Thursday, December 06, 2007

Texas! Motto: When Kansas Gets Too Progressive

We're coming to you today from the Science Wing here in the marbled halls of IM Central. Well, actually it's the hall closet, but we're pretty sure there's something going on in that old pair of Nikes we threw in here back in July. Suggestion for all you kids looking for a science project: Wet sneakers, dark room.

But we digress. Actually the topic of today's presentation is evolution, or in the case of Texas, lack of evolution.

After 27 years as a science teacher and 9 years as the Texas Education Agency’s director of science, Christine Castillo Comer said she did not think she had to remain “neutral” about teaching the theory of evolution. "I got the memo last month that said the Texas legislature had approved the theory of gravity, so I just assumed. My bad," she told reporters.

But now Ms. Comer is out of a job, after forwarding an e-mail message on a talk about evolution and creationism. "We don't like it when people talk about things," said Lizzette Reynolds, deputy commissioner for statewide policy and programs. "That's how ideas spread."

Ms. Comer said that she was called in and informed that Reynolds had seen a copy and complained, calling it “an offense that calls for termination. Or as the godless evolutionists would say, extinction.”

Ms. Comer said she had no idea how Ms. Reynolds, a former federal education official who served as associate wacko to George W. Bush when he was pretending to be governor of Texas, had seen the message so quickly, and remembered thinking, “What is this, the thought police or what?”

"Uh, yeah?," Reynolds responded.

Debbie Ratcliffe, a spokeswoman for the state’s education agency, said Ms. Comer “resigned. She wasn’t fired. We told her she wanted to spend more time with her family.”

Her departure, which has stirred dismay among science professionals is a prelude to an expected battle early next year over rewriting the state’s science education standards. "Well, rewriting is a loaded word," Ratcliffe said. "Actually we're just planning to recopy standards we used before. In 1840."

“Our job,” Ms. Ratcliffe added, “is to enact laws and regulations that are passed by the Legislature or the State Board of Education and not to inject personal opinions and beliefs.” When asked whose 'personal opinions and beliefs' Ms Comer had injected, Ratcliffe replied, "Why Darwin's of course. He wasn't even an American. Did you know that?"

Ms. Comer disputed that characterization in a series of interviews, her first extensive comments. She acknowledged forwarding to a local online community an e-mail message from the National Center for Science Education, a pro-evolution group. "OK, let me stop you right there," Ratcliffe said. "Our first question to Ms. Comer was what was she doing associating with a known radical group like the National Center for Science Education. Do you know that organization is full of scientists?"

Ms. Comer said state education officials seemed uneasy lately over the required evolution curriculum. "I think it all started the day Don McLeroy, a dentist and Sunday School teacher showed up in a monkey suit started flinging feces at the board members. Afterwards I was asked several times if there was an opt out clause in Darwin's theory."

Several months ago, in response to an inquiry letter, Ms. Comer said she was instructed to strike her usual statement about the board’s support for teaching evolution and to quote instead the exact language of the high school biology standards as formulated for the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills test which says in part "We're sorry to have to keep teaching Satan's way. Soon we will drive the nonbelievers out and get back to instructing students in blind obedience to authority."

Ms. Comer said that Tom Shindell, director for organizational development, had told her to resign or be terminated for a series of unauthorized presentations at professional meetings and other reported transgressions. "He wanted to know what I, a representative of the state education agency, was doing going to conferences on education and giving talks about educational policy," Comer told reporters.


James said...

We're all so proud down here.

George said...

"Actually we're just planning to recopy standards we used before. In 1840."

But Texas didn't achieve statehood until 1845, so these standards are like from BC....

James said...

In 1840, Texas was still a republic. The standards then were probably better than what's being proposed now.

This was after all, a republic founded with a Declaration of Independence that contains this line:

" which every interest is disregarded but that of the army and the priesthood, both the eternal enemies of civil liberty, the everready minions of power, and the usual instruments of tyrants."

I bet we're not supposed to teach that either, though.


Ironicus Maximus said...

But Texas didn't achieve statehood until 1845, so these standards are like from BC....

Well, actually that'd be BT (Before Texas), or maybe BS (Before statehood) BS...hmmm...yes, we like that, something appropriate about it. Can't quite put our finger on it though...

George said...

I had a feeling James would know best on the subject of Texas.

On the subject of BS, I defer to Texas.