Teaching Profession Letter to the Editor

Do Texas Science Standards Hinder Critical Thinking?

April 28, 2009 2 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

To the Editor:

What an irony that at a time when many are calling for the development of students’ critical-thinking skills, voices in the Texas science-standards debate are worried that students might be misled with tricky wordings such as “proposed transitional fossils” and “examining all sides of scientific evidence” (“Retooled Texas Standards Raise Unease Among Science Groups,” April 8, 2009).

We may choose by definition to limit “scientific” explanations to observable, reproducible, measurable processes, but in public school science classrooms, discussions about science should not be constrained by self-imposed definitions within science. If we design a scientific experiment to determine why milk droplets keep appearing on the kitchen floor and then exclude any discussion of cats, we can generate an explanation that is purely “scientific,” but may be dead wrong. After all, like Benjamin Bunny of the Peter Rabbit tales, some folks have “no opinion whatever of cats.”

Even if the majority of scientists may wish a priori to believe Carl Sagan’s dogma that the cosmos is all there is and all there ever will be, that belief system itself should certainly be fertile ground for critical-thinking skills. And precisely because the discussion is about assumptions of science, it belongs in the science classroom, not in a philosophy or religious-studies or literature class.

Various groups in Texas seem to be worried that students might draw “wrong” conclusions just by considering alternative explanations for what appears (even to many brilliant thinkers) to be design in nature. Galileo, because of the theological implications of his heliocentric view of the universe, got in trouble with the scientific establishment of his day. Apparently, members of the scientific establishment of Texas want to limit students’ critical thinking about the cause(s) of life, to exclude any notion of design and by implication a designer, because they too do not like the theological implications. They want to hide their belief system behind a smoke screen of claiming that only theirs is “pure” science.

Will Texas science teachers, like Galileo, be put under house arrest for what Francis Q. Eberle, the executive director of the National Science Teachers Association, describes in your article as “wander[ing] into other areas”? Perhaps having ruled out “intelligence” in nature, some scientific organizations would also like to eliminate it from the classroom.

Phil Ashworth

Lenoir City, Tenn.

A version of this article appeared in the April 29, 2009 edition of Education Week as Do Texas Science Standards Hinder Critical Thinking?


This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Student Well-Being Webinar
Start Strong With Solid SEL Implementation: Success Strategies for the New School Year
Join Satchel Pulse to learn why implementing a solid SEL program at the beginning of the year will deliver maximum impact to your students.
Content provided by Satchel Pulse
Teaching Live Online Discussion Seat at the Table: How Can We Help Students Feel Connected to School?
Get strategies for your struggles with student engagement. Bring questions for our expert panel. Help students recover the joy of learning.
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Science Webinar
Real-World Problem Solving: How Invention Education Drives Student Learning
Hear from student inventors and K-12 teachers about how invention education enhances learning, opens minds, and preps students for the future.
Content provided by The Lemelson Foundation

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Teaching Profession Teaching Is Hard. Take a Break, 'Abbott Elementary' Stars Urge Teachers
Tyler James Williams and Sheryl Lee Ralph, stars of the ABC workplace sitcom, thanked teachers for "getting the job done."
3 min read
161097 0093
The "Abbott Elementary" cast, including Tyler James Williams (far left) and Sheryl Lee Ralph (third from right), stand together during a scene from the show.
Disney General Entertainment
Teaching Profession Stress, Burnout, Depression: Teachers and Principals Are Not Doing Well, New Data Confirm
They still love parts of their jobs—but feel anxiety and stress more than other working adults, a new study finds.
6 min read
Photo of teacher working at desk.
Teaching Profession How Teachers Are Spending Their Summer Vacation
Swimming, hiking, and an occasional academic project are on the agenda.
1 min read
Lifeguards watch over children and their families as they enjoy the shallow end of the Woodson Family Aquatic Center on the opening day of the 2022 pool season Saturday, May 28, 2022 in Odessa, Texas.
Lifeguards watch over children and their families at the Woodson Family Aquatic Center as pool season opens in Odessa, Texas.
Eli Hartman/Odessa American via AP
Teaching Profession Letter to the Editor Can Educators Agree to Disagree Respectfully?
We must acknowledge that there are strong, defensible differences in perspectives about divisive topics, writes an educator.
1 min read
Illustration of an open laptop receiving an email.