Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Standing Up for Science

I dropped the Peace Papa off this morning in front of a downtown office building. He's taken a day off work to sit amongst state bureaucrats because he is determined to stand up for science. Which, amazingly, needs to be done before the Texas State Board of EDUCATION! Can you say Kansas? The 15 elected folks on the SBOE are discussing new curriculum standards for science classes in our great state...the outcome of which determines the kinds of textbooks our kids will use, the kinds of teachers our kids will have, the type of information our kids will be accountable to know when our beloved standardized Texas tests come along. A team of Texas science teachers has proposed good curriculum. A faction of the SBOE seems determined to undo that good work. At issue, of course, is evolution...which our state education board chair has deemed a theory full of "weaknesses." The path Don McLeroy (R-Bryan) is walking leads, ultimately, to the theory of "intelligent design"... which scientists critical of the theory have called "creationism in a lab coat." Proponents of ID say introducing evolution with its weaknesses introduces students to a critical thinking process. Folks against ID, like the Peace Papa, say it puts science teachers in the business of being Sunday school teachers. You see, there really is no inconsistency in believing in a God who created the universe and believing in natural selection. At issue for the pushy right-minded Christian forces is the fact that evolution provides a non-theistic explanation of the origin of species. Hmmm. I thought that was what this country was founded on - a separation of our church thinking and our state thinking. Apparently it's what a federal judge in Pennsylvania remembered about the US Constitution, too. In 2005, when the Dover, PA school board voted to mandate the introduction of intelligent design in 9th grade science classes, parents took the board to court. Judge John E. Jones III heard the evidence from both sides, and then issued a scathing 139-page opinion in which he described the school board's efforts to promote intelligent design as "breathtaking insanity." I believe I have a new favorite phrase to describe the thinking of the religious right. Fortunately the Peace Papa is a bit more diplomatic than the judge and I. Here are a couple of great sentences from his brief statement for the board: Science is a methodology for slowly chipping away at the unknown to make it more known. Faith is the province of Truth that can only be proven in the human heart. To corrupt either Faith or Science by attempting to apply the methods of either to the mission of the other cripples both. Then, he sums it up with this beautiful zinger: My wife and I and our church are taking care of bringing up our children to a life of Faith. We are doing our jobs. Please do yours….and let our Texas science educators, who have given us this fine curriculum, do theirs. If you'd like to join the discussion, you can sign Texas Freedom Network's Stand Up for Science petition. Or, sign up for another board hearing date on the TFN website, and speak your own mind. Feel free to use my new favorite phrase! Peace.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Testimony to State Board of Education
November 19, 2008

My name is David Chapman, I live in Williamson County. I attended secondary school in Lubbock and graduated from Texas Tech twice, first with a BA in Psychology and next with a BS in Engineering. I am the Vice President of Applications Engineering and Marketing for a semiconductor company. I am a life-long active Christian and son of a Baptist preacher. I have served for many years as the chairperson of my Church Council.

I am here to speak for the first draft of Science TEKS developed by Texas teachers and submitted for public review in September of this year…and to speak against the campaign of willful ignorance that has been raised against it.

In my work I have occasion to travel much of the world, particularly to Asia, including mainland China. Virtually everywhere in this world the aspirations of the people point to the example we have set. But that world around us does not live like we do. It is poor. 50% of our world lives on $2 a day or less. Thanks to the success of world wide communications those folks see the difference between our world and theirs.

The developing world is not just poor, it is big. The workforce in the developing world is 10 times the size of the entire American workforce. Our entire workforce is up against the top 10% students in China and India…not to mention the rest of Asia, Africa and South America. I am here today to tell you I have met those folks. They are very smart, highly motivated and very competitive with high skill American workers in science and technology-based fields.

I am not here to suggest that we do anything to hold back the developing world. I am here to say this is the worst possible time to water-down our science training, at any grade level, with pseudo-scientific nonsense. Our kids need to be equipped to compete.

Science is a methodology for slowly chipping away at the unknown to make more known. Faith is the province of Truth that can only be proven in the human heart. To corrupt either Faith or Science by attempting to apply the methods of either to the mission of the other cripples both.

My wife and I and our church are taking care of bringing up our children to a life of Faith.
This Board has the responsibility to resist attempts to corrupt Texas science education. I call on each of you to support the original draft offered by the writing teams, reject “weaknesses” or “limitations” language being used as an excuse to water-down teaching scientific method and to support adoption of the definition of science, taken from the National Academy of Sciences as included in the first draft TEKS.

We are doing our jobs. Please do yours.

Mama de la Paz said...

I didn't really do justice to the presentation David made to the SBOE Wednesday night. The response to his primary point, which was how ill prepared Texas school kids will be to compete in the world if science is watered down with opinion and conjecture, was unique and thought provoking. The peanut gallery loved it (couldn't exactly read the SBOE members)! Take time to read his brief comments.

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