March 30, 2009
By Laura Heinauer
The State Board of Education on Friday passed science curriculum standards that members described as a compromise between those who are critical of teaching evolutionary theories without scrutiny and those who feared attacks on evolution would lead to the teaching of creationism in Texas schools.
After the 13-2 vote, it was social conservatives on the board who were doing most of the celebrating while scientists expressed concerns.
The new standards remove current requirements that students be taught the "strengths and weaknesses" of scientific theories. Instead, teachers will be required to have students scrutinize "all sides" of the theories.
The new standards will determine what will be included in science textbooks in Texas. Because of its size, Texas could influence what publishers print in books used in other states. Friday's adoption comes after many months of debate over drafts for the standards, which were last revised in 1998.
On the one hand, the standards encourage questions about certain evolutionary concepts, satisfying those who are critical of the theory. But those supportive of evolution were partly mollified because calls to teach "insufficiencies" or "weaknesses" of the theory were rejected. . .
The full impact of the vote won't be felt until 2011, when new textbooks will be chosen.
Ronald Wetherington, an anthropology professor at Southern Methodist University who supports evolution, said the removal of words like "insufficiency" and "weaknesses" will make it harder for the state board to reject texts that discuss evolution uncritically.
However, Wetherington said the inclusion of requirements that students consider that science can't entirely explain the complexity of cells could open the door to publishers pushing pseudo-science. "The battle has been largely won today, but we are nowhere near winning the war."
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