Monday, March 30, 2009

When NOT To Compromise

As compromises go, this doesn't seem to be a good one: the State Board of Education in Texas recently approved its science curriculum standards, which Board members describe as "a compromise between those who are critical of teaching evolutionary theories without scrutiny and those who feared attacks on evolution would lead to the teaching of creationism in Texas schools." Now, I'm all for scrutinizing science, but according to reports, the new Texas standards actually REMOVED the requirement that students be taught the "strengths and weaknesses" of scientific theories and replaced it with a requirement that teachers have students scrutinize "all sides" of the theories. That includes the sides with no "scientific" evidence. The Discovery Institute, which advocates teaching that the universe is the product of Intelligent Design, called the vote "a huge victory for those who favor teaching the scientific evidence for and against evolution." Of course, the immediate question that should arise for the Discovery folks is: What is the scientific evidence against evolution?

[Insert sounds of crickets, chirping.]

I am equally amused and frustrated by the vigilance with which the religious Right continues to deploy the language of scientific integrity to defend creationism and Intelligent Design. It seems to me that their fight would be a far easier one if they just took the problem head-on, that is, if they just fought to have religion taught in schools (instead of slipping religion in through the back door of science classes). I might even support religious instruction in schools if it followed the same standards set forth by the Texas Board for science instruction: scrutiny of "all sides" of religious speculation. But what is being called a "compromise" here is just a ruse, and one that severly handicaps what students understand as critical scrutiny.

1 comment:

jon said...

A sad day indeed for education in my home state. I sympathize with the secondary teachers that now have to go to war to protect their constitutional rights and the rights of their students. I feel especially sad for the students, because they are the collateral damage in this war. Valuable resources – many millions of dollars and time lost forever – will be sacrificed. For what? To promote the religious beliefs of fanatics and intellectual sloths. I quote John E. Jones, the judge in the Kitzmiller v Dover Area School Board: “The breathtaking inanity of the Board's decision is evident when considered against the factual backdrop which has now been fully revealed through this trial.”