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Education Science

Creationism In Texas Public Schools 770

An anonymous reader writes "Slate reports on new anti-science education coming out of Texas. The state has a charter school system called Responsive Education Solutions, which is publicly funded. Unfortunately, 'it has been connected from its inception to the creationist movement and to far-right fundamentalists who seek to undermine the separation of church and state.' The biology workbook used in these schools actually reads, "In the beginning, God created the Heavens and the Earth." It also brings up social Darwinism as if it's an aspect of evolutionary theory and introduces doubt that the Earth is billions of years old. The article continues, 'To get around court rulings, Responsive Ed and other creationists resort to rhetoric about teaching "all sides" of "competing theories" and claiming that this approach promotes "critical thinking." In response to a question about whether Responsive Ed teaches creationism, its vice president of academic affairs, Rosalinda Gonzalez, told me that the curriculum "teaches evolution, noting, but not exploring, the existence of competing theories."' Other so-called education texts being used by the Responsive Ed program teach Western superiority and how feminism forced women to 'turn to the state as a surrogate husband.'"
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Creationism In Texas Public Schools

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  • Biology workbook (Score:5, Interesting)

    by TWX ( 665546 ) on Friday January 17, 2014 @11:19AM (#45986079)
    Shouldn't the opening of the Biology workbook alone be enough to get this squashed?
  • Re:Biology workbook (Score:5, Interesting)

    by i kan reed ( 749298 ) on Friday January 17, 2014 @11:26AM (#45986145) Homepage Journal

    Here's where the assholery of charter schools come into play. They can claim charter schools are "opt-in" as they budget money away from public schools and into charter schools. They think that claim will invalidate concern from the establishment clause as no one is "forced" to use religious books.

    Meanwhile, if you want to go to a school with any budget for things like teachers, the charter schools will be the only remaining option.

    I hope a federal court will see this as a violation of either the first amendment or Brown vs. Board of education, but I don't have a ton of faith in the judicial process these days.

  • Scary (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Kunax ( 1185577 ) on Friday January 17, 2014 @11:33AM (#45986265)
    kinda scary unless you want to create a lot of drones
  • Which makes no sense (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 17, 2014 @11:39AM (#45986339)

    The understanding that Genesis is a metaphorical, and not literal, goes as far back as the 4th century (even further, possibly, that is just what am aware of explicitly from my early church history studies). Protestantism is very recent compared to that, and this protestant misinterpretation of scripture as being literal is more recent still.

    A bunch of relatively uneducated Christians cooked up this weird and grossly simplistic way of reading scripture, and it has become wildly popular, and gives the entire religion a bad name. :(

  • by i kan reed ( 749298 ) on Friday January 17, 2014 @11:39AM (#45986345) Homepage Journal

    Right, but the concern is for the people who enjoy science and have some intent of being useful members of society and are going to be denied the opportunity to learn in order to protect some peoples' biases from information they disagree with.

  • FSM! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by SGDarkKnight ( 253157 ) on Friday January 17, 2014 @11:41AM (#45986377)

    I wonder how hard it would be to get them to teach about the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster! Hell, I would enroll in that class!

  • Re:Biology workbook (Score:4, Interesting)

    by jellomizer ( 103300 ) on Friday January 17, 2014 @11:53AM (#45986591)

    The issue that really should be brought up, debating the science vs. non-science it talking to a deaf ear...
    However I think the debate should go more towards the direction.
    These Major Christian churches, do not have an issue on evolution, and do not support teaching creationism in Science Classes. So why are you pushing your little minority sect of Christianity on the rest of the population.
    If you don't want separation of church and state, then realize your particular sect doesn't coincide with the general belief of the country.

    Oddly enough most members don't realize that their church actually supports real science.

  • Re:Biology workbook (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Maudib ( 223520 ) on Friday January 17, 2014 @11:59AM (#45986681)

    Is this behavior really different then what goes on in Texas public schools? Of course not. We get the same sort of anti-science stuff from traditional public schools down there. The fact that this is a charter school isn't the problem. This is just a feature of Texas.

    Of course in places like NYC, we see charter schools dedicated to math and good science. Charter schools reflect a community's desire for education. Thats it.

