Texas public education is back in the news today as the newly constituted State Board of Education prepares to meet. One of the first items on the agenda will be what to do about the nettlesome problem of some high school science teachers who still believe that modern man evolved. Granted, there is less evidence for evolution in Texas than perhaps any other state - with the likely exception of Arizona - but the theory is "scientific," meaning its supported by facts instead of flaky religious hoodoo.
The Texas State Board of Education has fifteen members, eleven of whom are Republicans. An ultra-conservative (and proud of it!) board member named Barbara Cargill was recently appointed by Texas governor Rick Perry to serve as the leader of that august panel. She got off to a rocky start by inexplicably making a claim that as of the present there are only six "true conservative Christians" on the board. For the sake of Texas school children, I hope that her count is accurate.
Evolution, of course, is an old battle in Texas. The Texas State Senate turned down Perry's candidate to head the board in 2009 because senators believed the nominee advocated teaching creationism in public schools. Obviously, a majority of the Texas State Senate has evolved further than Rick Perry or his last two appointments to head the state school board.
One group advocating dumbing down the Texas state curriculum calls itself (misleadingly) "Texans for a Better Science Education," and it is trying to generate a firestorm of public outrage against real science at next week's board meeting. Texas, of course, has always had a warm spot in its heart for public hangings.
I wonder what parents who want their children to become medical doctors - or scientists, or engineers, or pharmacists, or just plain able to reason - think of all of this nonsense. Do they want their kids being exposed to dunderheads who preach that the world is a mere 6,000 years old, and that ancient farmers used dinosaurs to pull their plows? How will a tragic high school mis-education work for them when they are sitting in grad schools and medical universities competing with students who were exposed to real science in high school?
Well, it is Texas, so they will at least have the basics - football and cheerleading!