Berlanga and Nuñez voted against the final TEKS, the other 13 voted to approve them. Texas has new science standards. Those standards are better than the old ones, but those old standards really did suck. As the Fordham Institute put it, giving the standards an F in 2005, “Thematic unities, so persuasively urged in the national guides, have an effect here opposite to that advertised. They produce breadth of assertion instead of depth of understanding. … In the science discipline content here reviewed, Texas provides, by way of scant substance or careless writing or plain errors, something not really adequate. There is a remarkable contrast between overambitious expectations … and the banal activities by which such capacity is represented”
So, when I say these are better, it’s not high praise. And these standards are deeply compromised at every level from the decent standards offered by the writing committees. Those committees had awful starting material, and did a lot to improve them, but the draft standards weren’t world-class to start with, and the compromise we saw today made them much worse.
Compromise isn’t an inherently evil thing. Politics is all about compromise, and I love politics. But board members sold out their students, compromising science education in Texas.
Rick Agosto started the day pretty well, but as the swing vote on the board, he wavered and ultimately failed us. We watched sausage being made yesterday, and in Texas, they make good sausage. Alas, I can’t stomach what the board assembled today.
The compromise on strengths and weaknesses was ambiguous in its merits at best. And this is far from the best. There’s nothing inherently evil about:
in all fields of science, analyze, evaluate, and critique scientific explanations by using empirical evidence, logical reasoning and experimental and observational testing, including examining all sides of scientific evidence of those scientific experiments so as to encourage critical thinking by students.
But there’s nothing good about it, either. It opens up doors that don’t help kids and don’t help teachers. Combined with bad amendments added to the standards, we’re set up for an awful fight over textbooks in a few years. Those amendments add creationist rhetoric about “sudden appearance” and stasis in the fossil record, about the complexity of the cell, and about the origins of information in complex molecules. That’s the wedge, and creationists on the board will swing a mallet at them when textbook adoption comes up.
With luck, we’ll have a better board by then. Texas blogger Charles Kuffner writes, noting that Democratic member Agosto allied himself with the ultra-conservatives:
Remember the name Rick Agosto. The fight next year has to be in March as well.
March is when Texas holds primaries. Rick Agosto is likely to face an opponent then. Cynthia Dunbar, the anti-evolution, anti-public education, birther who represents parts of the Austin area is likely to face opposition, too. With both of them off the Board, life would be a lot easier for science teachers in Texas. Dunbar has an excuse, though: she’s a conservative Republican, and voted her beliefs. I don’t know why Agosto screwed his constituents and the children of Texas, though.