The Texas State Board of Education is reviewing its high school science curriculum standards this year. The Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) are the embodiment of those standards. These standards are important because they have a profound influence on how science is taught in Texas, including impacting textbook content. Because many other states adopt Texas standards and textbooks, TEKS can have a big impact across the country for a number of years. The stakes are high. Fortunately, there are a number of ways that concerned citizens can participate in the review process.
A draft of the TEKS was released on September 22nd and I have reviewed the Biology TEKS. Although I’m not a biologist, I certainly am familiar with how the creationist culture warriors might try to sabotage the standard. While all science TEKS have the suspect phrase, "Science may not answer all questions," the standard looks pretty good with respect to evolution. There is no taint of the old "strengths and weaknesses" wording that they had slipped in in the past, opening the door for casting doubt on evolution and thus leaving the door ajar for “intelligent Design” pseudoscience that is just religion in a lab coat.
Unfortunately, the SBOE has been stacked with creationist members with a not-so-hidden agenda of sabotaging the teaching of evolution. More recently, the SBOE has appointed a creationist-friendly review committee to review the science TEKS. It’s not clear what mischief will come of these developments, but many science advocates are concerned and watching.
A number of groups have gotten involved by drafting reports, crating petitions, and marshaling concerned citizens. The National Center for Science Education is monitoring these culture war skirmishes from across the nation. The 21st Century Science Coalition is a group of scientists who have weighed in with a petition to the SBOE. The Texas Citizens for Science have monitored the board, specifically the political firing of Science Director Chris Comer. The Texas Freedom Network has done a great job of monitoring the SBOE and organizing citizen actions in response.
Concerned individuals can get involved in a number of ways. If you’re interested in monitoring the situation, signing a petition, or testifying in front of the SBOE on November 19th, TFN can help you. Consider doing all three. These things are serious grassroots activism for the cause of science education. Testifying may sound like a lot of work, but it’s a great experience that will allow you to express your perspective as a taxpayer and as a Texan. Usually testimonies are just a few minutes—just long enough to make a point or two. You’ll be doing it along side other concerned activists who will be there with you making a difference.
It is also possible to review the TEKS standards online and submit comments directly to the board. This is another great way to participate. To do this, go to the Science TEKS page and read the relevant portion of the "High School science" TEKS. You will then get the "High School Courses" form and fill in your comments. There are multiple ways of submitting the form. You will submit one form for each science course TEKS you would like to respond to. If you do this, please remember to follow the instructions and make your comments relate to specific sections of the TEKS. Be assertive, but polite.
The ACA would like to encourage all people interested in the quality of science education to participate in this important process for the betterment of our country and our futures or consider donating to these groups that are making a difference.