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'Strengths and Weaknesses'
Will the Texas board of education evolve backward?

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

IF YOU THOUGHT the fight over teaching evolution in public schools had been settled, you haven't heard about what's taking place in Texas this week. Starting today, the state's board of education will consider whether the phrase "strengths and weaknesses" should remain deleted from the state's science standards. Debating strengths and weaknesses of various scientific theories might sound reasonable until you learn that those are supportive buzzwords for people who doubt evolution and want creationism taught in the classroom. A final vote is expected Friday.

The force behind restoring the "strengths and weaknesses" language, which was stripped from the science standards in January after two decades, is Don McLeroy. He's the chairman of the State Board of Education. He is also a "young earth creationist" who believes the Earth was created by God no more than 10,000 years ago. Never mind plenty of scientific evidence that the planet has been around for a few billion years. The scary thing is that what's happening in Texas is by no means isolated.

According to the National Center for Science Education, there are seven other states that have either entertained (before the bills died in committee) or are entertaining anti-evolution legislation that argues for "critical analysis," "academic freedom" or "full range of scientific views." The Louisiana Science Education Act, passed in June and deemed the first "academic freedom" law passed by a state, spurred action in Alabama, Iowa, New Mexico and Oklahoma. Only the Alabama effort remains alive. This comes almost four years after a federal judge in Pennsylvania declared the teaching of "intelligent design" unconstitutional because intelligent design "cannot uncouple itself from its creationist, and thus religious, antecedents."

It's disturbing enough that the Texas board of education might seek to impose its religious views on public school students in that sizable state. It's even more alarming that the Lone Star State's textbook market is so large that many publishers write books to meet its standards and then sell them across the country. The Texas State Board of Education must hold firm to its decision to strip the "strengths and weaknesses" language from the state's science standard. Texans, like everyone else, are free to believe what they want, but in science class, they should teach science.

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