Texas SBOE on Science Standards January 22, 2009 (Audio)

About laws and sausages, it is said that you really don’t want to see how they are made. Even worse, however, is to see the making of TEKS education standards in Texas.

I’ve just spent some agonizing hours capturing the audio feed of the January 22 meeting of the Texas State Board of Education (SBOE), where they adopted amendments to the draft of science standards that were voted for provisionally the day before.

After reading the live blogs here, here, and here, I figured I would skip Thursday hearings. I’ve been persuaded, though, that these files will be helpful; so here they are (Meanwhile, TFN reports legislation introduced that would require the TEA to post audio and video files on its site in the future):

Cynthia Dunbar

Cynthia Dunbar

Barbara Cargill

Barbara Cargill

The first of these mp3 files (which you can play here or download) features discussion of Cynthia Dunbar‘s proposed amendment to restore the “Strengths & Weaknesses” language (you can read the blogs linked above for commentary).

These amendments were defeated.

The next file has discussion of Barbara Cargill‘s amendments to the Earth & Space Science standards.

Some of these passed. It seemed clear to me that Board members did not know what they were voting on.

This was hard to sit through.

My favorite moment was when somebody (probably Miller) asked Cargill who the Earth and Space Science experts were that she consulted with, and she said Garner and Meyer.



Terri Leo

The next file includes (1) discussion of Terri Leo’s amendments to make the standards “stronger” by substituting “analyze and evaluate” in place of other verbs, such as “recognize” or “describe.” I know that the science folks reading this will think that these are harmless enough. But to me passage of these amendments shows the Board has no idea what they’re doing with curriculum. I will need to post separately on that later. For now, I’ll just say that the ramifications of such wording are among the reasons why these things should be done by the professionals in writing groups, working with TEA staff, and not by Board members who have given not a thought to what this means.

|| added Feb. 6: Curricublog post on Leo’s amendments (with audio) ||

This file also includes (2) discussion of McLeroy‘s amendment requiring students to know the definition of science and understand its limitations. (I think this actually undercuts the position McLeroy has argued for elsewhere: He’s said that science should not be limited to naturalistic explanations, since that would preclude science from finding truths that are not naturalistic. Now he seems to be embracing the definition by which science recognizes that any such non-naturalistic truth would lie outside its purview.)

Finally, the fourth and last of these files contains discussion of McLeroy’s amendment to cast doubt on common descent.

SBOE Chairman Don McLeroy

SBOE Chairman Don McLeroy

As proposed, this amendment read as follows:

7B: Describe the sufficiency or insufficiency of common descent to explain the sudden appearance, stasis and sequential nature of the fossil record.

After listening to the audio, however, I think it passed worded like this:

Analyze and evaluate the sufficiency or insufficiency of common descent to explain the sudden appearance, stasis and sequential nature of the fossil record.

I can’t be sure. It seemed like the SBOE members weren’t sure either. I’m sure they don’t know the different implications of those wordings.

In a previous post, I’ve pointed out that even the Discovery Institute’s own Michael Behe recognizes common descent as something that is undeniably true.

Click here for audio of the January 21 hearings.

Click here for audio of the hearings November 19, 2008.



  1. Posted January 26, 2009 at 11:12 pm | Permalink

    I’m listening right now to Don McLeroy read one of the quotes he mined from Ernst Mayr’s book “What Evolution Is.”

    Below is the entire paragraph from which McLeroy took his quote. I have emphasized the part that McLeroy quote-mined to show just how badly he misrepresented the point that Mayr was making:

    What is most gratifying is that all findings are consistent with Darwin’s theory of common descent. Together with molecular sequences, the fossil record, in spite of its many gaps, is the most irrefutable evidence for the occurrence of evolution. However, continuous fossil sequences are still the exception; the fossil record remains woefully inadequate. For instance, we have no fossil documentation of the human ancestry between 14 and 4.5 million years ago. The most recent coelocanth fossil is dated ca. 60 million years ago and, of course, everybody concluded that this group had become extinct that long ago, until two living species were discovered within the last 50 years. However, when even such an unexpected discovery has been made, it always fitted perfectly into the Darwinian framework.

    p. 69

  2. Posted January 27, 2009 at 12:09 am | Permalink

    Thanks, Jeremy.

    I think this is the perfect tact for defeating his amendment.

    Essentially, in his testimony to his colleagues on the Board, McLeroy is modeling what he wants to see presented to students under his amendment. But he is lying to his colleagues, just as students would be lied to by teachers and textbook writers who comply with his amendment. His colleagues on the Board (at least 8 of them, and especially those among the eight who were deceived into voting for this) will be outraged.

    What needs doing now is a compilation of the lies piled up in his quotemining rampage.

  3. Posted January 27, 2009 at 12:15 pm | Permalink

    I own “What Evolution Is” so I gladly volunteer to track down the full context of all of the quotes that McLeroy used from that book.

    From my brief perusal of the book online, it appears that much of what McLeroy quoted was stripped of important explanatory context, some of which would have been in direct contradiction to the “sudden appearance” and “stasis” mantra that he is pushing.

    I find it nearly impossible to believe that McLeroy is not aware of the deceptive nature of these highly selective quotations. I almost fell out of my chair when he proudly admitted to “quote mining” from Donald Prothero’s book!

  4. Posted January 27, 2009 at 12:18 pm | Permalink

    Here’s another instance of quote mining from McLeroy. Again, I have emphasized the part that he quoted.

    The earliest fossil prokaryotes (3.5 billion years ago) were cyanobacteria (see Fig. 3.1). What is most remarkable about the cyanobacteria is their morphological stasis. About a third of the early fossil species of prokaryotes are morphologically indistinguishable from still living species and nearly all of them can be placed in modern genera. There are a number of possible reasons for this constancy. They reproduce asexually, they have very large populations, and they are able to live under highly variable and often extreme environmental conditions. All this may favor stability.

    p. 47

  5. B. Ballejo
    Posted November 19, 2009 at 9:01 am | Permalink

    Any theory that requires judicial activism and that is so carefully guarded by dogmatic semantic word games isn’t worth its salt. This is a kin to guarding a dead corpse, in this case the corpse is Darwin himself.

5 Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. […] of the Board’s votes and discussions January 22 are now posted at https://curricublog.wordpress.com/2009/01/26/sboe-jan22-meeting/ . There are also links on that page to three live blogs with text accounts of what was […]

  2. […] files for this meeting are now available here. Based on the audio, it sounds like McLeroy’s amendment passed with this amended wording: […]

  3. […] drill) I posted Texas State Board of Education (SBOE) Don McLeroy’s handout which he used at the Board’s meeting January 22 to trick some of the open-minded SBOE members into voting for his anti-Common Descent amendment to […]

  4. […] the Texas State Board of Education (SBOE) on January 23 included several amendments that it added January 22, amending the revised TEKS standards that were recommended by the writing teams of scientists and […]

  5. […] Click here for audio of the January 22 SBOE meetings […]

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