The Austin American Statesman reports that Ms. Chris Comer, Texas state director of science curriculum, was fired after forwarding an email announcing a talk about intelligent design in the Austin area. The talk “Inside Creationism’s Trojan Horse,” was by Barbara Forrest, a historian and philosopher who has studied the ties between ID and earlier generations of creationism. It focused on her work in the Dover trial and her book Creationism’s Trojan Horse: The Wedge of Intelligent Design.
The Statesman explains:
The call to fire Comer came from Lizzette Reynolds, who previously worked in the U.S. Department of Education. She also served as deputy legislative director for Gov. George W. Bush. She joined the Texas Education Agency as the senior adviser on statewide initiatives in January.
Reynolds, who was out sick the day Comer forwarded the e‑mail, received a copy from an unnamed source and forwarded it to Comer’s bosses less than two hours after Comer sent it.
“This is highly inappropriate,” Reynolds said in an e‑mail to Comer’s supervisors. “I believe this is an offense that calls for termination or, at the very least, reassignment of responsibilities.
“This is something that the State Board, the Governor’s Office and members of the Legislature would be extremely upset to see because it assumes this is a subject that the agency supports.”
Horrors! The state’s science curriculum supervisor supports … science!
Indeed, Comer was fired for exactly that radical interpretation of her job responsibilities. The memo from her boss recommending that she be fired explains:
the forwarding of this event announcement by Ms. Comer, as the Director of Science, from her TEA email account constitutes much more than just sharing information. Ms. Comer’s email implies endorsement of the speaker and implies that TEA endorses the speaker’s position on a subject on which the agency must remain neutral [i.e. “intelligent design”]. Thus, sending this email compromises the agency’s role in the TEKS revision process by creating the perception that TEA has a biased position on a subject directly related to the science education TEKS.
Indeed, we must inquire what the Texas Education Agency (TEA) is supposed to do if not endorse particular positions with respect to science education, especially those related to the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS, statewide science education standards).
Given that the state is gearing up to revise those standards, it is hard not to see this as a shot across the bow of the Texas education community, and an attempt to prevent scientifically knowledgeable folks from participating in discussion of what topics are scientific, and what scientific topics should be presented when in the educational process. I certainly hope this strategy backfires.