  • by Kimomaru ( 2579489 ) on Friday January 17, 2014 @12:12PM (#45986883)
    How does Texas prepare students for Med School? Do they finally start teaching science when a student is in college or do they have to leave the state completely?
  • Debating the insane (Score:4, Interesting)

    by sdinfoserv ( 1793266 ) on Friday January 17, 2014 @12:18PM (#45986991) Homepage
    I remember during one of the Bush 2 nationally televised debates; All of the Republican hopefuls were on stage and the question was asked “do you believe in evolution” – not a single one on stage raised their hand. It’s a sad state when the leader of the free world can’t have a foundation in science or critical thinking as a prerequisite to the job. There is not one single example in the history of mankind of a successful theocracy. The evidence tends to point to the exact opposite – the increase of religion leads to the downfall of any given society.
  • by Mordok-DestroyerOfWo ( 1000167 ) on Friday January 17, 2014 @12:19PM (#45987019)
    Amen, well maybe not. I grew up in the same sort of household and was likely the bane of my middle school teacher's existence as I was basically a proxy for my parent's beliefs in my argument against evolution. It wasn't until college that I finally opened up enough to be fully deprogrammed. I paid my penance by teaching evolutionary anthropology in Texas, but even among the undergrads there I suspect that I wasn't able to convert as many as I could.
  • There is hope... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 17, 2014 @12:32PM (#45987251)

    I'd like to point out a few things that might give some of y'all hope this year...

    * Open election November 2014. Perry is stepping down. State Sen. Wendy Davis (D), is running and has a lot of momentum behind her on this! Yes, she's riding her 15 minutes, but that doesn't mean it won't work!
    * Texas Board of Education Commisioner is appointed by the Governor. The present Commisioner was former head of the Texas Railroad Comission ( what does that tell you???)
    * The Democratic party has grown considerably in last 2 decades, and with an open election on the plate, they are getting very good funding for this run.

    The Republicans in Texas have really done such a number on minorities and women that there is a very strong chance a Democrat, Davis, will win. If that happens, Texas Board of Ed. Commisioner is out! And THAT, is what gives me hope when it comes to the absurdity of creationism even being mentioned with science or in schools.

    What you have to understand though, is that the Dem's and Repub's are the same party as what's in the rest of the US, but they really aren't. Texas is it's own battle ground of a country. The parties are connected, but in a very different way. So much is in play in Texas, that D/R(TX) really does not equal D/R(any other state). They're similar, but far from the same.

  • Re:Biology workbook (Score:5, Interesting)

    by sribe ( 304414 ) on Friday January 17, 2014 @12:55PM (#45987621)

    There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there has always been.

    Absolutely. Having been born and raised in the "Bible Belt" I can attest first-hand to how very proud some people are of their ignorance and lack of education.

  • by malkavian ( 9512 ) on Friday January 17, 2014 @01:01PM (#45987733)

    There's a historical analogy to all this going on: Until the rennaissance, the middle east was vastly more advanced than the West (it had medicine, mathematics and so on that just weren't known in the west until scholars studied there). Arabic was the language of trade, commerce and learning during the centuries of its pre-eminence as a cultural and scholarly center.
    People would come from all areas of the 'civilised world' (this didn't really include Europe at this point, apart from maybe Italy) to study.

    The problems arose with the ascendancy of a faction (Asharite) which was distinctly anti-rationalist. It gained increasing popularity over the Mutazilite faction (which had led the Islamic world to scientific ascendancy over centuries, epousing the Greek philosophers such as Aristotle and Plato, and following in those traditions).
    As the power of the Asharites grew, scientific advancement in the middle east stagnated, and eventually it became a crime to copy philosophical texts, as they were an abhorrence in the eyes of God. These sins would eventually be punishable by executions, and the candle of scientific advancement was effectively snuffed out.

    Compare this to today. From England grew a large empire (comparable effectively with the Islamic Caliphate) crossing many countries, and being quite the center of learning. People came from all over to study in England. This Empire has been largely disbanded, but the strings of learning have still carried on beyond it.
    Over the last hundred years or so, the power and center of effective empire has shifted to America as the rationalist factions invested in learning, keeping church and state separate (as the founders would probably have been painfully aware of the problems of allowing them to merge), and ensuring minds could be kept open, and difficult questions asked.

