Monday, November 17, 2008


Poll Tex

The Texas Freedom Network Education Fund has arranged to survey science faculty in the state concerning the upcoming battle over the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills, or TEKS, curriculum standards that will not only decide what children in the state are taught in public schools but could also decide what biology and other science textbooks are approved by the second largest purchaser of school books in the country, thus potentially effecting science education across the country.

The full report can be found here. The survey was conducted as follows:

In late fall 2007 and early spring of 2008, a lengthy survey (59 questions – some open-ended) was sent to 1,019 individual biology and biological anthropology faculty members from all 35 public universities plus the 15 largest private institutions in Texas. In the end 464 survey recipients submitted completed questionnaires. This represents better than a 45% response rate – almost unheard of for the remote return of a lengthy questionnaire of this type. The diversity of the response was also surprisingly robust, with respondents participating from 49 different institutions!

An executive summary can be found at the TFN site. The results are what you might expect:

Only about 2% of Texas science faculty can be said to express any degree of sympathy for creationism or intelligent design. Further, not a single scientist in the subsample of those supporting intelligent design reported teaching graduate students about human evolution within the past five years. Support for intelligent design vanishes to essentially zero when looking at established Texas biology and biological anthropology faculty who teach at the graduate level.

On the issue of the disingenuous "weaknesses" of evolution that the creationists on the State Board of Education are pushing:

... 94% of Texas scientists indicated that claimed "weaknesses" are not valid scientific objections to evolution (with 87% saying that they "strongly disagree" that such weaknesses should be considered valid).

Despite having a good university system manned by a first rate science faculty, Texas is shortchanging its grade and high school students, if this comment from a professor at Stephen F. Austin University in the east Texas city of Nacogdoches is as representative of science education in the state as I suspect it is:

My students are woefully unprepared. They report that their high school teachers are often 1) afraid to teach evolution properly because of parent reaction, 2) unsupported by their principals and admin, who "let them slide," 3) ignorant of actual information on evolution, or 4) belligerently unwilling to teach the material and make snide comments about how their religion says evolution is for atheists. Their understanding of science as a whole is damaged by this environment.

I wonder if its too soon for the science bloggers to start threatening textbook publishers with detailed critical reviews and calls for boycotts against those who cave to the ignorati and include phony "weaknesses" in their books?

In any event, be prepared for another round of whining about how elitist academic Darwinists are stifling the academic freedom of Joe Sixpack and his little packlets to believe in utter twaddle.

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