The Ten-Gallon Evolution Debate

By Sean Cavanagh — January 21, 2009 1 min read

They’re debating a revision of the state science standards in Texas today, which of course means another debate over evolution’s place in the classroom.

The Texas state board of education is reviewing a draft of the standards, which basically spell out what students are expected to know in science.

The current version of that document says that students should be taught the “strengths and weaknesses” of scientific theories. That language has never been to the liking of scientists, who see it as potentially encouraging teachers to pick on evolution as somehow flawed or weak, when in fact the scientific evidence for the theory is overwhelming.

But a recent version of the standards (known as draft #2) appears to be drawing even stronger objections from scientists. Drafted by a six-member committee, it calls for students to “analyze and evaluate strengths and limitations” of scientific theory.

This story from the Associated Press says members of the committee are divided on that version of the standards.

Update: The Texas board is now expected to be presented with a new version of the draft science standards to consider—a third draft. You can read the third draft here, at the top of the page. Go to the second section of bullet-points for a comparison between the current standards (from 1998) and draft #3. It says that students should “analyze and evaluate scientific explanations, using empirical evidence, logical reasoning, and experimental and observational testing.”

Early reactions?

And while you’re considering that language, don’t forget about what’s going on in Louisiana.

Last week, the state’s Board of Elementary and Secondary Education approved rules on the kinds of supplementary materials schools can use during discussions of evolution, as well as global warming and cloning. The board was supposed to issue the guidelines, following the adoption of a law allowing the use of supplementary materials last year. This story in the New Orleans Times-Picayune notes that the impact of the law isn’t clear, at least not yet. The board can prohibit certain materials statewide, the story says, or reject the ones chosen by a district, if challenged by a local resident.

A version of this news article first appeared in the Curriculum Matters blog.