One backwards leap for Texas

By Phil Plait | September 20, 2009 8:00 am

I keep wondering what kind of dumbosity people associated with the Texas Board of Education can come up with next, and I keep being surprised at the depths of teh stoopid. And this time it’s not creationism!

It’s NASA. According to Houston Chronicle blogger Eric Berger, there’s a proposal to remove Neil Armstrong’s name from social studies textbooks.

Yes, you read that correctly. The proposal was suggested by teachers and parents reviewing materials, because Armstrong "is not a scientist".

Wha wha whaaaa?

I could argue that technically that’s correct, since Armstrong’s an engineer, which is different than a research scientist. Still, he did do some modicum of science when he walked on the frakking Moon. I think maybe he should be given the benefit of the doubt on this one*

Plus, his foot was the first planted on another world, and maybe we’re not being too tough on students to know that. And the irony that this is Texas! They have a big city there called Houston which has some NASA ties, as in "Houston, Tranquility Base here. The Eagle has landed."

So, to the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills review team, this one’s for you:

The stupid, it burns

Tip o’ the ten gallon hat to BABlogee Earl Ware

[Update: the comments below are raging, and many people seem to have missed my point. it has nothing at all to do with whether Armstrong is a scientist or not. The point I am making is that he was the first person to walk on another world! That's why I bolded that phrase in the article above. Leaving him out of the history book is madness, scientist or engineer or otherwise. And another point: I understand history books cannot cover everything that ever happened ever. But leaving this particular person out is -- stop me if you've heard this before -- madness, especially when the people thinking of leaving him out are from Texas in the first place.]


* I’ll note, however, that Carl Sagan’s name will be left out of the textbook as well, though he was in fact a scientist, and a good one. On the other hand, without knowing his relevance to the issues discussed in the textbook I’m not too concerned about this — it’s just that the BoE’s excuse for Armstrong strikes me as a little weak given this.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Antiscience, NASA, Piece of mind

Comments (179)

  1. And the irony that this is Texas! They have a big city there called Houston which has some NASA ties, as in “Houston, Tranquility Base here. The Eagle has landed.”

    Or,

    “Houston, we have a problem.”

    Sorry, had to reach for the low-hanging fruit. :)

  2. Brett G

    Apparently the plan goes a lot deeper than just Neil Armstrong, which is pretty bad, and a slap in the face in and of itself.

    They also want to remove Caeser Chavez, Thurgood Marshall, Martin Luther King JR, Rosa Parks and Franklin D. Roosevelt.

    And add references to Newt Gingrich and Rush Limbaugh.

    Because ‘liberals’ out number references to people that identify themselves as ‘conservative’.

    WTF? seriously? History is not about Liberal vs. Conservative, nimrods.

    I think it is time to let Texas seceed.

    Good luck President Norris.

    http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/nationworld/sns-ap-us-texas-schools-social-studies,0,1404335.story

    http://blog.taragana.com/n/rosa-parks-ben-franklin-rush-limbaugh-texas-may-change-must-know-figures-for-students-170537/

  3. Josh

    To be fair, not much science was actually done by the Apollo program, and if we use the “science excuse” for why humans were sent there, it is a pretty shaky premise. Neil Armstrong’s contributions to science were somewhat minimal. His contribution to, for example, the history of the cold war and the history of human space flight were significant. I can understand an argument whereby Armstrong was not included under the science strand but rather under the cold war strand. What’s wrong with that? Not exactly a “stupid” argument.

  4. bigjohn756

    Texas SBOE will not be happy until every Texas student(and others forced to use texts based upon Texas standards) is a slack mouthed, dull eyed, sullen fundie incapable of cogent thought. Unfortunately, we’re almost there already. Texas proudly boasts an illiteracy rate of almost 33%. That’s right, boys and girls, one out of three Texans is functionally illiterate. And, our state board is presently concentrating on revising history and social studies to suit their religious bias? Gosh, with much less effort, they could move the illiteracy rate up to world record levels.

  5. Congratulations!

    You get the award for making my head explode today by demonstrating the sheer incomprehensible stupidity of people.

    Thanks for giving me something else to rant about today Phil!

  6. Erin

    What the frakking frak? One of the few things that made me think growing up in Houston was cool was that we had the whole NASA thing and you could watch the moon landing video and be all “Yeah, that’s right, he’s talking to Houston, you New York bastards with your fantastic pizza and your more interesting social scene.” That and we have some decent museums.

    But this whole process is awful. I’m so embarassed for my state, and on behalf of all halfway-decently educated Texans I apologize for the likely pollution in the national textbook market that’s going to result from this and all the other agenda-driven, anti-education, anti-science drivel that’s spewed forth from the BoE. We’re working on it.

  7. Jerry M. Weikle

    One cannot blame the State of Texas, as it is a beautiful state and the people are nice. It’s the politic’s and the “Dumbosity” of the Republican “boozinater George W. Bush” with the educational NCLB Act of 2002.

    Dumbosity…..The Newest English Word to be added to Wikipedia! Course, what now is the definition of this newest word to the English language?

  8. foole

    Does this mean that all of the other non-scientists will be removed from the social studies textbooks? If so, that’d make for a very short book!

  9. Pieter Kok

    From one of Brett’s links, it seems that they now have two categories, “model citizens” and “people who contributed to society”. The former category includes Ben Franklin, while MLK and Rosa Parks are confined to the latter. I find the subtext of this distinction disturbing.

    “To have Cesar Chavez listed next to Ben Franklin is ludicrous. Chavez is hardly the kind of role model that ought to be held up to our children as someone worthy of emulation,” said Peter Marshall, an evangelist minister on the panel who originally proposed removing Chavez completely.

    By the way, wasn’t Franklin a notorious womanizer? I wonder what the Reverend thinks of that!

  10. Torbjörn Larsson, OM

    But don’t you see the greatness in this?

    First we exclude the great explorers for science from it.

    Then we exclude the great instrument-makers and experimentalists from science. Such as Lippershey (co-inventor of microscopes and telescopes), Harrison (longitude chronometer) and Faraday (electromagnetic rotor devices; best ever experimentalist).

    Because what they do isn’t “science”. Science is what you do when you look up stuff in old books. And preferably pick and choose what confirms you bias, the way to greatness in dogmatism.

    After all, what is good enough for religious conservatives must be good enough for all.

  11. JohnW

    The idea to strike persons such as Neil Armstrong originated with one of the “expert” reviewers selected by the YECs on the SBOE: Peter Marshall, President, Peter Marshall Ministries. In his submission to the Texas Education Agency in “Marshall Review Current Social Studies TEKS.pdf”, the following is found: “* 113.7 Grade 5 (24) Science and technology and society. (A) Describe the contributions of famous inventors and scientists such as Neil Armstrong, John J. Audubon; Benjamin Banneker, Clarence Birdseye, George Washington Carver, Tomas Edison, and Carl Sagan.” This is a rather pathetic list. The only ones worthy of inclusion are George Washington Carver and Thomas Edison. What about Thomas Watson, the Wright brothers, Henry Ford, Alexander Graham Bell?” The document, along with the submissions of the other “expert” reviewer (David Barton, President, WallBuilders) may be found at http://www.tea.state.tx.us/index2.aspx?id=6184.

    As a Texas resident, I am appalled that the SBOE has been preempted by a group of anti-science, pro-YEC individuals. Fortunately I live in a state senate district that is represented by Sen. Elliot Shapleigh (D), one of the leaders against this group. Our representative on the SBOE, Mr. Rene Nunez, is also the most consistent opponent against this group and essentially voted against all of the proposed insanity regarding the science standards debated earlier this year. Unfortunately he was on the minority side of the voting the majority of the time.

  12. Pieter Kok

    Torbjörn, I get your point (and I agree). But none of the people you mention are American.

  13. WTF? Parents I could understand. They’re typically self righteous and think they know how education could work even though they’ve been divorced from it for decades (and for some of them, that includes while they were still physically present in schools). But TEACHERS!?

    *headdesk*

  14. Chris

    I live in Texas and this is just another reason to leave, but the “Illiteracy rate of 33%” is not even remotely accurate. I have lived here for 23 years and I can’t recall ever meeting an illiterate adult. The actual number varies from year to year, and there hasn’t been a census done in some time, but the last number was less that 11%. Still ridiculous, but no where near 33%.

  15. Tinaa

    I’m trying here! I write and call my congressman. Every Texan has to get involved. I’m working on that too!

  16. @Brett G: How are they defining “liberal”? It’s not surprising that a social studies text would tend to focus more on the people who push for social change. You don’t tend to get into the history books by maintaining the status quo unless you fail spectacularly at it. So if you define a liberal as a person who promotes change, then yeah, they’re going to be mentioned more often.

    I’m trying to figure out how Newt Gingrich or Rush Limbaugh are any more notable than Nancy Pelosi or Phil Donahue. Yeesh.

