Texas Governor Rick Perry has been busy on the Presidential campaign trail touting his so-called “Texas Miracle,” claiming credit for job-growth in Texas that many believe is the direct result of President Obama’s American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (see the Talking Points Memo article). But wait: there may be a Texas Miracle after all—though not the one Governor Perry had in mind.
Despite fervent efforts by the Governor and many in the Texas State Legislature to force creationism and intelligent design creationism into public school science classes, evidence and evolution-based science has prevailed. That is a real miracle. While Obama carved out a stimulus package to spur job growth, Perry launched a full-scale attack against teaching the theory of evolution in public school science class. Evolution is the foundation of modern biology, and is vital across the US and in countries like China and India that are competing for the world’s top-science and technology jobs.
Governor Perry prematurely announced that “in Texas, we teach both creationism and evolution in our public schools.” Creationist Barbara Cargill, the Governor’s appointed Chair of the State Board of Education, bragged that the Texas School Board has “six true conservative Christians,” out of 15 members. She means there are six creationists on the board. And yet, when the school board had to vote on July 22nd on whether to adopt new evolution-based biology texts or creationist ones, the Board chose science over politics and approved new biology books. They voted down the on-line creationist textbook. This is especially important because given its size, Texas sets the standards for textbook adoption around the country.
Governor Perry didn’t just stop with the school board. The Texas Legislature tried to pass an unconstitutional intelligent design creationism law.
Miraculously, the bill wasn’t even heard in committee. Even if the bill had passed, it would have been challenged immediately for blatantly ignoring the 2005 court case, Kitzmiller v. Dover, which established that teaching public school science classes intelligent design creationism (which is creationism dressed up to look like science) violates the First Amendment and is unconstitutional.
When Perry spokeswoman Catherine Frazier defended the Governor’s statements about teaching creationism in Texas public schools, she noted that Texas education standards call for “all sides” of the theory of evolution to be discussed. According to Frazier, this requires students “to evaluate and analyze the theory of evolution, and creationism very likely comes up and is discussed in that process. Teachers are also permitted to discuss it with students in that context.” Unfortunately, Frazier is correct. These “code words” within the standards allow a loophole for creationists to sneak the unconstitutional teaching of creationism in public school science class
This is a gaping hole in science standards that must be corrected. Not only that, Texas science standards should be rewritten to emphasize the importance of evolution to all of biology. According to the American Association of the Advancement of Science, the largest science organization in the world with over ten million members, “the science of evolution underpins all of modern biology and is supported by tens of thousands of studies… It informs scientific research in a broad range of fields such as agriculture and medicine, work that has an important impact on our everyday lives.” We need to emphasize evolution in our public school science class and prepare Texas students to take cutting edge science jobs once they graduate. If that happened, that would be a real Texas Miracle.