McLeroy: Texas’ evolution teaching meets science standards
Don McLeroy, Special Contributor
Updated: 7:09 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 2, 2012
Published: 6:40 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 2, 2012
The big story concerning the release of the Fordham Institute’s “State of the State Science Standards 2012” is not the overall grade that Texas received but that the controversial high school evolution standards were described as “exemplary.”
How can this be? These are the standards that the State Board of Education’s religious conservatives successfully amended to challenge some of evolution’s most glaring weaknesses in explaining the fossil record and the complexity of the cell.
Three years ago, Eugenie Scott, the Executive Director of the National Center for Science Education, an organization that promotes the teaching of evolution, stated that those “amendments were intelligent design talking points.”
Steve Newton, also with the NCSE, claimed “the board’s actions are the most specific assault I’ve seen against the teaching of evolution and modern science.”
“Let’s be clear about this,” cautioned Scott. “This is a setback for science education in Texas, not a draw, not a victory.”
The American Association for the Advancement of Science’s ScienceInsider even noted “Creationists Notch Win in Texas Showdown.”
Again, how can this be?
Is the Fordham Institute soft on evolution? No.
Their report claims the greatest problem in standards across the country is the undermining of evolution. Also, it liberally criticizes Texas’ coverage of evolution before high school.
However, concerning the high school biology standards that were the focus of the controversy three years ago, the report states: “There are no concessions to ‘controversies’ or ‘alternative theories.’ In fact, the high school biology course is exemplary in its choice and presentation of topics, including its thorough consideration of biological evolution.”
Back in 2009, the controversy over evolution focused only on the high school course. The State Board of Education did not change, delete or add any evolution standards in the earlier grades. Those standards were adopted exactly as the review committees had written them. If they are weak, then all involved, including the board, share responsibility.
Interestingly, in the section where the conservatives did take an active role and added the evolution-challenging amendments, Fordham describes the standards as exemplary. It states, “the standards handle the subject straightforwardly.”
Thus, their report vindicates the board’s religious conservatives. While most of the credit for the standards is thanks to the review committees that wrote the majority of the section, the point here is that the board amendments added rigor to the standards.
Why not judge the amendments for yourself?
Here are the changes that drew such ridicule at the time, but not this week. The board added two standards: “Analyze and evaluate scientific explanations concerning the sudden appearance, stasis and sequential nature of groups in the fossil record,” and “Analyze and evaluate scientific explanations concerning the complexity of the cell.”
The board also strengthened the other evolution standards by substituting the more rigorous scientific language “analyze and evaluate” for the verbs “identify,” “describe” and “recognize.”
Any insertion of intelligent design or creationism in school standards is quickly challenged in court — and successfully.
The fact that, after three years, these standards have not even been challenged, supports the findings of the Fordham report and not the hysterical statements made at the time of their adoption by some evolutionists.
Thus, Texas high school evolution standards have passed the test of time and have been proven to represent sound scientific reasoning and legitimate science.
Semi-amusingly, this allows for a final observation. Because Texas evolution standards represent legitimate science, and because, according to Eugenie Scott, they include “intelligent design talking points,” does this mean she would now argue that “intelligent design talking points” represent legitimate science?
McLeroy, a Republican, is a former chairman of the State Board of Education. He is a dentist in Bryan.