By Kevin H. Wirth, ARN Director of Product Development and Media Relations
I've been keeping my ear to the ground regarding the fallout in Texas over the recent State Board of Education (SBOE) vote on science standards...
I'm beginning to hear some rumblings about mounting a possible legal challenge to the vote, as well as taking legislative action to change the way Texas state science standards are decided in the future: and the upshot seems to be, keep 'the people' out of the process as much as possible.
A legal challenge, if picked up, would be promoted in part because of the "religious" motivations of some school board members. The new standards are viewed by many critics as "poisoning" the minds of school age children who would come under its influence.
Here's the spin:
"Cynthia Dunbar would like to make it required that "any person desiring to govern have a sincere knowledge and appreciation for the Word of God in order to rightly govern." She also calls public education a "subtly deceptive tool of perversion."
And Don McLeroy, the leader of this group, argued passionately at last month's public hearing that someone in this country needs to stand up to the science experts.
As members of the 15-member Texas Board of Education, Mercer, Dunbar, and McLeroy are some of the most powerful decision-makers in the country in terms of what children read in public school science class."
And here's the warm-up shot:
"Now the issue is whether there is enough prima facie evidence to challenge the Constitutionality of the wording now, or wait for the textbook review process in two years."
"They have shown clear religious motivations that certainly raise some questions," Quinn said. "But if the board requires phony religious arguments in the science textbooks, I can't imagine somebody won't challenge it." Publishers may end up producing a textbook for Texas and other conservative states and a separate version for other states - because under the new guidelines, a Texas textbook "will be poison in states that value education," Quinn said.
One of the biggest objections by critics of the recent SBOE vote is that it promotes (according to them) first and foremost an anti-science "religious" agenda - an intolerable threat to their way of thinking, and worse, that supporters of the new standards are intent upon "poisoning" and "injuring" children with their views, and their voice and influence should be stopped at all costs. The vote of the SBOE (who are, by the way, ELECTED by the people of Texas...) has literally lit a fire under those who oppose the wording of the new standards, and they are using it as leverage to influence any other elected officials who will listen to their claims that good science is under attack by a bunch of religious loons.
And, they appear to be gaining at least some traction.
Opponents of the new science standards are contemplating every possible avenue they can to both challenge and roll back the SBOE vote if possible and/or make sure it doesn't happen again. The Kitzmiller decision has emboldened them to think they can win in court. In their mind, they have a duty to protect kids from the horrible influence of the SBOE majority vote, and if they think they can achieve this via a legal challenge, you can bet your last doughnut they will do so.
There may not be a legal challenge yet, but we would do well to anticipate their future actions based on what we know about how they view "creationists" and the level of their determination to leave no stone unturned in an effort to smack them down. If they thought they'd have a chance at filing a successful lawsuit - don't think for a minute they wouldn't.
Meanwhile... those who oppose the new science standards are very actively engaged in taking other steps in an effort to ensure that voter influence will no longer be a factor in future decisions regarding state science standards or content in science textbooks. In the wake of the recent SBOE vote, a "slew of bills" have recently been proposed to "reign in the authority of the Texas State Board of Education." 
Think about it: this is the response to a body of public officials who were elected by the people into office.
These bills have been introduced since the vote, and has seen the reported emergence of "a parade of witnesses testifying to the state board's unfair processes, divisive ideological history and outright ineptitude."
One of the bills (Senate Bill 2275) was considered just yesterday in Texas by the Senate Education Committee. The purpose of this bill is to take away the authority of the SBOE to vote on the state science curriculum standards, and place that decision into the hands of just one person: the state education commissioner. But the bill goes much further than that, since it would also require "the commissioner to establish teams of educators and content experts to develop standards and review textbooks for approval." In other words, regardless of what the commissioner decides the language of the standards should be, the bill ALSO provides for a team of expert editors to be at the ready to ENSURE that the language of the textbooks conforms to what the content experts say should be there. If this bill does go anywhere, then we need to be prepared to address the way the science texts will be influenced by those individuals. More important, if enacted, this bill would also remove the people, currently represented through elected officials on the SBOE, from the decision-making process. 
SBOE efforts to promote good language in the TX science standards has been derided as "code" for creationism instead of good science. To marginalize the text of the new Texas standards in this manner is an important indicator of just how far the opposition will go in their efforts to discredit the ruling of elected officials in the decision-making process. This indicates a complete disregard for the validity of democratically elected voices - and is an assault not just against "creationists," but also against the democratic process itself. Critics of the SBOE vote are seeking to eliminate the influence of the people in the process by pointing to the threat of the "creationists" in this debate, who (according to them) don't deserve to have a voice. The irrationality of such so-called "rational" thinkers is breathtaking, and their strong inclinations towards scientific fascism should continue to cause great alarm.
Residents of Texas would do well to let their elected representatives know that 'the people' want to keep their voice in the process.
Seattle area writer and Darwin skeptic Kevin Wirth is a founding member of ARN (formerly Students for Origins Research). He is also the Senior editor, contributor, and publisher of the book "Slaughter of the Dissidents: The Shocking Truth About Killing the Careers of Darwin Doubters" by Dr. Jerry Bergman (2008). This is the most comprehensive book published to date documenting the extent and types of discrimination against Darwin Dissidents. He is also the publisher of Caroline Crocker's upcoming book "Free to Think," (Leafcutter Press) which addresses her critics and relates her experience as an Expelled University professor. Her book is currently slated for release in June of 2009.
To read more essays by Kevin Wirth, click here.
Copyright (c) 2009 by Kevin H. Wirth, all rights reserved. Quotes and links are welcomed with attribution.
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