Texas Improves on Strengths and Weaknesses Language in Science Standards on Teaching Evolution

Texas Now Leads Nation in Requiring Critical Analysis of Evolution
Discovery Institute
March 27, 2009

Austin, TX — Today, the Texas Board of Education chose science over dogma and adopted science standards improving on the old "strengths and weaknesses" language by requiring students to “critique” and examine “all sides of scientific evidence.” In addition, the Board—for the first time— specifically required high school students to “analyze and evaluate” the evidence for major evolutionary concepts such as common ancestry, natural selection, and mutations. 

The new science standards mark a significant victory for scientists and educators in favor of teaching the scientific evidence for and against evolution.

“Texas now has the most progressive science standards on evolution in the entire nation,” said Dr. John West, Senior Fellow at Discovery Institute.  “Contrary to the claims of the evolution lobby, absolutely nothing the Board did promotes ‘creationism’ or religion in the classroom. Groups that assert otherwise are lying, plain and simple. Like the boy who cried ‘Wolf,’ the Darwin only lobby always screams ‘creationism!’ anytime educators or policymakers try to ensure a fair presentation of the scientific evidence both for and against evolution. Let’s be absolutely clear: Under the new standards, students will be expected to analyze and evaluate the scientific evidence for evolution, not religion. Period.”

The science standards approved today by the Texas State Board of Education include language requiring students to "analyze, evaluate and critique scientific explanations…including examining all sides of scientific evidence… so as to encourage critical thinking by the student."  Equally important, the high school biology standards now require students to “analyze and evaluate” the scientific evidence for key parts of evolutionary theory, including common ancestry, natural selection, and mutations.

The most significant changes are:

  • The adoption of a new critical inquiry standard improving on the old "strengths and weaknesses" language: “in all fields of science, analyze, evaluate and critique scientific explanations by using empirical evidence, logical reasoning, and experimental and observational testing including examining all sides of scientific evidence of those scientific explanations so as to encourage critical thinking by the student."
  • The addition of "analyze and evaluate" to all of the high school biology evolution standards (no such language was included in the existing evolution standards). Students are now specifically required to evaluate the evidence regarding major evolutionary topics such as common ancestry, natural selection and mutations.
  • The addition of two new standards in the high school biology evolution section of the TEKS requiring students to analyze and evaluate scientific explanations concerning the fossil record and the complexity of the cell. 
  • The adoption of a new high school biology standard dealing with origin of life research and chemical evolution that calls on students to "analyze and evaluate” the scientific evidence regarding formation of DNA molecules.

During its deliberations, the Board was presented with hundreds of articles from mainstream science publications documenting various scientific controversies over major evolutionary claims, and this past week the Board heard testimony from science teachers, students, and Ph.D. biologists about the need for students to critically analyze the scientific evidence for evolution.

Texas becomes the seventh state to specifically require in its science standards that students critically analyze key aspects of evolutionary theory, joining Minnesota, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, Missouri, South Carolina, and Alabama. Two other states, Louisiana and Mississippi, have adopted legislation protecting the academic freedom of teachers and students to discuss scientific evidence critical of Darwin’s theory.

In January, a national Zogby telephone poll showed that more than 78% of likely voters favor teaching students the evidence for and against Darwin’s theory, up from 69% in 2006.