Wednesday, September 03, 2008
There's a good warm-up article at the Fort Worth Weekly for the looming science curriculum battle in Texas. Laurie Barker James recounts the recent history of the State Board of Education and the threat it poses to the education of Texas children; gives some good quotes from educators and other interested parties, including religious people in favor of good science in public schools; and recounts the story of the ouster of Chris Comer as director of science curriculum for the Texas Education Agency.
Science teacher Kevin Fisher gives a nice person-in-the-street explanation of what "theory" means in science:
In layperson's terms, if you say, "It's just a theory," that usually means you're talking about a guess, or something unproven. But Fisher said that, in the precise language of science, a theory is something that has been rigorously tested, reviewed by scientists, modified when new evidence becomes available, verified by repeated experimentation, and has become part of the scientific consensus. A theory differs from a law in that a law governs a single action, like the law of gravity. A theory, on the other hand, explains a whole series of related phenomena, like the theory of relativity. A hypothesis, Fisher said, is a guess that hasn't been through that scientific process of being tested and proved up. And creationism, which is based on biblical interpretation, isn't even a guess: It's a belief, based on faith, he said.Of particular note is the barometer James gives of the caliber of the opposition, particularly Don McLeroy, the current Board of Education chairman. McLeroy is already on record as claiming that there are two systems of science, a creationist system and a "naturalist" system. There are apparently two systems of education too:
[Texas Freedom Network's Dan] Quinn also warned that the science curriculum may go the excruciating way of the language arts curriculum review process, completed earlier this year. Experts in language arts — teachers and volunteers — worked for three years to develop a new curriculum, only to have their work thrown out by the SBOE (Static, May 21, 2008). Asked why the board rejected the recommendations of acknowledged experts, SBOE chair McLeroy told reporters at the time that, "My experts are Winston Churchill and common sense."In other words, there is professional and competent education and then there is what Texas children may be condemned to: the amateurish efforts of the ignorant.
Quinn called the statement "arrogance and willful ignorance."
"Just like teachers wouldn't know better than Dr. McLeroy how to fill a cavity, he does not know better than [the educators] how to educate Texas children," he said.