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Just Ignore The Evidence

I think I’ve figured out one big problem with science education in some parts of this country: we have too many people who know nothing about science trying to write the curriculum.

The latest case in point comes from Texas where the State Board of Education has just approved new science standards containing all kinds of non-scientific crap.

However, it’s this attitude from the board chair that highlights an unfortunate distain for the whole concept of education in the first place.

Board Chair Don McLeroy did not disappoint, as evidenced in this YouTube video in which he makes an impassioned plea for two amendments to the standards that would undercut instruction on evolution. Mystified as to why the scientific community didn’t see things the way he did and apparently unable to contemplate the possibility that he has things wrong, McLeroy urges the board to join a crusade against the scientific community. “Somebody has to stand up to these experts,” he said, while expressing incredulity about their opposition, stating, “I don’t know why they’re doing it.” Elsewhere, he argued that evolution isn’t science, saying, “it’s an ideology” and “evolution goes back to someone who came up with a philosophical speculation.”

Those “experts” he wants to stand up to are, by definition, people with a “comprehensive and authoritative knowledge or skill in a particular area”. Also known as scientists in this particular area.mad_scientist.png

Oh, but the chairman does approve of genetics which “goes back to a Christian monk” (that would be Gregor Mendel – even I remember that from my science classes :-).

Anyway, the primary focus of the new standards would have students “analyze, evaluate, and critique scientific explanations” based in part on “examining all sides of scientific evidence of those scientific experiments”.

Which, of course, says that “all sides” should have equal weight in the discussion even if they don’t provide equal evidence.

More generally, this focus on multiple theories makes frequent appearances when elected bodies, like school boards and state legislatures, attempt to modify science education. It suggests that, when faced with the fact that science has adopted a theory that the officials dislike, they assume there must be another, competing theory that is more amenable to their beliefs. In reality, having an explanatory model reach the status of scientific theory by necessity means that it explains the scientific data better than competing ideas, so there rarely are competing theories.

But the bottom line here is that the Board in Texas wants their kids to get a good science education, possibly even a “world class” science education (to use the popular political modifier), as long as the scientific evidence doesn’t get in the way of Mr. McLeory’s beliefs.

And we don’t need no stinkin’ experts to do it.

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1 Comment

  1. Dave

    Right on. You can usually tell who you can safely ignore by looking for people who seem to pride themselves on not understanding the other side. I mean, how can you ever expect an informed opinion from someone who is defining their worth based on their lack of understanding and knowledge?

    Intelligent, caring people who approach disagreements neutrally looking for the best solution usually see a lack of understanding as a personal fault that they try to correct. They find a patient person arguing for the point they don’t understand, and they spend time trying to learn about the argument and why someone might support it.

    It’s embarrassing to have education officials who are so proud of not understanding.

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