Archive for Texas Freedom Network

The latest on the Texas science standards

Posted in Education, Evolution, Texas with tags , , , , , , on March 26, 2009 by airtightnoodle

For live blogging updates on the current debates over the Texas science standards, visit the blog of the Texas Freedom Network here.

Take action to support science in Texas!

Posted in Education, Evolution, Texas with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on January 20, 2009 by airtightnoodle

From the Texas Freedom Network:

This Wednesday the State Board of Education will hear public testimony on proposed science curriculum standards. The new draft standards reject efforts by creationists to undermine instruction on evolution. They also make it clear that supernatural explanations like creationism/”intelligent design” have no place in public school science classes. But creationists who control the state board are insisting that the standards require students to learn phony “weaknesses” of evolution. They want to force publishers to include those bogus arguments in new biology textbooks.

Take Action!

Help us turn back efforts to sabotage the education of Texas schoolchildren by standing up for science this week!SUFS

  • Click here to sign up to testify before the State Board of Education IN SUPPORT OF THE DRAFT STANDARDS at the public hearing on Wednesday. The board will hear only four hours of testimony. But even if you don’t get a chance to speak, adding your name in support of the draft standards is very important. Also, supporters of the draft standards will WEAR GREEN at the hearing to show their support for a sound science education.
  • Tell your state board member that you SUPPORT the draft science standards and OPPOSE efforts to water down the curriculum by opening the door to phony attacks against evolution. Click here to find the name and contact information for your State Board of Education member. Once you have the name of your board member, you can also click here to send an e-mail to him or her in care of the Texas Education Agency.
  • Donate to the Texas Freedom Networks’ Stand Up for Science campaign. Your contribution will help ensure that the next generation of Texas schoolchildren gets a 21st-century science education that helps them succeed in college and the jobs of the future.



Controversy over at TFN and a brief conversation with Don McLeroy

Posted in Education, Evolution, Texas with tags , , , , , , , , , on December 9, 2008 by airtightnoodle

As mentioned previously, the Texas Freedom Network and Tony Whitson of Curricublog have pointed out the seemingly contradictory statements of certain board members regarding their views on teaching evolution.  Anyone following the conversation at the Texas Freedom Network over the Texas board of education’s views on teaching creationism and intelligent design has surely noted the controversy in the comments.  One of the more pertinent questions raised by Larry Farfarman was basically thus:

How did the voter’s guide phrase the questions to candidates?

For instance, as Larry Farfarman stated over at TFN:

How do you know that the term “CREATIONISM” was included in the questionnaire that was sent to the candidates? How do you know that “CREATIONISM” was not just a title that was added afterwards to the question when the responses were published in the voter guide? You don’t know.

So…after much back and forth, I decided to ask the Free Market Foundation, who publishes the voter’s guides in question, myself.  I sent them the following email on December 7, 2008:

Hello.  I browsed through your voter’s guide for 2008 before the election this year and had a question about how the voter’s guide is created.  At the top of the voter’s guide there are summaries of the questions that were asked to candidates.  For example, for Sexual Orientation it said: Add a law protecting students from sexual orientation discrimination.
Is this exactly how the question was phrased to the candidates, or did the questions they received look or sound different in any way?  This would be helpful to know in the future.  Thank you!

Tonya Peterson from the Free Market Foundation responded quickly and concisely stating:

These are the exact wording the candidates received. They answered on the scale from strongly for to strongly against.
I hope this answered your question.

Many thanks to Tonya for a speedy reply.

Now, I could have stopped there, but since I was already online at the time (which is rare at home these days), I decided to investigate just a wee bit further.  I emailed Don McLeroy, the head of our state board of education.

Here is the text of my email to Mr. McLeroy (also sent on December 7, 2008):

Mr. Mcleroy,
As a Texas citizen, I am concerned about the future of science education in our great state.  Recently you made the statement that you are unaware of any board member (referring to the state board of education) that advocates or has ever advocated teaching creationism, intelligent design, or supernatural explanations in the science classroom. 
Yet when perusing old news articles and more, it seems that you do support, or have supported creationism and intelligent design.
The 2006 Voter’s Guide from the Free Market Foundation stated that you support teaching intelligent design alongside evolution.  You were not the only board member to respond in such a manner.
The 2002 Voter’s Guide also showed that you supported teaching intelligent design and not just evolution.  Again, you were not the only board member to respond this way.
Can you please clarify?  Do you, or do you not, support teaching intelligent design and/or creationism alongside evolution in Texas science classrooms?
Thank you very much for your time.

