The State Board of Education recently debated how Texas students will learn about hot-button issues including climate change and evolution. Predictably, the review devolved into a political and ideological morass.
There is room for diversity of perspectives in instruction, but classrooms shouldn’t be reduced to an arena of competing ideologies where fringe theories or religious beliefs are presented with equal weight against widespread scientific consensus.
Last Tuesday, the state board withheld preliminary approval for certain science textbooks after some members argued that the texts focused too much on human contributions to climate change, greatly emphasized evolution as the origin of life and failed to portray other belief systems like creationism.
The board met again on Friday to revisit some of its decisions about inclusion and rejection of certain texts. Some were brought back and others weren’t, often for the wrong reasons. It was business as usual.
The board’s discussion about what is and isn’t acceptable misses ones of the most foundational principles of good education. It should be about presenting good content that provokes critical thinking, not stressing ideology.
It isn’t easy for the average adult to figure out what is and isn’t true about complex topics like climate change and evolution, and expecting children to be able to accomplish this on their own is absurd. That’s particularly true with regard to topics which have little or no scientific evidence behind them.
Diversity of perspective and experience is a good thing. But science is about proof.
There is a place for philosophical and even theological instruction that complements education in the sciences. Young people who learn about philosophical and theological inquiry would be well-prepared to ask hard questions about scientific findings.
But the sloppy mingling of the two, even dressed up in pseudo-scientific language such as Intelligent Design, only muddies what should be clear instruction. It does precious little to prepare our students for the highly competitive world of science.
We can assure you that most other states, not to mention nations like China, are concerned first with making sure students get rigorous science training.
So let’s set aside the ideology and stick with the facts. That’s a better way to educate the next generation of Texans.
The Dallas Morning News