  17. Brett G

    @naked_bunny_with_a_whip:

    Don’t look at me, I was quoting from the article, guess I should have specified that :)

  18. Joe Bogus

    PROUD TO BE A TEXAN

    1.) 49th in teacher pay
    2.) 1st in the percentage of people over 25 without a high school diploma
    3.) 41st in high school graduation rate
    4.) 46th in SAT scores
    5.) 1st in percentage of uninsured children
    6.) 1st in percentage of population uninsured
    7.) 1st in percentage of non-elderly uninsured
    8.) 3rd in percentage of people living below the poverty level
    9.) 49th in average Women Infant and Children benefit payments
    10.) 1st in teenage birth rate
    11.) 50th in average credit scores for loan applicants
    12.) 1st in air pollution emissions
    13.) 1st in volume of volatile organic compounds released into the air
    14.) 1st in amount of toxic chemicals released into water
    15.) 1st in amount of recognized cancer-causing carcinogens released into air
    16.) 1st in amount of carbon dioxide emissions
    17.) 50th in homeowners’ insurance affordability
    18.) 50th in percentage of voting age population that votes
    19.) 1st in annual number of executions


    “If I owned Texas and hell, I’d rent out Texas and live in hell.”
    – U.S. Gen. Phillip Sheridan, 1866

  19. Reality has a liberal bias.. its pretty sad conservatives need to be “revisionists” for us to remember a legacy that most of us would rather block out. However removing the legacy of Armstrong and Segan is downright despicable. and is there any truth to them putting in the likes of conservative talk radio hosts? i certainly hope not

  20. JoeSmithCA

    @Torbjörn Larsson, OM (#10)

    I think you have something there, I don’t think it’s your intent though–someone could erase all American scientist names from the text books and include all non-american scientists. Pure genius, the children will still be learning science history and the parents will never know the difference! Heck, they might even end up more knowlegeable of world events without having to go to war with a country!
    ;)

  21. THIS BOOK.

    Read it. Get the new edition. That is all.

    ——————————————

    Okay, so that’s not all, I’m sorry but:

    How do you excuse Armstrong from a social studies textbook? That makes no sense in any way whatsoever. How is he not historically significant? Only scientists can be historically significant? In that case we shouldn’t be having Thomas Edison on the books either! That makes no SENSE.

    *head explodes*

  22. Naomi

    @bigjohn756 Sources for your statement that 33% are illiterate?

    And while you’re at it, please state what percent of those are people who do not speak English. There are towns along the border that are so poor and cannot find teachers to move to those areas, that the schools are uncredited. I had a friend that was BEGGED to come teach in Presidio, a border town, and she didn’t even have a teacher’s certificate. There are large swaths of some cities, such as Houston and San Antonio, that have no signs in English, even street signs and billboards. They fail English language tests that measure literacy.

  23. Sadly, too many young Americans already don’t know who Neil Armstrong is and what he did. When I told my sister, a college sophomore in history, this summer that I was going to a book signing by Buzz Aldrin, she thought he was the first American in space “or something like that”. Her AP History book confined the entirety of the space program to one picture of Buzz Aldrin (on the moon, of course) and a tiny, little paragraph. I would have thought the space program’s Cold War significance alone would earn it more attention than that, but these programs seem more interested in students repeating a few details about a broad number of concepts and events.

  24. What is wrong with these people?

    Don’t answer that, I think I already know the answer. Every time you post something like this, you would think it wouldn’t surprise me, but I still get taken aback.

  25. lcdlover

    Hello
    Clicking through to the original news source in the Houston Chronicle reveals that the reason Armstrong is getting the bum’s rush seems to be that he is a white guy! Apparently, the scientific and historical importance of the personage is give less weight than noisy ethnic advocates pushing for inclusion of “their own”. So, the culprit here is less anti-science than PC identity politics.

    Neil Armstrong out

    After board members settled the Christmas controversy, the focus shifted to which historical figures and contemporary leaders to include.

    More than 50 people mentioned in current textbooks are not included in the proposed standards, including Carl Sagan, Colin Powell, Nathan Hale, Neil Armstrong, Eugene Debs, John Steinbeck and Mother Teresa.

    Some board members argued for more accomplishments of minorities to be included in the final version. An early recommendation to remove the late farm workers leader César Chávez and the late U.S. Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall provoked a strong reaction. Both are expected to remain in the textbooks.

    “We can’t satisfy everyone,” said board member Barbara Cargill, of The Woodlands. “We don’t want to burden textbooks with hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of names … As we go through this process we will see a lot more minorities than we ever have been before, so that’s a positive.”

  26. @Ledlover

    Yes, because what we need in this country is less acknowledgment of the role played by minorities in it. Right?

    Garbage.

    Oh, and there’s nothing in that article that states people are being removed “to make way” for people of color. That is to say, except in the minds of certain people who are always “concerned” about such things. Though, perhaps if the thought wasn’t resisted by some at every turn, we could start reasonably distributing people across grades- instead of it being a contest at inclusion every time.

    Or, are you under the impression that “white people built this country”? If not, it’s funny how you sound like other people I know who raise that particular objection.

  27. @Peter Kok, not only was Franklin a womanizer, he wasn’t even married!

    And I’m sure Rosa Parks spent a lot of time analyzing conservative vs. liberal viewpoints before she sat down on that bus. Just another reason why teachers (and students) don’t really need textbooks.

  28. Gary Ansorge

    I expect most of these problems arise because few know what is really meant by a SCIENTIST.

    Technically, though my educational back ground is physics, I never worked as a research physicist. I guess that means I’m not REALLY a scientist, even though I regularly use the scientific method to verify the validity of data.

    Armstrong has degrees in aeronautical/aerospace engineering. Most people differentiate between scientist and engineers because scientists do research and engineers apply that research to actually building things. I wonder if by that definition Einstein could be considered a scientist, since he didn’t actually do research, he was “just a theoretician”?

    Confusion about this subject in the Texas Board of Education is quite understandable, since they appear to have little understanding of the scientific method(or, for that matter, the products of that methodology).

    GAry 7

  29. Chris P

    What degree did Columbus hold again?

    There are many accomplishments made in the fields of science and discovery performed by “non-scientists”, and they deserve our recognition. Science is a way of learning, and it is open for everyone to participate, regardless of training.

    I guess in Texas’ mind, the moon landing never happened, so therefore Armstrong was not the first human to step foot on another world.

    Texas, you may secede now.

  30. Larry

    To paraphrase Emperor Joesph II in Amadeus, “There is simply too much history, that’s all. Just cut out few people and it will be perfect. “

  31. Gary Ansorge

    Whilre working in Arabia for Aramco, I had an electrician friend who taught Saudi Arabs. His Brit supervisor was showing off a prime Saudi student to his boss and asked the Saudi ” What is electricity?”

    The Saudi answered “It is the force that makes things work.”

    The supervisor asked “Yes, but what is it REALLY?”

    The Saudi thought for a minute and then answered
    “I don’t know, man. I think it’s fraking magic.”

    Which was consistent with the way Brit tech teachers answered any technical question they deemed too complex for the students level of education,,,”Don’t worry about why. It’s just magic.”

    Gary 7

  32. @Kok et al

    Just pointing out that every historical figure in any book is an imperfect human being. There are no “model citizens”. I have my heroes and villains, either because of or despite the flaws.

    [Edited]

    Oh @ Chris P.

    By the way, you realize Colombus, while important- didn’t discover or explore anything. He’s a clear villian as well, being hardly a benign figure in history. You don’t rape, murder, and enslave that many aboriginal people and get to keep your innocence in tact in the historical narrative. At least, it shouldn’t be that way.

  33. Pieter Kok

    I completely agree, Chemist. But I didn’t make that category of “model citizens” up, unfortunately.

  34. *Reclining in easy chair with popcorn and a Super Big Gulp*
    This is so entertaining. Canada is a wonderful place, indeed.

  35. *Super Big Gulp*

    Okay, you have to give that back then.

    *Holds out hand*

    Come on, you know that’s ours.

  36. It would not matter if Neil Armstrong had been a janitor on the Apollo 11 mission. It doesn’t matter that the space race was primarily motivated by the Cold War. It was a monumental SCIENTIFIC achievement to leave the Earth and land on another world nonetheless. Many names in addition to Armstrong’s should be included in any decent text book (Von Braun, for example).

    Geez, and we wonder why so many people don’t even believe anyone ever landed on the Moon.

  37. Too bad, so sad… it’s America’s fault for spreading into Canada. :P

    And by BTW, they reduced the size of the SBG and kept it at the same price. Typical or what?

  38. Dwatney

    This must be their brilliant plan to counter charges that they are “anti-science.”

    “Look how pro-science we are! We purged a non-scientist from our science strand!”

  39. lcdlover

    @The Chemist
    hello
    You have read a great deal into my words that I did not explicitly say. I did not say that we need less acknowledgment of minorities. I do think however that only the person’s accomplishments be considered, and no shrift given to those nominations by advocates of special interest groups.

    You said “Oh, and there’s nothing in that article that states people are being removed “to make way” for people of color. ”
    Sir, read the piece carefully, i put it up in my comment; it says: “After board members settled the Christmas controversy, the focus shifted to which historical figures and contemporary leaders to include….Some board members argued for more accomplishments of minorities to be included in the final version. “We can’t satisfy everyone,” said board member Barbara Cargill, of The Woodlands. “We don’t want to burden textbooks with hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of names … As we go through this process we will see a lot more minorities than we ever have been before, so that’s a positive.””