Mr. McLeroy also replied promptly stating the following:

Airtight: Good question. I had forgotten about those voter guides when I made my statement. My mistake. It is true, however, that I have never stated that I want to teach Creationism or Intelligent Design nor do I want to. Voter guides leave little wiggle room sometimes; they will put you in a box and you have to choose which box in which best represents your views.

While I am unsure how Mr. Mcleroy can claim that he has never wanted to teach creationism or intelligent design despite what he acknowledges answering in the voter’s guides, I do thank him for a speedy reply.  I am not sure what position Mr. McLeroy does have that prompted him to answer in such a manner, even if he does not really feel that way.  Plus, as one can tell by viewing old voter’s guides from the Free Market Foundation, candidates do have the opportunity to expand on their views or to decline answering certain questions.  They can also explain why they are declining to answer certain questions. 

Related links you may be interested in:

Don McLeroy Jenkins

Creationist Evolution in Texas from The Panda’s Thumb

Texas SBOE–no one wants to teach creationism/intelligent design

Posted in Education, Evolution, Texas with tags , , , , , , , , on December 3, 2008 by airtightnoodle

Don McLeroy is on the record as saying recently during testimony at the state board of education that he knows of no one on the board that has ever wanted to teach these ideas as part of science curriculum.  Yet McLeroy HIMSELF has advocated teaching creationism in the past! 


I recommend reading the following two blog posts from Tony Whitson and the Texas Freedom Network for more information.

Discovery Institute jumps into the Texas science fray

Posted in Evolution, Texas with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 19, 2008 by airtightnoodle

Thanks to Jeremy over at An Evolving Creation for alerting us to the latest in the debate over the Texas science standards.



As mentioned recently on this blog, a review panel has been appointed by the State Board of Education to review the changes proposed for the science (and especially biology) TEKS (Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills).  In that blog entry, I mentioned the potential conflict of interest with two of the members of the review panel, Stephen Meyer and Ralph Seelke, who are authors of a high school biology textbook called “Explore Evolution”, known for being critical of evolutionary theory.

The Discovery Institute attempted to turn the tables on the Texas Freedom Network, who first reported this conflict of interest on the panel: 

What the TFN doesn’t reveal is that another of the expert reviewers co-authored a one-sided, Darwin-only textbook! David Hillis, a biology professor at UT Austin co-authored the 2008 edition of Life: The Science of Biology, a textbook whose previous editions have been approved for use in Texas high schools.

We’ll let the ignorant “one-sided, Darwin only” statement go. 

To the uninformed, the above quote might sound pretty damning.  Combined with the next statements, one might reasonably question the Texas Freedom Network and their cries of outrage.

Hillis also serves as a spokesman for a pro-evolution lobbying group that is trying to remove language in the Texas science standards requiring students to study the “strengths and weaknesses” of scientific theories. Gerald Skoog, another expert reviewer, has signed a statement issued by the same pro-evolution group, and he too has been a science textbook author and has a long history as a pro-Darwin activist.

Casey Luskin, Discovery Institute

Casey Luskin

Casey Luskin of the Discovery Institute certainly thinks the TFN is being hypocritical.

“If being a textbook author really is a ‘conflict of interest,’ then why isn’t TFN attacking Hillis and Skoog?” asked Casey Luskin, program officer for public policy and legal affairs at Discovery Institute’s Center for Science and Culture.

Well, Casey, let’s tackle that question.  Why ISN’T the TFN attacking Hillis and Skoog? 

It’s pretty simple, really.  Hillis’ book, Life: The Science of Biology, is a college-level book.  It is not one of the books widely used in the state of Texas for teaching high school biology (that honor goes to Kenneth Miller’s and Joseph Levine’s Biology book).  Hillis’ book is one book of several that can be used in a college-level high school biology class–in other words, an Advanced Placement class.  The curriculum and standards for such classes are NOT  set by the state of Texas.  AP class standards are governed by the College Board.  Thus, there is no conflict of interest where Hillis is concerned.

