Still no fireworks at Texas SBOE . . . yet

July 21, 2011

July 21, Austin — The board reconvened at 5:35.  An amendment to the approval of Tech System’s chemistry supplement was quickly passed.  Without any discussion, physics and IPC (“integrated physics and chemistry” — science for kids who will not be interested in science, and for teachers who can’t make them interested — but I digress), approved on raise-of-hand, quick votes — both in under three minutes total.

Biology! Staff notes there are some noted errors contested by publishers; the board again discusses what constitutes an error.  Craig begs for delay to tomorrow, since no one on TEA staff appears to have any biology expertise to rule on whether an error is an error.

Publisher in question is Holt McDougall — the #1 biology textbook publisher, for textbooks in high schools and junior colleges.  Holt asked for a hearing on the errors.  If I understand the discussion, the board is saying they’ll stick with the panel recommendations, since they are doing that for all other publishers. In short, the process is unclear to those who invented the process and those who are ruling on the product.  This would be a good essay from Richard Feynman, wouldn’t it?

Dollars to doughnuts, those members who now claim not to be able to figure out whether errors of biology are errors of biology, will be saying soon that they are competent to rule on key theories of science (evolution).

[Remember to see the immediately previous post, for links to Texas Freedom Network and Texas Observer blogs also covering this process live.]

Oy.  Twenty minutes of discussion on whether to ask a representative from Holt to explain why Holt thinks designated errors are not errors.  Board doesn’t know their own process — are errors noted by a vote of the review panel, or by a simple designation from any panelist without discussion.

Motion to hear from the publisher.  Mavis Knight wants to know why a motion is required, if the SBOE rules say the board can call a publisher any time.  (“And, Texas doesn’t execute innocent people, either.”) Garza discusses issue before the vote.  Debatable motion?  Yes.  “I don’t think we’re going to learn anything new from the publisher.”  (Who said that?)

Knight speaks in favor of hearing, to learn how the publisher got to their conclusion that the designated error is not an error.  Soto agrees.  Ratliff favors the motion, too — “to make sure that what we’re about to approve for the next decade is the best possible material” — and because the board doesn’t know whether the question from the panel represents a consensus or a wild hare.  Clayton — “is [the publisher] also a biologist, and can he address the issue?”  “I wonder if we’re wasting our time listening to a publisher instead of a biologist.”

[Lost some text — sorry]

6:06, motion to listen to publisher fails, 7-7.

Update, after adjournment:  Board voted to approve Holt-McDougall’s supplement on the condition that the publisher change things identified as errors by the review panel.  Board, by voting not to hear the publisher, failed to note that the “errors” are contested.  View of  biologists present is that the board is ordering Holt-McDougall to introduce errors.  Before final approval, can we get the board to come down on accurate science’s side?  This is the quiet erosion of good science I feared.

Board then pulled out three products for discussion, approving the others (biology, remember) on a hand vote.  Products pulled out are Adaptive Curriculum,’s Adaptive Curriculum on their platform, and Technical Laboratory Systems’ SciTEX Biology.

Gail Lowe says the objection is the addition of Haeckel’s embryo drawings.  This is an old issue with Texas creationists.  They jumped on the Discovery Institute’s claim that Haeckel’s drawings show evolution, but where evolution doesn’t occur.  (Haeckel fudged drawings, biologists have known for years — but his fudged drawings haven’t been used to make his erroneous point in 50 years . . .).

Publisher steps up and shows photographs that they have agreed to substitute.

Somehow, the creationists fail to notice that what has happened is they are insisting on photographs that show evolution in stead of a drawing.  (Turns out the drawings are not Haeckel’s after all — just line drawings of embryoes).  Creationist Gail Lowe excitedly makes the motion to accept the product with photos instead of line drawings.  (Somewhere a Discovery Institute wizard is having a heart attack.)

Board proceeds to make similar motion for’s version of Adaptive Curriculum’s stuff.

6:25 p.m.

Lowe complains of spelling, punctuation and subject-verb agreement issues on the slides for SciTEX Biology.  Motion to insist they be corrected before they make it to classroom.  Discussion . . . (discussion?  discussion?)

The science is right, but the spelling is wrong.  [To this old copy editor, this strikes me as bizarre.]  “In the future we need to appoint at least one member to each panel who is an expert in the English language.”  (missed which guy said that)

Motion to approve, with errors to be fixed, passes.

Item 8, biology supplements, as amended, is approved.

No fight.

Counsel says there must be a formal motion to reject the materials from the ID/Creationist guys.  Motion passes.

I’m a fireworks fan, but missing fireworks in this room is a good deal.

Board adjourned for the evening.  Votes on other issues, and final approval, tomorrow.

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