Testimony by J. Budziszewski to Texas SBOE

Honorable members of the Texas State Board of Education, my name is J. Budziszewski. I am a full Professor in both the Department of Government and the Department of Philosophy at the University of Texas at Austin. In my twenty-two years as a scholar of political philosophy, I have written six books and am a nationally recognized authority in my field of specialization. The subjects that I teach most often are the tradition of natural rights and natural law, the problem of toleration, the Constitutional thought of the American Founders, and the influence of religion on law and politics.

Although my teaching has included the philosophy of science, I am obviously not a natural scientist myself. Why then am I here? I speak today in support of the principle that young people should be educated, not propagandized — and I know something about what that means.

One of the most important differences between education and propaganda is how they deal with great controversies.

In education, students are taught about the controversies. In propaganda, they are shielded from them.

In education, students are taught both sides of the important debates. In propaganda, they are taught only one.

In education, students are taught both the strengths and the weaknesses of the officially favored theory. In propaganda, they are taught only its strengths.

In short, education is the training of minds, while propaganda is the training of prejudices. In a democratic republic, the public schools should not propagandize, but educate.

The mandatory curriculum guidelines for Texas, called Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS), agree with me. As we find in the science section of these guidelines, students must learn to “analyze, review, and critique scientific explanations, including hypotheses and theories, as to their strengths and weaknesses using scientific evidence and information.”

If the TEKS guidelines agree with me, then what is the issue? The issue is that some advocates defend making an exception to the TEKS guidelines in the case of the neo-Darwinist orthodoxy. The view is urged upon you, the Board, that although students should be taught about theoretical controversy in other scientific fields, they should not hear about the controversy about biological origins; that although they should be told about both sides of other scientific debates, they should be told only one side of the origins debate; that although they should learn to weigh both the strengths and the weaknesses of other controversial theories, they must be shielded from the weaknesses of the neo-Darwinist theory. Against this special pleading, I urge that biology should be taught like the other sciences, and that within biology, the neo-Darwinist theory should be taught like other controversial theories — with honesty about both sides.

Honorable members of the Board, when biology textbooks are biased, you are the check and balance. I urge you to require biology textbooks to let fresh air into the discussion of neo-Darwinist orthodoxy. I urge you require that the important scientific controversy about origins be taught, not suppressed. To do so would be not only good training in science, but good education in citizenship. Thank you.

J. Budziszewski

Fellow, Center for Science and Culture
Professor Budziszewski is a professor of government and philosophy at the University of Texas, Austin, where he also teaches courses in the law school and the religious studies department. He specializes in political philosophy, ethical philosophy, legal philosophy, and the interaction of religion with philosophy. Among his research interests are classical natural law, virtue ethics, conscience and moral self deception, the institution of the family in relation to political and social order, religion in public life, and the problem of toleration.