Furthermore, a brief search for textbooks written by Gerald Skoog reveals that the last one he co-authored appears to have been published in 1999.  This book was titled, “Science Insights: Exploring Earth & Space“, and was a middle-school level textbook.  Naturally, this would not be appropriate at the high school level.  Again, there is no conflict of interest here.

Interestingly, the article from the Discovery Institute actually reveals another conflict of interest on their part:

Dr. Meyer is director and Senior Fellow of the Center for Science and Culture at the Discovery Institute…

Aha!  Well of course the DI feels the need to defend Meyer against the allegations of the TFN!  He’s one of theirs!  Naturally, they must come to the rescue of Seelke as well, since he was involved in the Kansas evolution hearings which resulted in Kansas including anti-evolution standards in science curriculum–which we thankfully remind readers were overturned in 2007. 

Texas Freedom Network: Stand Up for Science!

Posted in Education, Evolution with tags , , , , on June 7, 2008 by airtightnoodle

I received the following email from the Texas Freedom Network recently:

The Texas Freedom Network has been warning that biblical creationists on the State Board of Education are determined to promote their personal religious beliefs over sound science in our state’s public schools.

We were right.

In the last week the New York Times and the Hearst newspaper chain, which includes the Houston Chronicle and the San Antonio Express-News, have published major stories detailing the religious right’s anti-science strategy in Texas . Read those stories by clicking here for the New York Times and here for the Houston Chronicle.

The words of biblical creationists on the state board should erase any remaining doubts about the coming battle:

The battle is between “two systems of science. . . . You’ve got a creationist system and a naturalist system.”
— Board chairman Don McLeroy, R-Bryan

“Evolution is not fact. Evolution is a theory and, as such, cannot be proven. Students need to be able to jump to their own conclusions.”
— David Bradley, R-Beaumont

“I just don’t think (evolution is) true or it’s ever happened.”
— Board chairman Don McLeroy, R-Bryan

The New York Times and Hearst stories pull back the curtain on the real agenda of creationists on the state board: requiring that teachers and new science textbooks teach students phony “weaknesses” of the theory of evolution. This year creationist crusaders are taking unprecedented steps to win the battle. Far-right groups have even poured millions of dollars into making and marketing an anti-evolution feature film, Expelled!, promoting their phony arguments.

Mainstream scientists have repeatedly debunked those myths and point out that evolution has been documented by solid research beyond a reasonable doubt. Those scientists know that the phony “weaknesses” argument is just a political gimmick. Its goal is to create doubts about evolution and open the door to teaching religious doctrine in science classes instead.

The religious right’s anti-science strategy would turn the clock backward in Texas , sentencing our schoolchildren to a 19th-century education in their 21st-century classrooms. The state’s universities and industry would also suffer as Texas becomes the nation’s laughingstock and gains the reputation of being a scientifically backward state.

Biblical creationists hold a near majority on the State Board of Education. To thwart their efforts and hold on to the votes we need to win, the Texas Freedom Network has launched a broad-based campaign to promote sound science education in our public schools. This campaign will require more resources, more activists and more broad-based support than any of our previous efforts.

In fact, the Stand Up for Science campaign already includes a growing coalition of scientists, business leaders, educators and mainstream activists working to remove the phony “weaknesses” language from state’s public school science standards.

You can help. Take action by doing three things right now:

1. Sign the Stand Up for Science petition by clicking here. TFN will keep you informed and give you the tools to advocate for sound science education in our public schools.
2. Donate to the Texas Freedom Network by clicking here. Your donation will help the Stand Up for Science campaign compete with the massive funding behind far-right groups promoting religious doctrine in public school science classes.
3. Forward this e-mail to other supporters of sound science education and encourage them to join this important cause.

With your help, the Texas Freedom Network will lead the fight for sound science in our state’s public schools. The future of our schoolchildren’s education and the economy of this state depend on it.


Kathy Miller
Texas Freedom Network

P.S. Your support will help TFN sponsor Stand Up for Science events around the state, ensuring that the voices of mainstream activists in key state board districts are heard.