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New York Times Gets It Wrong: Teaching Strengths and Weaknesses Is Nothing New

The New York Times is reporting on the scheduled review of Texas' science standards later this year by the state school board. Seems like this must be reporter Laura Beil's first rodeo because she gets all excited (mistakenly) about something that is old hat in Texas: textbook wrangling.

Now a battle looms in Texas over science textbooks that teach evolution, and the wrestle for control seizes on three words. None of them are "creationism" or "intelligent design" or even "creator."

The words are "strengths and weaknesses."

Surely Beil did some research and found out that this battle last played out five years ago, so it's hardly new. Back then the issue really was textbooks. This time it's the language of the science standards themselves.

According to the critics, (of which Beil interviewed quite a few, as opposed to the one single person she spoke to that favors the current science standards, but balance and accuracy aren't exactly currency of the realm in the Times' news rooms, either Dallas or New York) the Texas science standards need to be revised to remove the phrase "strengths and weaknesses." They make the claim, and Beil runs with it, that this is a brand new idea cooked up by Discovery Institute.

As they say in Texas, "you can put your boots in the oven but that doesn't make 'em biscuits."

The central premise that teaching "strengths and weaknesses" of Darwin's theory (and chemical origin of life theories) is a new, post-Dover innovation is flagrantly false.

That this is false can be proven with only a minimal amount of research, which makes it so much more surprising that Beil would blindly follow the assertions of the NCSE and others without bothering to call the people they're attacking -- Discovery Institute and Texans for Better Science Education.

Let's review. In 1998, the Texas Board of Education adopted the current set of science standards calling on students "to analyze, review, and critique scientific explanations, including hypotheses and theories, as to their strengths and weaknesses using scientific evidence and information." You can read the standards for yourself here. This is the language that the New York Times now insists is a new development!

But there's more. The year 1998 was also when Discovery Institute began defending the academic freedom of high school teacher Roger DeHart to teach the evidence for and against Darwin's theory. (You can see his story told in the DVD "Icons of Evolution.")

In 2002, the Ohio State Board of Education adopted a policy calling for students to be able to "critically analyze aspects of evolutionary theory." During the same year there were hearings before the board in which the strengths and weaknesses of evolution were discussed, and dozens of scientists petitioned the board to include critical analysis of evolution in the curriculum.

In 2003, the Texas Board of Education was asked to enforce its previously adopted "strengths and weaknesses" language in the adoption of biology textbooks that year. Unfortunately, the Board didn't do that, although it did insist that numerous errors overstating the evidence for Darwin's theory be corrected in the textbooks.

In 2004, Alabama introduced an academic freedom bill to protect the right of teachers to teach the scientific evidence for and against Darwin's theory. The Alabama bill has served as a model for many of the academic freedom bills on evolution that came later.

During the same year, a school district in Grantsburg, WI adopted the following science standard:

Students are expected to analyze, review, and critique scientific explanations, including hypotheses and theories, as to their strengths and weaknesses using scientific evidence and information. Students shall be able to explain the scientific strengths and weaknesses of evolutionary theory. This policy does not call for the teaching of Creationism or Intelligent Design.

All of this happened before anyone skeptical of Darwin's theory ever had the misfortune of even hearing about the squabbles of folks in Dover, PA.

Following Dover, the effort to protect the right of teachers to cover the strengths and weaknesses of Darwin's theory continued. In 2006, Oklahoma's legislature considered an academic freedom bill, and local school boards in Louisiana and California adopted academic freedom policies dealing with covering the strengths and weaknesses of evolution and other science issues.

The story that critically examining the strengths and weaknesses of Darwin's theory in the classroom is some newfangled idea is absurd. This is just another attempt of Darwinists to ignore the facts--which is certainly something they have a lot of practice doing.