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Texas Is Just Confusing

In a mixed outcome, Texas' State Board of Education voted last Friday, 13 to 2, to drop the "strengths and weaknesses" clause from its science curriculum standards and replace that with a requirement for teachers to encourage students to "analyze, evaluate, and critique scientific explanations by using empirical evidence, logical reasoning and experimental and observational testing."

On his blog, PZ Myers wonders how students are going to find time to master the whole of the scientific literature in a semester. In a related post, he adds, "Science wasn't murdered by the Texas board, but is only being wounded and made to suffer the torture of a thousand cuts."

The new language is "contradictory and convoluted" says Kathy Miller, the president of the watchdog group Texas Freedom Network. She adds that "the board crafted a road map that creationists will use to pressure publishers into putting phony arguments attacking established science into textbooks."

Barbara Cargill, a member of the board, says the new standards are clearer than the old ones and since the standards now lack "code words," that got the board to "agree that this is how we'll teach all sides of scientific explanation, using scientific evidence."

Since Texas is one of the largest purchasers of textbooks in the United States, decisions made there affect classrooms in other states. "It's kind of like the Wal-Mart effect," the National Center for Science Education spokesperson Steven Newton explains in's post.

It isn't just evolution that is under doubt; the big-bang theory is also reviled. The Wall Street Journal reports that board members also deleted a reference to the universe being 14 billion years old.

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