Terri Leo on Board of Education and Darwin

From Terri Leo, a member of the Texas Board of Education:

In the article (Houston Chronicle, “State Board of Education Must Be Held Accountable,” February 12, 2009), the Texas Legislators, who were quoted, misstated the current debate when they said, “The SBOE continues to engage in narrow theological debate about the validity of evolution.” These Senators obviously have been getting their information from far-leftwing groups and from many in the liberal news media.

The Legislators did not name any specific SBOE members because no such statements have been made by any of us. All SBOE meetings are recorded, and I invite the public to go to www.tea.state.tx.us to verify the accuracy of my statement. No SBOE members are seeking to remove evolutionary theory from the science curriculum standards. Evolution is a major theory, and any standards without the theory of evolution included in them would be substandard. There is also no Board member who is seeking to implement religious beliefs into public school science curricula.

For the past twenty years, students in Texas have been required “to analyze, review, and critique scientific explanations, including hypotheses and theories, as to the strengths and weaknesses using scientific evidence and information.” This standard has been applied to all scientific theories. Pro-Evolution Advocates, however, want evolution to be singled out and taught differently from the other theories. They want evolution to be taught without including the weaknesses of this theory.

The evolutionists want the time-tested standard to be removed from our Texas standards and, hence, from our textbooks and teaching materials. The twenty-year old standard does not state nor imply the teaching of religion, just “scientific explanations and scientific evidence.” If a teacher in our state had used this twenty-year-old standard as a “backdoor vehicle” through which to teach students religion, the ACLU most certainly would have sued by now.

The Houston Chronicle article goes on to say that if the SBOE does not remove this standard that it will “impact the economic progress of our state.” The facts tell otherwise. According to a recent press release by the Governor’s office, Texas has shown increases in both economic growth and jobs while the rest of the nation has shown a decline. In the 2009 State of the State Address the Governor stated that 70% of the jobs created in the U.S. were in Texas. All this has occurred in Texas during the time that this twenty-year-old policy has been in place.

A new Zogby poll released on 2.3.09 states, “A large majority (80%) agree that teachers and students should have the academic freedom to discuss the strengths and weaknesses of evolution as a scientific theory, with more than half (54%) saying they strongly agree. A sixth (17%) disagree.” (http://www.freemarket.org/Img/2009%20Zogby%20Poll%20Findings%20Report.pdf)

The open and vigorous public debate on controversial issues is one of the hallmarks of America.  As a people, we cherish and defend academic freedom, political freedom, freedom of association, freedom of movement, and freedom of thought.

The 17% (i.e., Zogby poll) want to censor out all credible science that opposes Darwinian evolution.

If our public-school science standards censor out scientific weaknesses, we limit our educators by directing them to avoid scientific controversy. As U.S. Senator Robert Byrd (a Democrat) has wisely pointed out regarding science education, “If students cannot learn to debate different viewpoints and to explore a range of scientific theories in the classroom, what hope have we for civil discourse beyond the schoolhouse doors?”

Because education is truly a vehicle to broaden horizons and enhance thinking, varying scientific viewpoints should be welcome as part of the school experience. In the words of law professor David DeWolf, “By presenting this scientific controversy realistically, students will learn how to evaluate competing interpretations in light of evidence — a skill they will need as citizens, whether they choose careers in science or in other fields.”

Darwin himself would not have supported censorship of the scientific weaknesses of his own theory.  Indeed he wrote a whole chapter in his book, On the Origin of Species, about the difficulties with his theory.  Darwin said, “If it could be demonstrated that any complex organ existed, which could not possibly have been formed by numerous, successive, slight modifications, my theory would absolutely break down.”

The 17% who would thwart critical thinking, particularly in light of recent advances in science, can only be described as censors, no matter what their organizational name may say.

As Charles Darwin so aptly stated in On the Origin of Species, “A fair result can be obtained only by fully stating and balancing the facts and arguments on both sides of each question.”