Saturday, 23 July 2011

Texas School Board Approves Pro-evolution Materials

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skullThe Texas Board of Education debated on Thursday and Friday whether or not to adopt supplemental science materials that some conservatives felt relied too heavily on evolutionary theory and did not offer any alternatives to that theory. After two days of contentious debate, however, the board ruled 8-0 to adopt those materials, in a move seen as a victory for proponents of teaching evolution in public schools.

The debate focused in particular on supplemental science materials for high school biology books and their coverage of evolution. While many mainstream science education groups supported the e-books in question, conservative groups criticized the e-books’ failure to cover all sides of various issues and to critically analyze Charles Darwin’s theories.

On Friday, however, the Texas board voted not only to adopt the e-books, but to reject the inclusion of materials submitted by International Databases, which called Darwin’s theory of evolution into question.

Ryan Valentine, deputy director of the Texas Freedom Network — an organization Reuters calls “a liberal group that counters attempts by evangelical conservatives to affect public policy” — celebrated the board’s decisions:

These two votes represent a definitive victory for science and the students of Texas, and a complete defeat of the far-right’s two-year campaign to dumb down instruction on evolution in Texas schools.

David Bradley, on the other hand, one of the conservative members of the board, was displeased with the outcome, believing that the vote wholly ignores “errors” in education materials that have been identified by evolution opponents, and yet are still being taught to public school students. “So we’re going to kick the can down the road, and we’re just going to delegate that responsibility and give it to the commissioner,” Bradley opined.

Friday’s vote followed long hours of testimony from both sides of the debate. It was the first since a 2009 vote by the Texas Board of Education approved standards that encouraged debate over the accuracy of evolution.

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