    So don’t accuse me of being a racist. I am advocating a color-blind approach. If anything you’re the racist – not interested in historical truth and more concerned with some kind of quota system of inclusion.

  40. Just another thought…

    I find it sad that Rosa Parks does not make it to the model citizen column. Standing up for your rights IMHO deserves model citizen recognition.

    My youngest thinks Rosa is beyond awesome for what she did and thinks of her every time he stands up for someone that may be too afraid to stand up for themselves.

    Lunacy

  41. Reality has a liberal bias.. its pretty sad conservatives need to be “revisionists” for us to remember a legacy that most of us would rather block out.

    No, reality has a bias toward reality, not toward the false dichotomy nonsense that irrationally labels things as “liberal” or “conservative”. I’d call comments like yours just as much a part of the problem as the idiots that live in Texas.

  42. Wendy

    Since when has Texas given a flying frack about science?

  43. @ Nicole:

    Sadly, you are right about the way our history and culture is (not) taught anymore.

    One gets the impression that the people who set these educational criteria must believe the precious snowflakes under their care will explode if their heads are forced to contain anything beyond ten year old history. There is value to continuity of culture, and that continuity can exist without inhibiting the vibrant change that keeps that very culture from becoming stagnant.

    The writer Harlan Ellison used to complain…well, about everything…but specifically, about how frustrating it was to give a talk to people who couldn’t understand half the cultural references he was making. It’s not just superficial things like “records” vs. MP3s, but real, honest to gosh world-changing things such the moon landings, the space race, the Cold War, Watergate. He told of looking out at a sea of blank faces when he talked about having numb fingers from hours spent typing on his old manual typewriter. “Why didn’t you use a computer?” someone asked. How do you respond to that kind of cultural ignorance? What becomes of your culture if its foundations are quietly picked away, year after year?

  44. Mike

    What in the … what?!
    This.. huh.. I.. brain.. WHAT

  45. Helen

    And guess where that leaves Darwin!

  46. Patrick Fish

    Considering what Carl did to end the insane military nuclear escalation of the 1980′s (TAPPS) and his work in showing that a greenhouse effect can happen on a planetary scale (Venus), i would argue that his name is at least as important as Armstrong’s.

    Moreso really, because Carl’s work affected us a heck of a lot more than knowing the name of the rocketjock who was picked to first step on the moon. In the big scheme of things, as sexy as a moonwalk is, the name just isn’t that vital. It was one event- the culmination of the Apollo project (which Sagan was a consultant for incidentally) as opposed to the “big picture” problems that Sagan tackled. Armstrong wasted his celebrity (avoiding the limelight), whereas Carl used his for great good.

    I’d like to see both in the TX books, but Carl should get pages devoted to the unusual blending of science, celebrity and “politics” and the good that came from it.

  47. Armand Groeneveld

    Now just a minute Dr Plait, you are a bit too quick to call anyone ,who does not agree with your point of view, stupid. Neil Armstrong IS NOT a SCIENTIST. He is an engineer who voluntarily stepped into the unknown with incredible courage and determination. That would classify him as an EXPLORER not a scientist. He, being the first human to leave his footprint on an other world, contributed greatly to our knowledge of that world. In no way does this minimize his accomplishments. Besides scientists are not at the top of the pile. Without great explorers like Armstrong, scientists would be quite handicapped in that field of endeavor

  48. So according to the Texas BoE, the first man on the Moon was Harrison Schmidt?

  49. Jamye Johnston

    As a science teacher in Texas, I had to say that yes, people are going to continue to point at this and decry the lack of science education in Texas. But the article makes it sound much worse than it actually is. 1) It’s only one 5th grade *Social Studies* textbook, not a science textbook, and 2) Consider how many worthy scientists there are that don’t get included in textbooks every time they are adopted. The textbooks in our schools cannot be all-inclusive. My biology textbooks don’t include Tesla, my Physics textbooks don’t even include Richard Feynman. This doesn’t mean that Texas doesn’t recognize their contributions, just that we have to make the decision as teachers and parents to teach kids things that might not make it to their textbooks. We aren’t limited to what’s printed on the page, so start focusing on getting teachers in the classroom that will do the best they can to inform your kids about as much as they can. This is a huge case of overblown media making Texas seem like a bunch of ignorant hicks and it’s not a fair assessment of what is happening.

    This process of deciding who is most important for 5th graders to know about in history class is hardly indicative that every Texan “is a slack mouthed, dull eyed, sullen fundie incapable of cogent thought”, and saying so is insulting to what I attempt to do every single day in teaching 218 teenagers.

    I struggle every single day in a classroom of 40+ 14 year-old students in 6 separate biology, chemistry and physics classrooms to include as much science as I can, knowing that for the majority of my students, it’s the only science education they will ever receive, and I have them for 170 hours in one year. What would you choose to teach if you had the entire catalog of science to choose from? As an “out” atheist and skeptic, I focus on their understanding of the scientific method and critical thinking skills. I really don’t care much if they remember the names of every scientist that made a significant contribution in the last 200 years, that sort of regurgitation is fairly useless compared to them actually understanding how science works.

    Seeing people focus on issues like this, where the media makes it seem like science isn’t important to Texans, is disgusting to me, and it hurts our efforts every day in the classroom. Instead of attacking Texans for issues like this, which matter far less than the actual limitations the teachers are working with, is taking away from actionable classroom issues that matter much more than the content of our textbooks.

    The quality of our teachers, the size of our classes (we have no class size limit in high schools in Texas, leading to classes of 40 or more, making laboratories a dangerous hazard to the point that many teachers attempt to avoid them), the assessment-focused advancement system, and lack of funding are SO much more important than whether or not every significant historical figure can be included in a 200 page textbook (which they just can’t, realistically). Each year I spend over $2,000 of my own money supplying my students with basic school supplies and “chemicals” and “lab equipment” that I have to purchase from a grocery store because our school science budget for 1,200 children is $1,000. If you can find a way to create fun laboratory activities in physics, chemistry and biology on less than $1 per student per year please call me.

    Until then, PLEASE stop claiming that “Texas [doesn't give] a flying frack about science”. We do, and we’re fighting for it, but stop putting the focus on things that don’t matter and focus on things that can make a bigger difference for us in the classrooms. Insulting the state and not offering solutions on how to improve things is not helping us, and it just frustrates those of us trying to fight the good fight.

    Jamye Johnston
    Science Department Chair
    GPISD

  50. Armand Groeneveld

    Is this an attempt at sarcasm? It would help if you would explain your meaning.

    Tell me, would you consider Columbus, Cook or Magellan scientists or would they have been explorers? I consider the BoE a bunch of nitwits most of the time but they are not wrong on this one.

  51. Kam

    Since no one’s pointed it out yet, let me. This goes WAY beyond the borders of Texas. The state of Texas is one of largest (if not the largest) purchasers of textbooks in the US. Along with California and Florida, Texas comprises around 25% of the national market–and combined, these three states don’t have a particularly happy track record for quality education. What bothers me, then, is that if the TBOE decides to eliminate something from the textbooks, most textbook publishers will eliminate it in ALL textbooks, just to make the book viable in Texas. If you’ve ever wondered why English textbooks continue to teach outmoded and latinate rules of grammar (rather than, say, structural approaches) using techniques that double-blinded studies have demonstrated do NOT work (specifically, drills)–and have done so since roughly 1900–and continue to do so in the face of proven methodologies with much higher success rates (such as sentence combining), you need look no further than the TBOE. In short, look for Neil Armstrong to end up eliminated from social studies texts in the other 49 if this goes through.

  52. Troy

    I suppose they won’t mention Columbus either? Also not a scientist. I don’t know what being a scientist has to do with anything. The Texas school board is what? a cadre of morons? Armstrong did have a B.S. degree and while academic credentials aren’t the be all and end all at least by title he is a scientist.

  53. Armand Groeneveld

    I agree it is wrong with the total elimination of Armstrong from social studies text books.
    It should mention that Neil Armstrong was an explorer who greatly advanced our knowledge, with his exploration, of an other world. He should not be called a scientist.

  54. John McGrath

    I see where this is going. I imagine they are doing this to set a precedent for removing all who are non-scientists by the definition of whatever political influences prevail down there. That means that in the future they will also remove Darwin claiming that he invented that non-science called evolution.

    Poor Texas. So far from reason, so close to Mexico.

  55. Otis

    Not so surprising in a country where some believe that the moon landings were fake. Where doing the hard work in college is no longer important…to some. Where a former president, from TEXAS, does not see the importance of science!

    Feel the BURN!!!

  56. Joe

    When texas secedes (or is asked to leave by the rest of the US), how do I apply for political asylum to New England. My brain hurts here!

  57. MartyM

    I’ll argue engineers are scientists (being that I am one – an engineer that is). They are basically physicists in applied science. Some may work more closely to research science or at least directly with research scientists. I’d argue that Neil Armstrong is one of those kinds of engineers.

