Tuesday, November 25, 2008


Trading In Texas

Lisa Falkenberg has a good opinion piece in the Houston Chronicle on the whole mess that is the state's Board of Education. First of all, there is this on the motivation of the creationist wing of the Board:

"Strengths and weaknesses" is a new buzz phrase that's replaced "creation science" and "intelligent design," and other science curriculum labels that incorporate teachings of faith, which courts have consistently struck down.

Some evolution opponents reject the connection, saying teaching evolution's "weaknesses" or "limitations," as one current proposal suggests, is simply about fairness, exposure to opposing views and academic freedom.

"I'm a big fan of academic freedom," board member Ken Mercer, R-San Antonio, was quoted saying recently in the Houston Chronicle.

Well, who isn't? But members like Mercer seem to suggest that, unless they can inject unfounded doubts about Darwin into the state curriculum, students will spontaneously lose their ability to ask questions and exercise their critical thinking skills.
Of course, as Massimo Pigliucci recently pointed out: "Learning critical thinking is not a matter of being exposed to a 'fair and balanced' view of everything and be told 'you decide'." The kids know that too:

Robert Dennison, Houston ISD's AP science lead teacher based at Robert E. Lee High School, said nothing can stop his students from questioning him on evolution, especially when it comes to relationships among human ancestors.

"They're full of questions," says Dennison. "They want to know how life works."
But the Board members pushing this stuff are full of lies:

Anti-evolution members also claim their "weaknesses" campaign has nothing to do with faith: "We're not putting religion in books," Mercer has said.

No, just falsehoods. As scientists testified at the state board hearing last week, evolution is a scientific theory, not a hypothesis. And scientific theories don't have weaknesses. If they did, the board would be justified in raising challenges to everything from gravity to relativity to the germ theory of disease.

The so-called weaknesses usually spewed by evolution opponents are the same, tired arguments that have been adequately refuted by scientists for decades.
Wes Elsberry gives a you a taste of the drivel here.

There is much harm done by this dishonesty: students are harmed by sending them off to university with an inadequate understanding of science; the universities are harmed in that their reputation is impugned if students graduate with such misunderstanding and their bottom line is harmed if they are forced to do remedial education; and the state's economy is harmed if venture capital for higher technology businesses shies away from Texas because it has a reputation of being backward educationally or even hostile to science.

If Texans aren't careful, their state will be the next Kansas.

The name "Robert E. Lee High School" struck me.

So, I went to Wikipedia, which has lists of everything, and yes, they have an article:

"List of high schools in Texas"

And I couldn't find a "Ulysses S. Grant High School".

I wonder whether academic freedom in Texas extends to ...
There's a Sherman High School but it's in the town of Sherman which may have nothing to do with William Tecumseh. Perhaps a bit more surprising, there's no Lincoln High School either. Though there is a George Gervin Charter School District.
From the Wikipedia article on "Sydney Sherman":

"During the American Civil War, Sherman was requested by the local Committee of Safety of the Confederacy to take full charge of affairs at Galveston, with full authority to put the island in a state of defense."

But I did see a "Lincoln High School" in Dallas.
But I did see a "Lincoln High School" in Dallas.

Ah. I did a word search and it didn't come up for some reason. I'm glad to know the sixteenth president isn't completely ignored in Texas.
Didn't see a Robert E. Lee High School in New York either. Gee, wonder why.
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