    However, there's now a growing push towards anti-rationalism. It hides itself within the main power structure, and has permeated the political strata to a huge extent (I believe the parts of the national pledge that mention god were only included in the 50s or 60s, never having been present before then), and seems to be getting ever more powerful. Parts of the population (and I've met them on travels) consider it taboo to "Trust science" as it's all God's Will. Exactly analogous to the Asharite faction of a thousand years ago.
    We know what happens if that faction gains ascendancy. Scientific tradition fails, as being an intellectual makes you a threat to the religious theocrats, and they're very good at getting rid of threats, and making it 'acceptable', even desirable that these people are removed.
    Arabic ceased to be the language of trade and learning once the Asharites gained ascendancy and the Islamic world was in their grip. They were overtaken by the West, which had learned from their teaching earlier, and took on the torch passed to them by the Greeks even earlier.

    Nowadays, China is investing massively in education, and particularly science; their technological base has caught up with the Western World at a furious pace. This, quite possibly, is a saving grace; it means that there are definitely alternatives to keep learning alive, just in case the anti-rationalists that are gaining traction in America manage to topple it from within. It would likely mean that the language of trade and learning becomes Chinese, but hey, the world can survive that quite easily.
    I guess we see if history does indeed repeat itself, or whether humanity, as a species, has got any brighter since the last time this rise and fall happened.

  • Re:Biology workbook (Score:3, Interesting)

    by morgauxo ( 974071 ) on Friday January 17, 2014 @01:57PM (#45988599)

    Generally the religious right aren't all that interested in funding NASA. Afterall, the Bible doesn't really talk about there being anything up there so there must not be. Unless they are really really fundamentalist and think of heaven as being physically up, hell physically down. In that case they are even more against trying to go there, that's for God to take them on his terms. Look what happened to Nimrod and the Tower of Babel!

    If they get there way there won't BE a NASA for those kids to work at when they grow up.

  • Re:Biology workbook (Score:4, Interesting)

    by erikkemperman ( 252014 ) on Friday January 17, 2014 @02:30PM (#45989157)

    Clearly I'm not getting my point across adequately, my bad. The ballpark remark was about the number of people who self-identify as fundamentalist.

    That the qualitative extremes of its effects are vastly different in different places and different religions is fairly obvious, which I suppose might be why I glossed over the distinction in my original post.

    But in that sense, I do believe it is accurate to say the US are more like the places you might usually think of theocracies then what you might think of as your peers and allies. I am pretty sure the kind of policy we're discussing here would not even be proposed in any other "western" nation.

    And this is true for the amount of state-sanctioned violence too, actually, albeit due less to religious motives and (therefore?) involving less ritualistic or ceremonial excess.

  • Re:Biology workbook (Score:4, Interesting)

    by jc42 ( 318812 ) on Friday January 17, 2014 @04:57PM (#45991033) Homepage Journal

    Just listen sometime to how people brag about being technically illiterate as if it's some badge of honor. "I just don't know these computer thingees," says someone with no shame whatsoever. Do you think they would so proudly admit to being unable to read and write?

    This isn't really bragging, you know. It's a way of making oneself feel better about being ignorant.

    And it is widespread in the American population. There's a general contempt for "book learnin'" in general, and a special contempt for people who are knowledgeable in scientific topics, especially biology.

    An example from when I was in high school: My father installed some rain-spout barrels to collect free water for watering the yard and garden. One day, I noticed a lot of little "wigglers" in them, aka mosquito larvae. I mentioned them to my parents and suggested we do something to eradicate them. The response was to demand that I tell them where I got such a stupid idea as thinking they were baby mosquitos. When I finally admitted I'd got the information from some books, I was soundly criticized for believing all that "book learnin". I was ordered to leave the little critters alone.

    I was tempted to report them to the local health authorities, but I understood what would happen to me if I did that. So I kept quiet, and our yard was a local breeding ground for mosquitos.

    There are a lot of people living around you like this. If you live in the US, those people have a lot of political power. We're not quite as bad (yet) as the countries that are consciously blocking attempts to eradicate diseases like measles and polio, but a lot of the population would like to push us in that direction.

    Biological ignorance isn't just a matter of my opinion versus yours; such ignorance entails the spread of serious diseases among the general population. Ignorance of the evolutionary process is what has led to the overuse of pesticides and antibiotics, resulting in the evolution of resistance in many disease-causing organisms. This isn't an obscure intellectual discussion; it's about future epidemics, plagues, and famines.

Heuristics are bug ridden by definition. If they didn't have bugs, then they'd be algorithms.