A truly momentous and impressive public hearing by the Texas House Public Education Committee has just wrapped up in Austin (July 16, 2008).
I did not hear all of it. I heard State Board chairman McLeroy’s presentation and some of the questioning. Hours later I heard the witness before Steven Schafersman (Texas Citizens for Science) through to the last witness (who more than made up in passion and conviction for what he may have lacked in lucidity).
I don’t know the composition of the committee. They don’t have party labels on their website. But after the last witness, one committee member stepped in before adjournment with a strong statement on the need for legislative action. The chair said the committee would take action — he said he’d been getting notes from both ends of the table throughout the proceedings. He said he did not know what they’d do, and maybe nothing could be done before January; but that action would be taken.
The witnesses I heard were overwhelmingly and consistently impressive, and they had the effect of reinforcing each other without being repetitive. Through them there was also represented massive work and commitment by educators throughout Texas, as well as a high level of concern from parents.
After the Board’s travesty with the English, Language Arts, and Reading (ELAR) standards, many saw that process and outcome as a bad omen for the upcoming revision of the science standards. I read this differently. After the ELAR travesty, I wrote:
This action shows that the Right-Wing school board majority is not above doing anything they can — without regard for either fairness or for competence — to get whatever outcomes they’re committed to. That’s unfortunate for the English and literacy education of Texas students.
As for science, however, I think this incident means that those supporting science education will be prepared to preempt or counter tactics and strategies that they might otherwise have thought to be beyond the capacity for malfeasance of even this board majority.
I think the broad, deep, and powerful showing by educators from many fields (including, but not only science education) in these hearings shows that people got the message from the ELAR action, and will be prepared to defend and promote real science education in the coming year.
The hearing ran for 5½ hours. The archived video (RealPlayer) is linked here.