  58. Jamye Johnston

    I think the question should not be whether or not Neil Armstrong is a scientist, but if you were to create a list of the most important 100 scientists in history, would Neil Armstrong be on it? How about the top 10? Keep in mind he was a test pilot and engineer, but he did not design the Apollo rockets.

  59. Gary

    Leaving Neil Armstrong out of text books in Texas may have more to do with the fact that it would focus attention to the space program itself. After all that program tends to show that not only is Earth not the center of everything, but is shows our planet not to be flat and those concepts still befuddles some Texans.

    Lately my only objection to giving Texas back to Mexico is that Mexico would view that as a hostile act.

    I say mess with Texas.

  60. JestrBob

    Progress for human society has seldom been made by conservatives. Conservatives are defined by their desire to maintain Status Quo.

    Religious people do not believe in betterment of society by changing society so everyone can advance, but by regression to a mythical point of perfection. When you examine this pseudo point of perfection, it isin all truth, a perfection of ignorance. [Before we ate from the mythical 'Tree of Knowledge', the the Jewish-Christian mythology. ]

    It should come as no surprise that the people the TBoE ( or conservatives everywhere) are trying to shuffle away to the dustbin of history those luminaries whose actions, thoughts and deeds have added to the progress of knowledge of human society.

    I agree this conservative problem is like trying to run a race in cement shoes. No matter how hard you try to move forward you progress is impeded by this idiots trying to hold you back.

    The early indoctrination of children by Religious Groups is just part of the problem, and indoctrination comes in many places and at different levels. The other part of the problem is the lack of teaching thinking skills and logic at an early age, which allows children to escape the indoctrination attempts from all sides.
    Logic and critical thinking, skills which teach people to questions statements made by others and what is currently passed out as facts, will be shown for the fallacies that they are.

  61. Pat

    Perhaps it’s better for SS textbooks to avoid simplistic labels like “scientist”, “model citizen”, “explorer”, etc. Maybe terms like “People who made a significant difference” would prevent pointless/endless debates on whether or not Columbus was a scientist, let alone a really bad sailor with no ethical compass.

    Armstrong was the symbol for the hard scientific work done by others. Let’s remember that and not overinflate his import. He’s kind of like Elvis in a spacesuit.

    I don’t know if engineers could be considered scientists. I know it torques me off whenever the phrase “software engineer” is used. Puh-leaze.

    >”What degree did Columbus hold again?”

    Good point. And he was hopelessly lost at sea when he “discovered” the “new world”.

    >”Which was consistent with the way Brit tech teachers
    > answered any technical question they deemed too complex
    > for the students level of education,,,”Don’t worry about
    > why. It’s just magic.””

    That’s tragic. That’s even worse than when teachers use models that utterly fall apart with even minimal scrutiny (as often seen in the use of water as a model to describe light or electricity).

    >”This is so entertaining. Canada is a wonderful place, indeed”

    Now now, you Canadians may have a more rational health care system, but there’s all that clubbing of baby seals and the prohibition of people from taping or photographing it. We still have a free press. Oh wait- there was the Bush-era prohibition against photographing coffins of servicemen killed in Iraq… blame Texas… they made him governor which put him on the national scene and made him viable as a presidential candidate.

    >”Many names in addition to Armstrong’s should be
    > included in any decent text book (Von Braun, for example)”

    If they can whitewash Columbus’s record, I guess they can do the same for Werner. Scary the similarities when you think about it.

    >”It’s only one 5th grade *Social Studies* textbook, not a science textbook”

    The accomplishments of scientists are germane for social studies when the science affects society. Science books should contain science more than the history of science– but i don’t want to contribute to any unhelpful dichotomy here. James Burke and his like had the right idea in drawing connections between everything. Science books and SS books should overlap each other more, as should Math, literature, etc.

    >”This is a huge case of overblown media making Texas seem like a
    > bunch of ignorant hicks and it’s not a fair assessment of what is happening”

    Yes, blame the media. Forget where our last idiot creationist president came from. Forget all the crazy anti-science stuff that always seems to pour out of red states.

    >”Seeing people focus on issues like this, where the media makes it seem
    > like science isn’t important to Texans, is disgusting to me, and it hurts
    > our efforts every day in the classroom. Instead of attacking Texans for
    > issues like this, which matter far less than the actual limitations the
    > teachers are working with…”

    So… why don’t we see Mass or NYS with these kinds of chronic school/science issues? It’s always the red states it seems. Are you suggesting a media conspiracy to cover up rampant YEC agendas in blue states? In the end, Texans are responsible for their state’s educational system. Just as we’re all to blame the state of the world.

    >”The quality of our teachers, the size of our classes (we have no
    >class size limit in high schools in Texas, leading to classes of 40 or more”…
    >”Each year I spend over $2,000 of my own money supplying my students with
    > basic school supplies and “chemicals” and “lab equipment” that I have to
    > purchase from a grocery store because our school science budget for
    > 1,200 children is $1,000.”

    Perhaps you can blame that on the media as well.

  62. @ lcdlover

    I thought it was “ledlover” earlier, I need glasses.

    “You have read a great deal into my words that I did not explicitly say.”

    I can do that if I want. The danger of saying something is that people will form an opinion of you. I highly recommend you get over it.

    “Sir, read the piece carefully,”

    I did, but since you’re so preoccupied with things you explicitly said, why can’t I be preoccupied with things the article explicitly states? It says deciding who to include is a problem, and there are people who are pushing for more minorities to be included. It doesn’t say that Neil Armstrong (who probably had no more than a blurb) was cut to make way for a whole chapter on Frederick Douglass (who really is more important by the way, even if he doesn’t warrant a whole chapter). It doesn’t say that a plethora of truly important white historical figures have been removed for less important ones of color. However you seem to imply that the books cannot include equally important people of color easily.

    “I am advocating a color-blind approach.”

    Like I’ve never heard that before. I used to be like you, which is why it doesn’t convince me. Once you stop believing in Santa Claus, you don’t go back. You might want to consider that there is a reason this statement is widely mocked.

    “So don’t accuse me of being a racist.”

    Once again, I will if I want, you have no control over the way people perceive you- isn’t that distressing? Like I said, I will call you a racist if I feel like it, but since you’re so concerned with “things explicitly said” allow me to point out that not once did I call you a racist.

    Of course, you are a racist, as is everyone posting in the comments section, myself included. Race and stereotypes are ingrained in every facet of our lives- one way or another. We’re bound to make judgments about people without knowing it’s because of race. We even pass judgment on members of our own race based on race- while making excuses for our behavior and mode of thinking on the same basis. So you are a racist, by the way you define the term- someone who sees color. I prefer the term “racial” to describe the phenomenon, but you clearly think anti-racism is “not seeing color” where such a thing is clearly impossible in our time, context, and culture. The only real question that speaks to your character is whether or not you’re a bigot.

    “If anything you’re the racist – not interested in historical truth”

    Well, you’re free to think I’m a racist, and again by your definition of subjective visibility I must agree that I am. Of course I don’t have to agree with you- but I will deduct points for style. If you thought I was a racist, and you wished to denigrate my critique, I wish you would do so with greater grace and elegance than an I-am-rubber-you-are-glue approach. Phil’s rule is “don’t be a jerk.” but mine is, “don’t be boring.”

    As to the claim that I am not interested in historical truth, on what grounds? A great number of blacks, aboriginals, and immigrants white and non-white are responsible for what happened in history. Why is it that inclusion of any of these is racist while the presence of white historical figures isn’t? Why are they part of a quota when their actions were often as significant as many white people in the same period? Is it because “whiteness” is invisible in our culture? White is a default, a non-race. Just as an example: When one black person is on a college brochure it is commented on as an effort towards inclusion- s/he’s the standout, but the four or five whites around the person aren’t? Are these people invisible? Do they not exist? No, of course not, it’s a question of what people choose to fixate on. Blacks are visible, whites are not. This is the problem with the “colorblind” approach- no one is colorblind.

    I would love truth in history. Legitimate historians (mostly professors at universities) have to contend with the feeble excuse for history education in this country with every freshman class. Most American history books mention slavery in passing, and credit whites almost exclusively for their emancipation. No one wants to talk about Nat Turner, or the various ways slaves themselves had agency, and fought against their captivity in what ways they could. Of course whites were also responsible for abolition- whether we’re talking about John Brown or our sixteenth president. Yet to talk as if blacks have no agency, humanity or initiative of their own -despite the historical evidence- you tell me how the history books aren’t being racist?

    Meanwhile how is it we can ignore the contributions of the indigenous peoples in founding our democracy? The idea for our modern federal republic is derived from the Iroquois League, Benjamin Franklin himself gave them direct credit for inspiring his ideas. How is including this being racist? How is refusing to include it not?

    How is that blacks in this country were elected to office and found posts in the White House after the Civil War, but somehow disappeared from the political arena from circa 1890 until the Civil Rights era? This is a challenge. I want you to explain something important about our history to me, using your “colorblind” version of history. I want you to give me an answer to a truly important question about the nadir of race relations. One that any high school student versed in critical thinking can answer. Yet no one can deny that it’s an important question. It’s not a hard question either- unless you want to ignore vast tracts of history in the interest of avoiding a “quota”.

    [Edited for typos- recommend a reread of final paragraph if you have not seen this message.]

