Critics say easing state standards opens door to creationism in schools

AUSTIN (KXAN) — The Texas Board of Education plans to ease up on the curriculum requirements for high school science classes; a change that some say discredits the theory of evolution.

In a preliminary vote on Wednesday, the board sided with a panel of teachers, not the scientists who warned against the changes. Opponents believe the vote will open the door to creationism in public schools.

The State Board of Education wants to simplify science requirements to streamline how public schools teach evolution to high school students. A committee of teachers and scholars says the state’s current standard to teach and scrutinize all sides of science theory is too time consuming and confusing for students to learn.

“Who am I to argue with the educators who are on the front-lines dealing with our kids day in and day out,” said Ruben Cortez, District Two State Board of Education.

Supporters say the proposal encourages critical thinking despite federal court rulings against teaching creation and intelligent design theories in public schools. Critics argue the changes are a back door approach to get creationism into classrooms.

Barbara Cargill, District Two State Board of Education, introduced new language to the state’s standard that was not recommended by the streamline committee.

“I think it’s something that our kids need to talk about they need to know currently out there. Like the big bang, a lot of different theories,” said Cargill.

Daniel Bolnik, an integrative biology professor at the University of Texas, says the language casts doubt on the theory of evolution. The state standards do not mention creationism.

“Evolution is a founding idea of biology,” said Bolnick. “Anytime you throw mud at an idea and you allow disclaimers that are ill founded to be included, you are going to undermine people’s opinion of the topic.”

Board members on both sides of the vote say the goal is to keep the state’s curriculum focused on scientific explanations. The vote was largely split down party lines with Republicans in favor of adding language that was not recommended by the Committee of Educators. The Texas Board of Education will take a final vote in April.

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