I get periodic emails from the American institute of Biological Sciences (AIBS) and those often include an update on evolution education in the US. I have to say that it is a bit depressing when the best news these reports convey is about things that were not acted on. Italicized text below is from the report.
Battles over evolution education continue around the country. Most recently, on 10 July 2009, Texas Governor Rick Perry (R) named Gail Rowe to chair the State Board of Education (SBOE). Lowe will replace Don McLeroy, the avowed creationist who failed to win confirmation from the Texas Senate on 28 May 2009. Evolution advocates are not happy with the appointment of Ms. Lowe, who in 2003 and 2009, voted to include creationist criticisms of evolution in science textbooks and curriculum standards.
I've covered this situation a bit already, but this is the same old game of pseudoaction that happens all the time in this whack-a-loon game. Someone gets ousted for being a little too crazy, but is replaced by someone just as crazy, but less loud about it. That's not to say that it's all bad in Texas! Our one bit of good news comes from the state.
Also in Texas, House Bills (HB) 2800 and 4224 died when the state legislature adjourned on 1 June 2009. HB 2800 would have allowed institutions such as the Institute for Creation Research's (ICR) graduate school to offer a master's degree in science education despite the Texas Higher Education Coordination Board (THECB) 2008 decision to deny the ICR's request to offer the degree. The ICR is currently suing in federal court over the THECB decision. The second bill, HB 4224, would have required the SBOE to restore the controversial "strengths and weaknesses" language in the Texas state science standards that was removed after a vote during the 25-27 March 2009 meeting of the SBOE.
Yay! No one did anything! Basically, but letting these two balls drop it at least represents a significant delay to both efforts, if not more. Each would have to be reintroduced in the next session of the house and wait their turn again. Often if bills die on the floor without a vote, they are not introduced again. Sometimes they are re-worded to sound different and thrown back in the ring. We'll have to see.
Not to be outdone, South Carolina wants part of the nut-o spotlight.
In South Carolina, Senate Bill 873 was introduced on 21 May 2009. This bill, if enacted, would require the state board of education to review all science curricula for neutrality towards religion to ensure that it does not show preference for "those who believe in no religion over those who hold religious beliefs." The sponsor of the bill, Senator Michael Fair (R-District 6), has previously sponsored bills that would support the teaching of intelligent design in science courses.
Oh, how coy of you Senator Fair! Let's make this a religious persecution issue AND not specify any poor, poor attacked religion, just to we can hold hands in unity against this injustice! We wouldn't want people persecuted for their beliefs! Unless they believe in a different deity, no deity, wear different hats or even read a slightly different version of the same book. Those people are the enemy.
Lest we forget that these issues are not only from Southern states, let's crank the crazo-meter to 11.
In Ohio, the John Freshwater saga continues. Freshwater, the eighth grade science teacher facing dismissal for allegedly preaching in the classroom, has reportedly filed a lawsuit against the Mount Vernon School Board, four district administrators, and several others involved in the 2008 federal lawsuit against him. Freshwater had been sued in June 2008 for allegedly bringing religion into school by posting the Ten Commandments and Bible verses in his classroom, branding crosses into students arms with an electrical device, and teaching creationism. The Mount Vernon City School District Board of Education has been involved in proceedings to terminate his employment since October 2008.
What? You want to fire a guy for branding his students with crosses in science class. Come on. If we can't brand our students, how are we supposed to know which ones have already taken the course? Mr. Freshwater totally sounds like a stand up guy and pillar of the community. What do you think is the basis of his wrongful termination suit? I'll be curious to find out, because I am always looking for new sources of unintentional comedy.