Editorials

The evolution of creationism in Texas schools

THE EDITORIAL BOARD

This 2005 photo provided by the journal Science shows a pre-human skull found in the ground at the medieval village Dmanisi, Georgia. The discovery of the estimated 1.8-million-year-old skull of a human ancestor captures early human evolution on the move in a vivid snapshot and indicates our family tree may have fewer branches than originally thought, scientists say.
This 2005 photo provided by the journal Science shows a pre-human skull found in the ground at the medieval village Dmanisi, Georgia. The discovery of the estimated 1.8-million-year-old skull of a human ancestor captures early human evolution on the move in a vivid snapshot and indicates our family tree may have fewer branches than originally thought, scientists say. AP

The evolution of teaching creationism in Texas schools has been a taxing one.

Although the standards in the high school science Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills, or TEKS, have never been explicit on the subject of creationism, some of the TEKS language lends itself to an opportunity to teach that topic in schools.

Early last year, the State Board of Education approved a streamlining of the TEKS, commissioning committees of educators and district officials to do so.

These committees combed through the standards, making recommendations on concepts and topics students should cover in their appropriate grade — Kindergarten through 12th grade.

Some of the areas of intense discussion were 7th grade standards about manned space exploration and language that could be interpreted as an invitation to teach alternative theories to scientific events.

Most of the changes were made for the purpose of trimming down the high school TEKS.

The science curriculum must cover a lot of ground, and there’s only a finite number of days for teachers to complete it.

The biology committee removed language surrounding origin of life theories, fossil record and other areas that can be perceived to provide openings for an educator to present creationism or intelligent design as an alternative theory.

Though creationism isn’t scientific theory, there has been much disagreement about whether it should be taught in schools.

Most of argument this time around boiled down to time. The committee estimated that some of these concepts could add three to six days per standard.

Spending that much precious time on an incredibly complex scientific and ideological debate that a ninth grader might not even truly understand seems like misuse of limited classroom hours.

These recommendations were available for public comment, and had a preliminary vote Wednesday.

The State Board decided to keep language about the origin of life and fossil record, keeping the door open for school discussions of creationism and intelligent design.

As much as one would like a separation between school and church, students do live in the real world. Since Texas is predominantly Christian, there is an opportunity to address creationism in a secular, academic atmosphere.

But it shouldn’t take six days to discuss the merit of creationism versus the merit of evolution.

Science teachers have better things to do with their limited time to help student master TEKS.

Another public comment period will be active before the board takes a final vote on the amendments in April.

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