse.html?ie=UTF8&marketplaceID=ATVPDKIKX0DER&me=A34NLXJLC88VVS

    2) OLPC does have USB ports so possibly
    you could load a textbook into the internal memory with a USB drive but you
    would have to add the cost of the drive and labor to do the load to the
    laptop cost. And the handcrank you mentioned is not standard — it is an option.

    3) Finally, some consider the OLPC a failure:
    http://www.hackeducation.com/2012/04/09/the-failure-of-olpc/

    4) The major shortcoming I see with the laptop as a book is that it HINDERS
    learning. The best way for a child to learn a new subject –or a chapter covering
    part of a new subject — is to scan over the chapter, look at the major topics,
    ask himself how the new items tie together and then read in detail to figure it
    out. The small one-page-at a time screen of a laptop is a severe hindrance to
    doing that — versus the rapid access of flipping pages and scanning text with the
    massive power of human vision. Computers have their uses but researching
    new material is a pain unless you have a large panel display that lets you put up
    several windows at once.

    A book can be used like a map — you can zoom out and see the broad outline of
    where you are heading. A laptop is much more confining — you have to follow
    the road curve by curve and have to try to remember where you have been before —
    and with no idea of where you are heading.

    5) To properly evaluate technology, you have to understand what you are doing–
    versus the primitive’s unquestioning worship of a totem simply because it is
    sometimes used by a more powerful tribe for unknown purposes. There is a difference
    between expert selection and efficient use of tools versus mere mimicry.

    But the Cargo Cult is big in your neck of the woods, no?

  22. Don Williams says

    1) Where laptops would be useful is as personal tutors to children — a la Stanford’s EPGY software.

    http://epgy.stanford.edu/

    2) Many years ago I signed my son up for EPGY because he was bored with his K12 math class — it was
    too slow because the teacher was pacing it to kids with difficulties. He loved the computer game aspects of EPGY and how it let him race ahead at his own pace while representing and retesting material he did not fully understand yet (as indicated by the frequent tests.) Within a few months he was working at 2 years above his K12 class level — the principal at his school was embarrassed when I pointed this out.

    More importantly, my son learned that math could be fun and that he might have a talent for it. Years later he scored a perfect 800 on his SAT math and was a National Merit scholar.

    3) Pretty good results given his obviously deficient genetic endowment. The problem is that EPGY would have to be translated to foreign languages — but the cost of that might be offset by laying off 50% of the teachers who would no longer be needed to stand in front of a class and recite material like a puppet.

  23. slchonda says

    Re Don Williams @ #22

    Actually, 4 GB USB thumb drives are not much more expensive then DVDs; the MicroCenter gives them away with another purchase. As for the labor costs of copying them to thumb drives, a typical PC has several USB ports, which can be augmented by external hubs. Even doing it manually, one could copy the files to a dozen or more drives simultaneously. Assuming that a copy takes about 10 minutes, and unplugging the finished drives and plugging in the next set takes 5 minutes, with a dozen drives one could make 48 copies/hour. At $10./ hour, that’s less then 50 cents per copy labor cost.

    Textbooks in PDF format can also be quickly perused using the search capabilities available in Adobe Reader, a big advantage. Don’t need an index anymore.

  24. slchonda says

    Re Don Williams @ #21

    I don’t know about ole Don but I find Mapquest/Google maps a lot more convenient to use then paper maps.

  25. Don Williams says

    It depends upon the application but I generally prefer paper maps. But I worked as a surveyor to get through college, learned land navigation as a backpacker and learned celestial navigation for sailing.

    With about 10 pages of paper (Ageton’s tables, long term ephemeris,etc) in a plastic bag, a G-shock set to the correct time using the shortwave radio or telephone and a $30 plastic sextant you can find your location on earth to within 5 miles or so. The G-shock setting is good for at least 2 months. enough time to get across the Atlantic.

    These people driving around under the control of their GPS’s spoken commands crack me up.

  26. Don Williams says

    slc at 23:

    I wasn’t talking about searching — I was talking out a student scanning new material and sketching out a broad outline of the primary points he needs to understand before he delves into the details.

    For example, forming a rough high-level outline of a chapter before reading it and then forming a detailed outline as he reads through it. That is only one approach, of course., and works when the material has a definite structure. For other items, you may have to note that there are multiple types of relationships between items. Or that general rules have important exceptions.

  27. dingojack says

    And I found this and this using the search term ‘hand cranked computer’. (OK not $20, but around $120 or so. I was recalling articles from some time ago).
    Dingo

  28. dingojack says

    Of course laptops aren’t nearly as useful as they once were. Mobile devices are the new thing.
    In 2007 Australia had 1.004 mobiles per person, the US, in June 2012, had 1.039 mobiles per person, the UK 1.229 per person in December 2008, China has 0.8521 per person [1.15 billion of them] and India has 0.7072 per person [over 867 million of them] both of the latter as of April this year. The World average is about 0.87 per person).
    (Panama has 2.025 per person! as of July this year)
    Dingo

  29. Don Williams says

    Well, as I noted a while back, I recently picked up the complete set (54 books) of the Great Books of the Western World at a book sale at my local library.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Books_of_the_Western_World

    Homer. Sophocles. Thucydides. Herodotus. Tacitus. Plutarch. Aristotle. Plato. Kepler. Isacc Newton.
    Adam Smith, Shakespeare. etc etc etc. Some of the greatest minds in 2500 years of western civilization.