  63. T.E.L.

    Anne V Said:

    “not only was Franklin a womanizer, he wasn’t even married!”

    Not by some strict criteria. But by other, practical criteria he was, to Deborah Read by Common Law.

  64. Chris P

    @ The Chemist,

    By the way, you realize Colombus, while important- didn’t discover or explore anything. He’s a clear villian as well, being hardly a benign figure in history. You don’t rape, murder, and enslave that many aboriginal people and get to keep your innocence in tact in the historical narrative. At least, it shouldn’t be that way.

    Soo… Hitler should never be taught? Or Genghis Khan? Or our Founding Fathers? My comment wasn’t directed at Columbus’ deeds, as atrocious as they were. I am merely speaking to the fact that they are removing reference to an explorer because he wasn’t a scientist. Columbus made a wrong turn, hit a continent that had already been discovered and settled, and he is in every text book. How about teaching the deeds and actions, rather than eliminate those that don’t fit neatly into titles.

    I learned about the Salem Witch Trials as a kid, and it wasn’t until my adult life that I discovered a relative of mine sat on the jury. Decent man? Can’t say. Historic event that should be taught, even if uncomfortable? Definitely. Those that turn a blind eye to history are doomed to repeat it.

    I’m curious… How will Texas handle the subject of the moon landing? “It happened. You need not know more about it.” If a child asks who first stepped foot on the moon, is the teacher allowed to say? Are we going to have a Scopes Astronaut Trial?

  65. @Chris P

    “By the way, you realize Colombus, while important- didn’t discover or explore anything.”

    What’s the problem with that statement?

    I have no problem with teaching Columbus, just not the myth of Columbus. I think we’re on the same page here.

    Columbus did not “make a wrong turn”- that’s part of the myth I don’t want taught to kids as fact.

  66. Jamye Johnston

    “How will Texas handle the subject of the moon landing? “It happened. You need not know more about it.” If a child asks who first stepped foot on the moon, is the teacher allowed to say? Are we going to have a Scopes Astronaut Trial?”

    This is the kind of misunderstanding that articles like this incite. It is quite clear in reading the comments here that the implications of this exclusion of Neil Armstrong are widely misunderstood. NO, teachers in Texas are not restrained to teach ONLY what is listed in TEKS (Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills). Also, the wording on most TEKS says things like “Students will learn to identify and classify animals by morphological structures SUCH AS the number of appendages, the presence of a vertebrae, and other features.” This does not mean that we don’t teach students to identify animals based on their reproductive features, it is included, even if not explicitly stated.

    Science (or social studies) teachers have NOT been prohibited from teaching anything in their classrooms by this proposal. Please stop saying thing that imply that they have. You muck up the issue and make it sound ridiculous.

    If you want to actually present yourself as an intellectual and do the research on this, by all means, visit http://www.tea.state.tx.us/index2.aspx?id=3643 where you can find the exact TEKS changes and the people responsible for them. Find out the facts and if you are really so upset about it, do something to change it rather than continue with this intellectual masturbation.

  67. ARJ

    They have to take Armstrong’s name out, in order to make room for George Bush (…or perhaps Tom Delay???)

  68. Chris P

    @The Chemist,

    I have no problem with that. I didn’t to begin with. My point was that he wasn’t a scientist, and is taught as an important historical figure. How is Armstrong any different?

    Armstrong = First Step on New World = Bad
    Columbus = Not First Step on New World = Good?

    What they did once they arrived has no bearing in my argument on the historic nature of their accomplishments.

    And when I said “wrong turn”, I was being figurative, not literal. I wasn’t taught Columbus made a navigational error, but a cartographical one. He got off his metaphorical bus one stop too early, and thought he had arrived.

  69. @63 As a Canadian and a member of the press working for an American media company, my freedom of the press and what I can and cannot say, can air and cannot air, is way more prohibited than if I were working for a Canadian media company. There is way more censorship, less freedoms, and it is a daily source of frustration with me. Thankfully I have the internet to voice things I cannot say on air that I would be able to say if the broadcast license was held in Canada.

    I know this is off topic, but that comment struck a nerve.

  70. All Your Neil Armstrong’s Are Belong To Us.

    Claire

  71. @Chris P,

    This is a classic case of two people having an argument despite the fact that they agree. I wasn’t trying to single out your comment. My “You do realize…” wasn’t you specifically, but everyone in general. I was using your comment as a springboard to be pedantic and geeky- I wasn’t criticizing it. I guess I should have made it more clear that I was purposefully going off on a tangent. I saw your point from the beginning- I agree with it. No really! ;-)

  72. MadScientist

    They’ll also have to remove all politicians from the text because they’re not scientists. On the bright side, if they don’t waste any paper actually putting scientists into the text, that should make it easy for Tx kids to get high scores in that subject and claim any federal performance-based subsidies. Or is there no plan at all and the board is just stoked with stupid?

    @Josh #3: That argument would be disingenuous at best. There was an awful lot of science and engineering going into the construction of the spacecraft and the rockets. The Apollo 11 crew did help science by confirming many theories about the moon and dispelling many others. They also brought back rock samples. That’s all science, and the phrase “not much science” is utterly meaningless – what do you expect, the astronauts should develop some new Theory of Everything while on their way to the moon and back? Did Galileo somehow accomplish more in describing gravity, friction, and claiming that the earth revolved about the sun?

  73. I just added this to the text above:

    Update: the comments below are raging, and many people seem to have missed my point. it has nothing at all to do with whether Armstrong is a scientist or not. The point I am making is that he was the first person to walk on another world! That’s why I bolded that phrase in the article above. Leaving him out of the history book is madness, scientist or engineer or otherwise. And another point: I understand history books cannot cover everything that ever happened ever. But leaving this particular person out is — stop me if you’ve heard this before — madness, especially when the people thinking of leaving him out are from Texas in the first place.

  74. Yes, blame the media. Forget where our last idiot creationist president came from. Forget all the crazy anti-science stuff that always seems to pour out of red states.

    Yes, because everyone knows that antiscience stuff doesn’t come out of “blue” states like California…

    Please leave the irrational political bias and mindless Bush-bashing out of a thread dedicated to actually, you know, thinking about things. Idiocy knows no political bounds.

  75. John

    Armstrong is not a scientist. Walking on the moon is not science.

  76. #2 – is it any surprise that the number of liberals that have contributed to the advance of scientific knowledge over history outnumbers people identified as ‘conservative’?

    liberals seek to change things – conservatives seek to keeps things the same (especially when it gives them an unfair advantage)

  77. Miedvied

    Jamye,

    you seem to go on at length about people being “ignorant” in presuming that the TEKS will dictate what is taught. I find nothing ignorant about it; TEKS dictates what people *must* cover, and everything else is up to individual initiative. There will always be people that leap an arbitrary height over the bar, but nonetheless – where the bar is set is still significant. If the bar is set sufficiently low then the fact that some people still leap high is irrelevant to the discussion of whether there’s something f’d up about setting the bar that low.

    Moreover, I would add that a lot of people are presumably speaking from the assumption that Texas teaching is not dissimilar from their own states. In NY, for instance, elementary school teachers are essentially forbid from deviating from their lesson plans. There is no allowance for individual initiative, or for taking different approaches to problems in order to better reach students. I would naturally have assumed that Texas had a similar approach. Yes, I suppose that would be to some extent ignorant, but I’m sure you don’t expect everyone to actually have a detailed awareness of each individual state’s nuances regarding teaching policy?

  78. sherifffruitfly

    American kids will always be stupid, on the whole, as long as teachers are idiots. Eliminate the education degree NOW.

  79. I get the feeling that the “Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills Review Team” must be staffed with people who lost badly on “Are You Smarter than a 5th Grader” and want to level the playing field.

  80. BillyBob

    WHAT?

    I ju… I mea- uh…

    WHAT?!

  81. t-storm

    Since when did you have to be a scientist to walk on a soundstage and lie to the American public?

    Just kidding, I’m from Ohio and went to the University of Cincinnati and am proud that Neil Armstrong is from Ohio and once taught at UC.

  82. Anhomoioi

    As the first man to walk on the moon, Neil Armstrong is a very significant historical figure and should NOT be left out.

    P.S. Though this is not related to Dr. Plait’s point, here is some information regarding the science performed by Apollo 11:

    (www.lpi.usra.edu/lunar/missions/apollo/apollo_11/experiments/)

    Also, trying to define exactly who is a scientist and who is not a scientist seems to be a fool’s errand: to wit,

    should one read Popper’s “The Logic of Scientific Discovery” to define who qualifies;

    (www.routledge.com/popper/works/logic_discovery.html)

    or

    should one read Kuhn’s “The Structure of Scientific Revolutions” to define who qualifies

    (www.press.uchicago.edu/presssite/metadata.epl?mode=synopsis&bookkey=3640168)?

    How does one define the criteria for being a scientist?

  83. I'd rather be fishin'

    All you plan to write your congressman/woman? Of course you’re assuming they all can read. If they can, tell them to thank their teachers.

