151st Carnival of Education

December 28, 2007

Two good reasons to check out the 151st Carnival of Education:

  1. There are several important posts, a couple that are fun — I’ll wager you find no fewer than five relevant to your job as a teacher.
  2. Hosting the venerated carnival this week is Elementary Historyteacher at History is Elementary — a blog you should be reading regularly apart from the carnivals.

Horace Mann School, Winnetka, Ill (1899-1940) - Winnetka Historical Soc

Texas’ creationism controversy begins to pinch

December 28, 2007


From the Philadelphia Daily News, an opinion article by a Temple University staff member who teaches math and science education:

Textbook lesson in creationism

JUST mentioning a controversial name in an office e-mail can cost you your job in a narrow-minded place like Texas. The Texas Education Agency oversees instructional material and textbooks for the state’s public schools. Recently, Christine Comer, director of science curriculums for the agency, dared to forward an e-mail to colleagues informing them that author and activist Barbara Forrest was to give a talk on her book “Inside Creationism’s Trojan Horse: The Wedge of Intelligent Design.”

For this simple communication, Comer was rebuked in a way that forced her to resign. According to the TEA, she had committed, among other fatuous charges, the unforgivable transgression of taking sides in the creation science/ evolution debate.

Score one for the flat-earthers.

Score one for building a reputation for Texas, TEA!

Is that the reputation we want?

Houston Chronicle against creationism, period

December 28, 2007

Today the Houston Chronicle’s editorial page spoke up. They don’t like creationism in any form.

Texas schools must have the best science and technology instruction possible to make the state competitive in a 21st century economy. A science class that teaches children that the Earth is 6,000 years old and that species did not evolve from species now extinct is not worthy of the name.

Churches and other private institutions are proper places for the discussion of religious beliefs. Public school science classes are not.

Where are the Fort Worth, Austin, San Antonio, El Paso, Lubbock, Abilene, Beaumont and Waco papers? Is anyone tracking?

Dallas Morning News against creationism program

December 28, 2007

The lead editorial in Thursday’s edition of The Dallas Morning News endorsed science and questioned why a graduate program in creation science should be tolerated by Texas, and specifically by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (THECB). It’s an issue discussed here earlier.

In the first part, “Be vigilant on how they intersect in our schools,” the paper’s editorial board is clear that the application from the Institute for Creation Research to teach graduate education courses in creationism is vexing, and should be rejected:

It’s troubling, then, that the Dallas-based Institute for Creation Research, which professes Genesis as scientifically reliable, recently won a state advisory panel’s approval for its online master’s degree program in science education. Investigators found that despite its creationism component – which is not the same thing as “intelligent design” – the institute’s graduate program offered enough real science to pass academic muster. The Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board will vote on the recommendation in January.

We hate to second-guess the three academic investigators – including Gloria White, managing director of the University of Texas at Austin’s Dana Research Center for Mathematics and Science Education – but, still, the coordinating board had better give this case a long, hard look.

The board’s job is to certify institutions as competent to teach science in Texas schools. Despite the institute including mainstream science in its programs, it’s hard to see how a school that rejects so many fundamental principles of science can be trusted to produce teachers who faithfully teach the state’s curriculum.

Keven Ann Willey, the editorial page editor at the News, herds a lot of conservative cats on a strong editorial board that probably reflects the business community in Dallas; several members of that board probably argued that there must be recognition and condemnation of the “persecution of Christians” who are required to learn evolution and other science ideas that conflict with various Christian cults. And so the editorial has an odd, second part, “Faith is, by nature, based on the unprovable,” which calls for respect for religious views by science — without saying how that might possibly apply to a science class in a public school.

Faith maintains its unique quality because it is based on things we cannot prove in this life. By reducing it to an empirical science, it ceases to be faith. Yet, no matter how many linkages scientists uncover to show that man evolved from pond slime, they will never do better than those who rely on faith in answering the ultimate question about a greater being behind our existence.

As the debate rages, it’s worth noting that the world’s great religions agree on the need for science. And even the agnostic Albert Einstein conceded that science can’t answer everything: “My religiosity consists in a humble admiration of the infinitely superior spirit that reveals itself in the little that we, with our weak and transitory understanding, can comprehend of reality.”

It’s demeaning for the faithful to tout belief as science. But equally so, the advocates of science should be respectful enough to admit that faith is all that remains when science fails to provide the answers we seek.

So, the Dallas Morning News supports the rational view that the ICR’s application to train teachers to violate the Constitution is a bad idea. But they warn scientists to play nice.

Remember, scientists in Texas this year published great research and supported a bond issue to put $3 billion into research to fight cancer. In contrast, IDists and creationists tried to sneak a creationist graduate school into existence, fired the science curriculum director at the state agency charged by law with defending evolution in the curriculum for defending evolution in the curriculum (Gov. Perry is still missing in action, so no word from any Republican to slow this war on science), tried to sneak Baylor University’s name onto an intelligence design public relations site (in the engineering school, of course, not in biology), and tried to pass off a religious rally at Southern Methodist University as a science conference.

Play nice? Sure. But this is politics, not playground, and since the game is hardball, we’re going to play hardball. DMN, you are right in the first half of your editorial: When you’re right, don’t back down. Our children and our economy need your support.

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