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Evolution theory takes a round in Texas

Texas will no longer require educators to teach weaknesses of all scientific theories, including those of evolution.

The change was approved March 27 by the State Board of Education in a 13-2 vote, adopting new state science curriculum standards that will be in place for the next decade.

But in a compromise plan, teachers will be required to have students scrutinize "all sides" of scientific theories, a move criticized by evolution activists.

The vote capped a week of impassioned debate that had scientists, teachers, and textbook publishers from around the country focused on Texas.

The board tentatively adopted the new curriculum standards on March 26.

The March 26 vote narrowly avoided efforts of state social conservatives to require that "weaknesses" in scientific theories, including the theory of evolution, be taught in science classrooms.  After that vote, regarding whether to restore the long-standing curriculum rule, stalled at 7-7, the tie vote upheld a January board vote to eliminate that rule from new science curriculum standards.  (See "Texas grapples with evolution in new science standards.")

Supporters of evolution theory hailed the initial vote, but were critical of amendments adopted by the board that they said could create new paths to teaching creationism and the similar theory of intelligent design in public schools.

The new standards drop a 20-year-old rule that required both "strengths and weaknesses" of all scientific theories to be taught. Critics say the requirement is used to undermine the theory of evolution in favor of religious teachings.

The new standards govern what appears on standardized tests and material published in textbooks.

As one of the largest textbook purchasers in the nation, Texas has significant influence over the content of books marketed across the country.

"Publishers are waiting to hear what to put in their textbooks," said Dan Quinn, a spokesman for the watchdog group Texas Freedom Network.

In approving a handful of amendments on March 26, the board "slammed the door on creationism, then ran around the house opening up all the windows to let it in another way," Quinn said that day. "We hope the vote tomorrow will reverse a lot of that."

In one amendment, the board agreed to require high school biology students to "analyze and evaluate the sufficiency or insufficiency of natural selection to explain the complexity of the cell."

Board member Don McLeroy said his amendment was intended "to account for that amazing complexity. I think it’s a standard that makes it honest with our children."

Federal courts have ruled against public schools teaching creationism and intelligent design, which holds that life is so complex that it must have come from an intelligent higher power.


Texas Education Agency

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