    Used for a full 4 year program in the liberal arts at colleges like
    St Pauls in Annapolis Maryland. ( Lazy Harvard only has students read excerpts.)

    Leather bound, in high quality paper and binding.

    Total Cost to me: $12.50. That is because I waited for two days until they marked the price down 50% from the initial price of $25.

    Of course, I may miss something by not paying Harvard $240,000:

  30. slchonda says

    Re Don Williams @ #30

    I don’t know about UVA but engineering students at Berkeley didn’t have time to read the Great Books of the Western World. By the way, ole Don should read what Martin Gardner has to say about the scientific stuff in them in Fads and Fallacies in Science, and also about the courses in science available at St. Johns’ College, which is across the street from the US Naval Academy. He didn’t have a very good opinion of them, from a scientific point of view, and an even lower opinion of Robert Hutchins, and Mortimer Adler, both of whom were skeptical of science (he was a student at the Un. of Chicago when Hutchins was the president of that august institution).

  31. Don Williams says

    LSC at 31:
    1) You are right — my mistake. It is St Johns in Annapolis.

    2) I agree the Great Books would not be the primary tool for the training of scientists and engineers.

    3) But what distinguishes an adult from a child is Memory and Experience. A knowledge of past HISTORY.

    And the original writings of Aristotle, Ptolemy, Copernius, Kepler Galileo and Issac Newton are useful as a source on the HISTORY of HOW science developed. The techniques and tools used by those who made the great discoveries, the great errors and who refuted the great errors. As well
    as the circumstances in which they worked and which helped or impeded the discoveries.

    4) Today we see science and religion as being in conflict –especially on this blog. But could Kepler have received the salary to pursue his studies if not for the strong interest his patron had in astrology? Kepler himself noted that astrology paid the bills for astronomers.

    5) Moreover, We do not do things for objective reasons — great accomplishments require great passion
    based on emotion. Religious fervor can lead to discovery if it motivates someone to intensely focus on a sky that goes largely ignored by the great mass of mankind. Ignored century after century.

    6) And we today should not distain such considerations. We Americans think of the USA as preeminent in Science but in many ways our social structure is hostile to it. Early pioneers in space travel received encouragement in Europe and Russia — whereas Robert Goddard was humiliated and laughed out of the public forum by the New York Times for suggesting that rocket engines could work in the vacuum of space.

    The ruling elites of the USA largely support science when under the pressure of foreign threats. We dismissed Goddard — so the US ICBM and space program had to be led by Nazi refugee scientists. Earlier , the scientific leadership of the Manhattan Project were largely scientists imported from Europe– Even Robert Oppenheimer had gone to Germany and Great Britain for graduate studies.

    7) Today, US science is declining — just as it did in the Chinese dynasties. We are like the Roman Empire — whose scientific achievements never came close to equaling those of the Greek city states — in spite of far greater resources and population. The mandarins of empire don’t like the disruptions of scientific progress –they control it until the constrictions smothers it. When Bill Gates and Steven Jobs got started several decades ago did they have to contend with Intellectual Property lawyers?

    8) History of Science as an academic subject was established in the USA relatively recently. I Bernard Cohen promoted it at Harvard after WWII and Thomas Kuhn’s “The Structure of Scientific Revolutions ” was not published until 1962. Mortimer Adler’s Great Books was supportive of that movement.

    While any attempt to educate the masses is subject to ridicule by snobs , I think today’s celebration of ignorance ( Bill O’Reilly, Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, Howard Stern) is more malign.

  32. slchonda says

    Re Don Willilams @ #36

    Thomas Kuhn’s “The Structure of Scientific Revolutions ” was not published until 1962.

    Thomas Kuhn was a professor at, ta da, U. C. Berkeley.

  33. slchonda says

    Re Don Williams @ #36

    Here I would have to disagree with ole Don relative to the negative effects of religion on scientific advancement. One need only consider the episodes of Galileo and Bruno who were suppressed by the Raping Children Church. Newton had to hide his Arian beliefs from the authorities in England, which weren’t revealed until 150 years after his death.

  34. Don Williams says

    colnago80 at 38:

    I dunno. In his dedication of “On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres” to Pope Paul III,
    Copernicus sounds like a modern day global warming researcher asking whether he really wants to annoy
    Senator Inhofe , Fox News and the Koch brothers –and endanger his funding –by pointing out the obvious to
    the public:

    “for a long time I was in great difficulty as to whether I should bring to light my commentaries written to
    demonstrate the Earth’s movement, or whether it would not be better to follow the example of the Pythagoreans and certain others who used to hand down the mysteries of their philosophy not in writing but by word of mouth and only to their relatives and friends –witness the letter of Lysis to Hipparchus.

    They however seem to me to have done that not, as some judge, out of a jealous unwillingness to communicate their doctrines but in order that things of very great beauty which have been investigated by the loving care of great men should not be scorned by those who find it a bother to expend any great energy on letters –except in the money-making variety –or who are provoked by the exhortations and examples of others to the liberal study of philosophy but on account of their natural stupidity hold the position among philosophers that drones hold among bees.”

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