    As a Canadian science teacher I understand what poster 51. Jamye Johnston says. It is hard to reach so many children in a limited amount of time with a limited budget. But the disagreement is not with the entire state of Texas, but rather the people ‘in charge’ of the school system there. I hope most of the people replying to BA’s post realize the differences between Texas as a whole; its dedicated teachers, many of whom I have met at AAPT conferences; and the misguided people in charge of its schools.

    What bugs me is that they aren’t going far enough. Here are some people they should focus on too:

    C. Columbus; not an explorer, a foreign person hired to sail a few ships for a second party, not even the first European to set foot on the New World

    Faraday: a bookbinder’s apprentice

    Wright brothers: put them in with the ‘somewhat talented small businessman’ group

    Gregor Mendel was a monk, not a biologist

    Isaac Newton was a math prof, not a physicist

  84. lcdlover

    Replying to “The Chemist”:
    Hello
    Instead of going tit-for-tat with each of your points, why don’t we do it this way?
    I read a bit (this blog piece) about the possible elimination of Neil Armstrong’s name from a Social Studies textbook. The writer went on to say: “The proposal was suggested by teachers and parents reviewing materials, because Armstrong “is not a scientist”", implying it was some twisted anti-science bias or maybe just plain ignorance that motivated these folks. (How many Americans now buy the notion that the moon landing was staged?) This would have made it a good companion piece to the Missouri tee-shirt entry of a while back — http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/badastronomy/2009/08/31/religion-vs-reality-in-missouri/ — a really depressing reminder of the hold the fundamentalist Christian right has on our nations middle. The first comments made reflected that with some perty good ol Texas bashing.

    Upon digging down two layers to the original Houston newspaper story I learned that a different problem formed the basis of the disagreement: a race thing. So I pointed that out. It is wise not to be to one-sided. Nobody seemed to care anyway, only you “got it” – one poster. Thank you for that you are a good writer, thoughtful and readable.

    I’ll try to say it in a less provocative way: please leave the history to the historians and the science to the scientists. There should not be any parents or teachers or school boards reviewing textbooks at all!! The review should be left to other scientists and historians (There is great part in Feynman’s “Surely You’re Joking Mr Feynman” autobiography where he describes his experience previewing science texts for the Cali BOE. He tells about doing this in a room in his cellar and his wife would periodically here an explosion from down there: aaaarrrgggghh as he read a particular pernicious mistake.) What is resulting here from these citizen committees is a nit-picking involving getting one’s own particular group or point-of-view included.

    I see your point about the college brochure and in general if quota or affirmative action is the way people will always accuse those who are naturally inclusive as pandering.

    About the history questions you bring up, I’m not able to refute your points, but I will research these areas. You seem pretty well read, but I’m not sure if you are well rounded. Don’t take offense – I was young once and my mottoes were all revolutionary; now my favorite is this quote from Holman Jenkins:

    People are “erroneously confident”‘ in their knowledge and underestimate the odds that their information or beliefs will be proved wrong. They tend to seek additional information in ways that confirm what they already believe.
    Is there a way to italicize here?
    Anyway regards and good luck

  85. Wayne

    @ 51. Jamye Johnston,

    Well said, and thank you for all that you do.

  86. Neil Armstrong was also a test pilot on the X-15 program.

  87. Nomen Publicus

    As Sam Houston was neither a scientist nor set foot on another planet I hope the Texas Board of Education excludes him as well…

  88. Pieter Kok

    I’d rather be fishin’, I think you take it too far to the other side (but I may be reading opinions into your post that you don’t hold): Yes, Faraday was a bookbinder apprentice, but only briefly. This is probably worth mentioning, especially to pupils with ample opportunity for upwards social mobility. But make it part of a (short) narrative of his life (Wikipedia is your friend) to bring the man to life in the classroom. In the case of Mendel and Newton, you probably also want to fill in some of the details, and place them into their historical context (especially important for Newton). Columbus is a tricky one. He is turned into a hero on both sides of the Atlantic, and now we are seeing a backlash. Nevertheless, the political implications of his journey were momentous, and that alone merits a fairly detailed description of his life and times in history class, without the hero worshipping or villainification (if that is a real word).

    Generally, I believe certain historical figures (e.g., Columbus) should be discussed in more detail, as a spring board for the larger historical context, while others (e.g., Armstrong) can make do with a mention of their main contribution to society/humanity.

    [Edit] Re-reading your post, I now suspect you were being ironic. Oh well.

  89. James

    Its probably more of the “War against the Individual”. By focusing (or even mentioning) Armstrong, Aldrin and Colins (the guy in waiting in Lunar Orbit while Armstrong and Aldrin were having all of the fun). It glorifies only 1-2 or 3 people. Instead in the “War Against the Individual”, we must glorify “The Collective Efforts of all [of NASA]“.

    My opinion is we can we can Honor BOTH.

  90. Elmar_M

    Anyone who applies any part of the scientific method towards discovering facts is a scientist.
    Nowadays work is just split up between more people. A single person cant do everything allone in the big endeavours of science anymore.
    Otherwise all the engineers working at ITER would not be scientists, but what? Each of them is doing his small part. Some are doing nothing more than being glorified meachanics (someone with brains needs to screw that darn thing together after all, right?).
    But if you asked them, they would sure be quite offended if you did not call them scientists.
    To me Neil Armstrong was a scientists, as he contributed large part of his life to science, period.

  91. bigjohn756 says: “Texas proudly boasts an illiteracy rate of almost 33%.”

    Could you please cite your source? Is that an average for the state or for a particular county?

    I found this illiteracy rate at the Texas Center for the Advancement of Literacy and Learning: About 19 percent of adult Texans do not have basic prose literacy skills, as in reading a newspaper.

    Not good. Yet, you could make a point without the hyperbole.

    http://www-tcall.tamu.edu/docs/09illitmap.html#bpls

  92. As Phil has pointed out, the issue here is not about whether or not Neil Armstrong is a scientist, but about whether or not he is a person of historical significance, and as such should be included in the textbook. And anyone who answers no to that question is clearly a couple of sandwiches short of a picnic.
    Of course, it took the immense efforts of 400000 people across the US, to get Armstrong to the Moon – and any mention of him in a historical context should acknowledge that fact. But the fact remains that he was the figurehead – the man who actually made the historic step – and so his is the name that will ( or should! ) always be remembered.
    Sadly, as someone has said, there are probably already young people in today’s society, who don’t know who Armstrong is!!! I know from personal experience that there are some who have never heard of Buzz Aldrin, and who know absolutely nothing about Apollo. The greatest human achievement in history is well on the way to being forgotten!!!
    If I may be allowed a little self-promotion; by a remarkable coincidence, just two days before Phil wrote this post, I posted an essay on my own web site, on this very theme:
    www dot spaceandsanity dot com slash apolloappendixc dot html

  93. Nigel Depledge

    Naomi (23) said:

    And while you’re at it, please state what percent of those are people who do not speak English. There are towns along the border that are so poor and cannot find teachers to move to those areas, that the schools are uncredited. I had a friend that was BEGGED to come teach in Presidio, a border town, and she didn’t even have a teacher’s certificate. There are large swaths of some cities, such as Houston and San Antonio, that have no signs in English, even street signs and billboards. They fail English language tests that measure literacy.

    Perhaps this is so.

    However, let me ask you this: what are the official languages of the USA?

    IIUC, the answer is: “English”. Not “English and Spanish”. Not even “Cherokee, Sioux, Navaho and English”.

    So, without literacy in English, a citizen may not participate fully in their society (taking the meaning of “society” in the broadest sense, and remembering what the “U” stands for in USA) and are not empowered to participate in the democratic process. Literacy in Spanish may as well be literacy in Serbo-Croat for all the relevance it has to American society in general.

  94. Michael

    I’ve lived in Texas for over 30 years. I agree that leaving Armstrong out of the textbooks is foolish beyond measure. However, note the unemployment rate in Texas, note the foreclosure rate in Texas, note the hords of people moving into Texas, and note from reconstruction onwards Texas had almost all democrat governors before Bush Jr.

    If you don’t like Texas, fine. However, attacking the people of an entire state of over 23 million people as ignorant or stupid is, in fact, ignorant and stupid.

    If you don’t like it here stay away. We’d appraciate that a lot.

  95. Cheyenne

    “However, let me ask you this: what are the official languages of the USA?

    IIUC, the answer is: “English”. Not “English and Spanish”. Not even “Cherokee, Sioux, Navaho and English”.”

    Actually no, not so much. The United States doesn’t have an “official” language. There have been some bills introduced to Congress to make English the official language at the federal level but they didn’t get very far. 30 states have made English the official language at the state level though.

  96. Indeed, most of the posters have completely missed what is at real issue here. This is not about Neil Armstrong not being a scientist, this is not about removing others (like Columbus) from the texts, this is not even about English as an official language in the USA. This is about the further deterioration of the education of American children at the hands of dangerous fundamentalists. Your once proud nation has allowed these people to mold children into (sorry, have to say it as it is) fundamentalist morons more akin to radical Islamists than civilized people in a technologically and socially advanced society. It should be, but isn’t, shameful that your nation has let this issue slip for so long. The few voices of the well educated and intelligent have become mere whispers in a crowd of drooling idiots . More than one of those drooling idiots made it all the way to President of the most powerful nation on Earth.

