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Texas Science Standards: 2008-2009

The Texas State Board of Education was considering new science standards. The greatest focus was on including the term "strengths and weaknesses" in the evolution curriculum. Several members on the board were outspoken creationists.

Members of the Board,

I am a college student who has taken a great interest in science and the ongoing controversy over science standards.

As someone who learned about evolution in high school, I sincerely hope that students in Texas and elsewhere in the United States will have the same opportunity to discover science without the dishonest "weaknesses" promoted by creationists. Lists of these "weaknesses" have been composed by organizations with agendas to attack science, and repeatedly these lists have been debunked as exaggerations and misrepresentations of science. Teachers looking to teach weaknesses may rely on these lists, instead of sharing the strong evidence for evolution with their students.
The vast majority of religious scientists and many religious leaders completely support evolution. Dr. Francis Collins, one of the head researches of the Human Genome Project and an outspoken Christian, has attacked intelligent design as both bad science and bad theology. In addition, hundreds of Christian clergy in Texas have signed the Clergy Letter Project statement, which states "The theory of evolution is a foundational scientific truth".
Surveys indicate that (nationally) one in eight biology teachers teach creationism, and the majority are pressured to skip or water down their lessons on evolution. It is the responsibility of the State Board of Education to prepare students for future work in the subject. When so much biology research now involves understanding genetics and evolutionary processes, every biology student should understand those concepts as they are applied by modern science.

Thank you for your continuing service to the state of Texas,

Nicholas Doiron
Student, Carnegie Mellon University

I received some responses from board members, including two highly positive ones. A creation-supporting member asked me for more information on science teachers being pressured to teach alternatives to evolution.

Re: Articles on teachers pressured to weaken evolution
Note that these statistics are nationwide, so it would be fair to say that Texas would have more teachers who taught creationism or felt pressure not to include evolution.

Study: 16 Percent of U.S. Science Teachers Are Creationists
http://abcnews.go.com/Technology/story?id=4895114
Survey Indicates Science Teachers Feel Pressure to Teach Nonscientific Alternatives to Evolution
http://www.nsta.org/publications/surveys/survey20050324.aspx
The evolution of a sensitive lesson
http://www.sptimes.com/2008/02/03/State/The_evolution_of_a_se.shtml
"Studies of science teachers seem to confirm these fears by suggesting 'that instruction in evolutionary biology at the high school level has been absent, cursory or fraught with misinformation' "
"17% did not cover human evolution at all in their biology class" (35% 1-2 hours)
http://biology.plosjournals.org/perlserv/?request=get-document&doi=10.1371/journal.pbio.0060124&ct=1

In addition, I have heard stories of teachers afraid to teach or unwilling to teach evolution, even in more liberal states. Creationist organizations offer materials that they have designed for public school classrooms.

Evolutionary education should be strengthened if you want Texan students to be competitive with students from countries that emphasize science and technology in their education. Surely a discussion about whether biology relies on strong theories or biased ideas would not happen in a classroom in Singapore, or at a job interview at a biotech company. While everyone has a right to believe what they believe, that should not lead the state of Texas to shortchange its standards.

Regards,
Nicholas Doiron