The Texas Board of Education plans to hold a final vote to update evolution curriculum.
Last Friday, the board voted to approve changes to the evolutionary curriculum taught in classrooms across Texas. Since 2009, the state has mandated that, in addition to teaching natural selection, teachers should also cover material that could potentially challenge evolution, such as gaps in the fossil record.
The 2009 mandate justified the policy by stating that students need to examine the evidence for evolution from all sides in order to develop critical thinking skills.
The board specifically decided to keep curriculum over human cells, the origins of life and material that highlighted gaps in the fossil record.
Evolutionary sciences postdoctoral student Emma Dietrich said more changes need to be made to the curriculum.
“I’m glad that the State Board of Education approved the streamlining of one of the standards last week,” Dietrich said. “But I’m disappointed that they did not approve the suggestions made by the streamlining committee for the other three controversial standards.”
Biochemistry sophomore Farbode Karimi said he believes this does not necessarily undermine science’s role in attempting to explain the development of life.
“Part of science is analyzing data reliability,” Karimi said. “If there are gaps in data, this needs to be analyzed and scrutinized.”
Marisa Perez, a member of the Texas Board of Education, said she believes peer-reviewed research based on empirical science needs to be emphasized in the Texas public school curriculum.
“It is absolutely foolish to dismiss scientific fact, and to do so in our state standards sets our Texas scholars back from (students in other states),” Perez said.
Integrative biology professor Mark Kirkpatrick added that keeping lessons about cell complexity and the origin of life in the Texas curriculum is a small step in the right direction.
Biology professor Ruth Buskirk said it is hard for scientists to ensure that science-based evidence remains a major component of Texas’ curriculum on evolution.
“Scientific committees can only recommend changes to the state board,” Buskirk said. “They have no voting power at the Board of Education.”
The board will vote again in April to confirm whether these changes will be implemented.
Biochemistry freshman Vishnu Nair said that scientists need to keep trying to make a difference.
“We need more legitimate evidence in the sphere of politics,” Nair said. “Having scientists express what they think about the curriculum would help that.”