Streamlining the Texas science standards

February 17, 2017

TEXAS – Bob Lattimer, Eagle Forum’s Science Issues Chairman, submitted an excellent article he wrote titled, “Streamlining” the Texas science standards.

The Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) in science dates back to 2010.  While the TEKS standards were written in a materialistic paradigm, they did provide numerous opportunities for consideration of alternative explanations for phenomena in nature.

The Texas Education Agency is currently in the process of completing “streamlined” K-12 science standards.  Unfortunately, the committee charged with “streamlining” the Biology standards decided to use the opportunity to delete or modify parts of the standards they didn’t like – particularly those that might be critical of biological evolution (macroevolution or common descent).

The deleted standards deal with such issues as “the complexity of the cell,” “molecules having information such as DNA,” “examining all sides of scientific evidence,” and encouraging “critical analysis by the student.” The writing committee said the deletions were made “in order to streamline for time.”  A more honest reason, one would think, is the implication that biological complexity and information call for design by an intelligent agent rather than by mindless natural causes (i.e., evolution). There is no denying the fact that life is extremely intricate and complex, and students should be allowed to hear and evaluate evidence that an intelligent mind (such as God) might be needed to explain it all.

At the February 3, 2017 meeting of the Texas State Board of Education, some members objected to these changes, and this resulted in a clash of opinions on the issue.  Some mainline scientists and educators testified in support of the revisions, saying the deleted language could open the door to creation and intelligent design in the classroom – and weaken the argument for evolution.  Others argued that the deleted standards were simply presenting good science while expanding the coverage of biological evolution.  In the end the state board voted 9-5 to reinstate some of the omitted phrases, and the majority board members should be commended for their action.

When the “final” TEKS standards are up for a vote in April, the majority state board members should stand their ground and retain language that calls for a critical analysis of concepts related to biological evolution.  The students need to be exposed to all the evidence, not just that which seems consistent with macro-evolution.  The board members might do well to heed the clause in the Biology standards that states scientific theories “may be subject to change as new areas of science and new technologies are developed.”

Note: A more detailed report on the changes in the Texas standards may be obtained by request to rplattimer@gmail.com.