Thursday, September 25, 2008

Texas state science standards

Texas is revising its state science curriculum as part of its periodic reconsideration of educational standards. Yesterday, there seemed to be a small victory for science education, as the Texas Education Agency (which makes official recommendations for curriculum revision) recommended changes that remove ideas "based upon purported forces outside of nature" from the science curriculum. While the language being removed sounds innocuous (I mean, we should be teaching students how to evaluate the "strengths and weaknesses" of hypotheses), this language is coded language for the teaching of Young Earth Creationism (or parts thereof) in the science classroom.

But this victory is likely only fleeting. The revised standards must gain approval by a 15-member state education board, seven of whose members have publically supported the language that is being removed; two of the remaining are undecided. And, last year the state education board showed it was unafraid to completely ignore carefully-constructed education standards when they threw out years of studies on revising an English curriculum and passed a new curriculum that most of the board had only seen for a few hours, and hadn't had time to even read. The same could easily happen (and, alas, is likely to happen) with science standards.

Why should you be concerned about Texas education standards? Texas and California are the nation's two largest markets for text books, so most text books, even those sold in other states, are edited to conform to the standards of those states. In other words, we push your state around when it comes to education, like it or not. Whether it be science, English, or history, chances are good that students in your state will be affected by decisions that Texas and California make regarding curriculum.

So, here's to one minor victory for science education.

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