Science curriculum director resigns from Texas Education Agency

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Friday, November 30, 2007

Christine Comer resigned this month as the director of the science curriculum for the Texas Education Agency's (TEA) director after more than nine years. Comer said her resignation was due to pressure from officials who claimed she had given the appearance of criticizing the teaching of intelligent design.

According to documents obtained by the Austin American-Statesman, "Comer was put on 30 days paid administrative leave shortly after she forwarded an e-mail in late October announcing a presentation by Barbara Forrest, a critic of the intelligent design/creationist movement. Forrest served as an expert witness at the Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District trial. At Dover, intelligent design was ruled "a religious view, a mere re-labeling of creationism, and not a scientific theory." There is widespread scientific support for evolution, while creationism has been described as pseudoscience by the scientific community.

Comer's resignation comes shortly ahead of the TEA's State Board of Education (SBOE) reviews of the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS), which determine what should be taught in the classrooms and what textbooks are bought.

The advocacy group Texas Citizens for Science have released a statement saying, in part, "The real reason [Comer] was forced to resign is because the top TEA administrators and some SBOE members wanted her out of the picture before the state science standards—the science TEKS—were reviewed, revised, and rewritten next year. Plans are underway by some SBOE members and TEA administrators to diminish the requirement to teach about evolutionary biology in the Biology TEKS and to require instead that biology instructors 'Teach the Controversy' about the 'weaknesses' of evolution, that is, teach the Creationist-inspired and -created bogus controversy about evolution that doesn't exist within legitimate science."

Professor PZ Myers, biology professor at the University of Minnesota, Morris, wrote that Forrest is "exactly the kind of person boards of education ought to consult before going down the road of attempting to legislate religion into the public schools."

In reaction to the news Forrest told National Center for Science Education, "In my talk, I simply told the truth -- about the history of the 'intelligent design' movement, about the complete rejection of its claims by the scientific community, and about the Kitzmiller trial and my involvement in it. Maybe the TEA can't afford to take a position on what constitutes good science education -- maybe it must remain neutral on whether or not to lie to students about evolution -- but if so, that's just sad."

Agency officials declined to comment, saying it was a personnel issue.

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