    The scope of this issue is broader than your country. It goes well beyond your borders. For nearly a decade one of the stupidest people in American politics had his finger on the button of your entire nuclear arsenal… and you wonder why the world dislikes and fears your nation? Yes stupidity is dangerous, and burns, and your nation is becoming more dangerous the longer this is allowed to go on. This must be stopped, and you must stop it before the rest of the world suffers even more.

  97. Sherri

    I’ve been watching the extremely right wing ultra conservative Texas State Board of Education pull this kind of crap for years. I expect they think it will be easier to control a population that’s too dumb to know any better. This won’t stop until we get Rick Perry out of office.

    This story is just a new example. Check out these books:

    http://www.amazon.com/Republican-War-Science-Chris-Mooney/dp/0465046762/ref=ntt_at_ep_dpt_3

    http://www.amazon.com/Unscientific-America-Scientific-Illiteracy-Threatens/dp/0465013058/ref=pd_sim_b_2

  98. Jeronimo Barros

    Idiocracy, it’s happening in Texas NOW: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0387808/

  99. Nigel Depledge

    Nick (50) said:

    So according to the Texas BoE, the first man on the Moon was Harrison Schmidt?

    Depends. Buzz Aldrin has a PhD in Aeronautics and helped develop some of the orbital rendezvous techniques. That pretty much is rocket science.

    The difficult thing about R&D: Where does “R” end and “D” begin?

  100. FC

    “…when he walked on the frakking Moon”

    You’ve been watching a lot of Battlestar Galactica lately haven’t you?

  101. Nigel Depledge

    Jayme Johnston (51) said:

    I struggle every single day in a classroom of 40+ 14 year-old students in 6 separate biology, chemistry and physics classrooms to include as much science as I can, knowing that for the majority of my students, it’s the only science education they will ever receive, and I have them for 170 hours in one year. What would you choose to teach if you had the entire catalog of science to choose from? As an “out” atheist and skeptic, I focus on their understanding of the scientific method and critical thinking skills. I really don’t care much if they remember the names of every scientist that made a significant contribution in the last 200 years, that sort of regurgitation is fairly useless compared to them actually understanding how science works.

    You make some good points here, and highlight obstacles that are put in your way as a teacher. Personally, I think it sucks big-time that science classes have 40+ pupils. When I was at school (in the UK in the 80s), they were around 30 per class in that age group.

    I also feel that you should not have to teach biology, chemistry and physics, because your own educational background will inevitably bias your presentation of the sciences. Where the sciences are still taught separately in the UK, the teacher needs to have a relevant degree (i.e. a biology degree to teach biology, etc.). However, the trend seems to be more towards “combined science” because it is cheaper and uses less space in the timetable. It also seems to be turning out school-leavers with far less understanding of science.

    I was taught biology, chemistry and physics as separate subjects, each of which was given more than 120 hours a year.

    Seeing people focus on issues like this, where the media makes it seem like science isn’t important to Texans, is disgusting to me, and it hurts our efforts every day in the classroom. Instead of attacking Texans for issues like this, which matter far less than the actual limitations the teachers are working with, is taking away from actionable classroom issues that matter much more than the content of our textbooks.

    The quality of our teachers, the size of our classes (we have no class size limit in high schools in Texas, leading to classes of 40 or more, making laboratories a dangerous hazard to the point that many teachers attempt to avoid them), the assessment-focused advancement system, and lack of funding are SO much more important than whether or not every significant historical figure can be included in a 200 page textbook (which they just can’t, realistically).

    Again, some very good points here.

    However…

    Each year I spend over $2,000 of my own money supplying my students with basic school supplies and “chemicals” and “lab equipment” that I have to purchase from a grocery store because our school science budget for 1,200 children is $1,000. If you can find a way to create fun laboratory activities in physics, chemistry and biology on less than $1 per student per year please call me.

    Until then, PLEASE stop claiming that “Texas [doesn't give] a flying frack about science”.

    Erm … If Texas (as a political entity) really cared about teaching science, surely the budgets wouold be adequate to the task? What your facts tell me is that the quality of education is being sacrificed to save money.

    We do, and we’re fighting for it, but stop putting the focus on things that don’t matter and focus on things that can make a bigger difference for us in the classrooms.

    It seems to me that some of you care a great deal about the quality of education that you are delivering. However, it is also abundantly apparent that the people making the budget decisions do not care about delivering high-quality education.

    As a PhD biochemist who had the good fortune to attend a well-funded school, I actually struggle to imagine how it is possible to teach science without frequent lab classes where the kids get to do some actual experiments.

  102. Johnny

    Whatever happened to just presenting the “facts,” chronologically as they occurred? History is about things that happened in the past, not politics, religion, or our own self initiated agenda.

    We need the Dragnet approach, “just the facts, just the facts.” No opinions or personal agendas. Also, these so called “experts,” just who are they and what makes them experts?

    Bah, hum bug!

  103. Chinch

    Seriously?

    Hey, can we please just let Texas secede PLEASE! Let them wallow in all their stupidity so that maybe the fools, morons and idiots that live there will cannibalize each other and we will be rid of them.

  104. Ben

    Texas keeps reminding us that they’re a republic and threatening to secede from the Union. But has anyone considered the alternative? Couldn’t we just GIVE Texas back to Mexico?

    “Sorry for the mix-up, chaps, but it seems we found one of your territories jumbled up with the rest of our states. No, we’re quite sure it isn’t one of our. The residents? Oh, feel free to do as you please with them! I understand they make marvelous house pets (not really bright enough for much else). Just keep them on your side of the fence, OK?”

    And THAT would be a border worthy of a big, expensive razor-wire coated, laser-protected, guard dog patrolled barrier.

  105. Dwells38

    Can’t believe I’m seeing comments that Appolo didn’t do much for science. You don’t think formulating a flight plan that involves leaving the effing Earth (sorry), navigating to the moon (which circulates the Earth 250,000 miles away) landing on it, leaving and returning to the Earth with astronauts unscathed didn’t involve science? The computer programming alone had to have been a monumental scientific accomplishment. They had to design life support systems that previously didn’t exist. They had to design and invent how food would be stored and carried. They had to design how they would navigate in zero G in a vaccuum!!!! They had to design spacesuits to allow walking and breathing on the moon. Armstrong had to understand and master all of that personally as well as pilot. He shouldn’t be removed from any books.

    Politically I’m on the right (slightly) but if this is being driven by right-wingers then they’re seriously misguided and I don’t support them on this.

  106. amphiox

    “Sadly, as someone has said, there are probably already young people in today’s society, who don’t know who Armstrong is!!!”

    Or perhaps they’ll think he’s a cyclist. (The first man to ride a bicycle on the moon?)

    “Anyone who applies any part of the scientific method towards discovering facts is a scientist.”

    True, but perhaps a bit too broad to be useful, because almost everybody is going to apply the scientific method towards discovery a fact at some point in their lives. For example, if you wanted to find out whether a certain recipe tastes better with one or two teaspoons of salt, and you prepared it twice and served it to your family and asked them what they thought afterwards, then you’ve applied to scientific method. If you tried to figure out if turning right on 2nd or left on 4th got you home faster from work during the rush hour and you tried it on consecutive days at the same time and timed yourself, and then told your co-worker what you did, you’ve applied the scientific method. (The telling would be required if you consider dissemination of your results in a reproducible manner part of the scientific method)

    Even your standard lying creationist applies the scientific method when he tries peddling different falsehoods to different audiences and then observes to see which argument is more convincing.

    “Whatever happened to just presenting the “facts,” chronologically as they occurred? History is about things that happened in the past, not politics, religion, or our own self initiated agenda.”

    Firstly, history is more than just the “facts”. Context with regards to social circumstances, politics, religion etc, at the time, are important. The relevance of the historical event on present circumstances is also important, and thus the current social, political, religious, etc factors must also be considered.

    Secondly, have you ever tried to teach or learn history as just a list of “facts” presented in chronological order? It might palliate some insomnia, but your students aren’t going to be retaining much in the way of useful knowledge, I can assure you.

  107. David Lee

    Uhmm last I checked on my bachelor’s degree stated….

    Bachelor in Science – Electrical Engineering…

    Ponders….

  108. Pieter Kok

    LOL, Johnny, that’s just silly. There are way too many facts!
    You have to have some measure of importance as to which facts you include in history, at the very least. And if history is to be meaningful, a framework interpreting these facts must also be given. Otherwise it is just a collection of past events, without any relevance.

    [Edit] And extremely boring, as amphiox rightly points out.

  109. David Alexander

    108. Chinch says: “Hey, can we please just let Texas secede PLEASE! Let them wallow in all their stupidity so that maybe the fools, morons and idiots that live there will cannibalize each other and we will be rid of them.”

    You sound a lot like White supremacists when they talk about Black people.

    And a lot of the commentators on this board sound a lot like you do.

    The question here is whether Armstrong is among the essential persons to include in a fifth grade social studies curriculum. I happen to think he is. But I am not going to denigrate entire groups of people — Texans, conservatives, e cetera — because they disagree with me.

    Whatever you might think of your own humanitarian or liberal-minded credentials, if your mind works this way towards one group of people, it would probably work that way against any others — Jews, Hispanics, gays — whomever you find yourself at odds with. Pretty scary.

  110. Chris

    @Miedvied 79
    …….Yes, I suppose that would be to some extent ignorant, but I’m sure you don’t expect everyone to actually have a detailed awareness of each individual state’s nuances regarding teaching policy?…..

    If you’re going to comment on them you should check, assuming they’re the same as your home state is silly and a tad parochial

  111. ND

    I believe they took UV photos of the sky from the moon as part of the science goals of Apollo. In other words they did take pictures of stars (with appropriate exposure settings of course :)

  112. Caleb Jones

    Wow a lot of heated comments on this one.

    People need to learn to separate the contributions of individuals to society from their personal lives:

    -Benjamin Franklin, one of the greatest inventors in history, was known as a womanizer for part of his life.
    -Alan Turing, the father of modern computing, was homosexual.
    -The musical genius, Wolfgang Amadeus Motzart, was a Freemason.
    -Nikola Tesla is believed to have suffered from clinical OCD.
    -van Gogh suffered from mental illnesses.
    -Martin Luther held many anti-semitic beliefs.

    It’s a shame to see people reject an entire person’s work simply because they don’t understand a part of that persons life or otherwise disagree with a part of their lifestyle or beliefs.

    Anyone can look at someone and see several things they feel are wrong with them. But it is a mark of a person dedicated to truth who can look at a person and focus on and learn from them whatever they can without getting stuck on differences or bigotry.

  113. Jamye Johnston

    @105. Nigel Depledge Says:
    “I also feel that you should not have to teach biology, chemistry and physics, because your own educational background will inevitably bias your presentation of the sciences. Where the sciences are still taught separately in the UK, the teacher needs to have a relevant degree (i.e. a biology degree to teach biology, etc.). However, the trend seems to be more towards “combined science” because it is cheaper and uses less space in the timetable.”

    I actually have degrees in both biology and chemistry. I thought the physics was going to kill me on the composite certification test (which for me was one of the hardest tests I’ve taken in my life, and widely considered unreasonably difficult compared to other certifications). The composite license actually qualifies me to teach Anatomy, Astronomy, Earth Sciences, Geology, and other fields that I’m not directly trained in. So in a way I agree with you, we’re certainly not doing everything we can to insure that folks are teaching what they are MOST qualified for, but the problem in science is that if you have a degree in Physics, you’re probably doing something other than aspiring to become a high school teacher. It leads to a scary rarity of science teachers (even unqualified ones), which leads to larger class sizes, which leads to more and more problems. I came to be a teacher after 8 years working in pathology, because I was looking for something more challenging. Boy howdy did I find it!

    I also disagree with an earlier poster that our focus should be on setting higher minimum standards. I think our focus should be on producing more students, and therefore citizens, who don’t care to do just the minimum. I tell my students all the time that it doesn’t matter where the bar is, if they try their hardest and do their best no matter what that they’ve accomplished something.

    Yes, there should be standards. But instead of having the default expectation be that everyone does the bare minimum is far too pessimistic a view for me to take. There should be a bare minimum number of people who perform bare minimum tasks!

  114. Joe Meils

    (facepalm) Don’t tell me, let me guess… these guys probably decided not to show the Obama speech too, because it was “indoctrination” right?

    I watched “Idiocracy” over the weekend… sad to say, I’m beginning to think that it may be one of the most relevant peices of science fiction to come down the pike in a long long time…

  115. Mark Janovec

    Simply put, all 12 astronauts who walked upon the moon were professionally trained as field geologists to locate, identify, and collect the best variety of rock samples from the lunar surface (often referred to as a “suite” of samples). As a professionally-trained and licensed geologist myself, I have no trouble whatsoever referring to these astronauts as “scientists.”

    Reportedly, Armstrong returned one of the best suites of geologic samples from his lunar EVA…even though the duration of his (and Aldrin’s) stay on the lunar surface was the shortest of all astronauts.

    But the most absurd notion from the decision to remove Armstrong from the textbooks is the idea that only professionally-trained scientists are capable of making important scientific discoveries and contributions. (Again, nevermind the fact that Armstrong WAS professionally trained in geologic field science for his mission.)

  116. Lithified Detritus

    @86. lcdlover Says:
    “I’ll try to say it in a less provocative way: please leave the history to the historians and the science to the scientists. There should not be any parents or teachers or school boards reviewing textbooks at all!! The review should be left to other scientists and historians …”

    As a public school science teacher who has been involved in curriculum at the state level, (my name appears on the title page of the Michigan High School Earth Science Content Expectations) I have to take exception to at least some of this. My experience is a bit different because we were developing curriculum, not reviewing textbooks, but I think my experience is relevant.

    I agree that the specialists should be involved, especially in the fact-checking process. I don’t agree with leaving teachers out, however. Competent teachers will have a pretty good sense of the state of the science, and a finely honed sense of what is important and comprehensible to students. Specialists will tend to want to overload the curriculum with their own field (teachers with particular interests can be guilty of this, too), and include arcane details of little importance to the general public, and beyond the comprehension of many students.

    Boards of Education are for the most part concerned with the nuts and bolts of running the schools, mainly in keeping costs, and therefore taxes, to a minimum, so I agree that local school boards should not be involved. In Michigan, though, the state BOE must sign off on the final curriculum document. I will confess that we had some nervous moments about that.

    The main reason to include some opportunity for public comment is to allow for some sense of ownership. In Michigan, the public comment process was deeply flawed (and I sent a blistering email to the state science curriculum person about this), but there was some public input. We read the public comments. Some were useful, some not. In particular, there seemed to have been a group of creationists from the Grand Rapids area who got together in a church basement and attempted to skew the comments. We read their comments, considered the quality and scientific content, and pretty much ignored them.

    I will not claim that the document we came up with was perfect. Everyone involved had some issues with it, but it represented a reasonable compromise, and there is no bad science or pseudoscience in it. The main complaints involved things that were left out – Neil Armstrong is not in it ;-) , but we had to deal with the amount of material that could be realistically covered in a high school earth science course.

  117. sinz52

    118 Caleb Jones:

    I’m not sure their bios should be separated at all.

    If I were teaching history to kids, one thing I would tell them is that history was made by real human beings, with all their very human ambitions, passions, lusts, and flaws. (And this includes scientists who made the history of science.) I would tell them that our ancestors were not angels.

    I would have no problem telling young people that Benjamin Franklin was a stellar figure in our American Revolution and a scientist in his own right who fathered an illegitimate child. Or that Sigmund Freud experimented with cocaine. Or that Werner Heisenberg headed up the Nazi atom bomb project during World War II.

    Part of the nostalgia you hear from some circles for “the good old days” when we supposedly didn’t have sex out of wedlock and we were peaceful, law-abiding and moral, is due to the fact that our history has been so sanitized, to the point that our ancestors come off as near-angelic–and we look flawed and immoral alongside these supposed paragons of virtue.

    And as I said, that leads to an unwarranted nostalgia for the “good old days.”

  118. Satanic_Hamster

    Really? No one has mentioned it? No one?

    The moon isn’t a planet. It’s… Well, it’s a moon.

  119. Steve Dutch

    Peter Marshall is author of The Light and the Glory, a retelling of American history from a religiously conservative perspective. I never in my wildest dreams thought I would ever see a book that claimed the Salem witchcraft mania was a response to real diabolic activity, but that’s what he says. Not that the “witches” themselves were guilty, but that people were terrified by real diabolical phenomena and acted rashly. The guy is a first class loon. And he’s involved in this business? I’m going to be ill.

  120. ND

    The following video discusses the UV observations done from the moon by Apollo 16:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z1aixi_Sj24&fmt=6

    Here’s a nice shot of the UV scope/camera
    http://www.spaceimages.com/ap16duatmeph.html

  121. sornord

    If Texas gets any STUPIDER, let’s give them back to MEXICO!

  122. clatham

    Sometimes, just sometimes, I hate being from Texas…

  123. seabear70

    I’m going to get flamed for this…

    While I agree that Neil Armstrong is Important, I have to ask why people suddenly care that kids aren’t getting a proper education? We’ve been dumbing them down for decades and now people are up in arms about Neil Armstrong? WTF??? Seriously, come on people. We have a list of topics that we can’t discuss in schools that is longer than the ones we can discuss. We have been dropping acceptable passing scores for at least the last 20 years on the off chance that kids might actually have to learn something. When was the last time a kid was held back a grade because they didn’t bother to learn what was presented to them? We’re so freaking desperate to improve these kids self-esteem that we never bother to give them anything to actually feel good about. We can’t teack these kids to read a damn book and we’re supposed to care if they remember something that we are systematically destroying their capability to achieve?????? And people want to get PO’d about this? This is pathetic! You make me sick!

  124. e

    textbooks will always lie. Many kids are taught that the Civil War happened because of economic reasons. Yeah right. I would venture, of all teh southern states, maybe Alabama had a case because of their industry, but it’s flimsy at that. When in the South carolina charter of secession was written, it clearly stated they were leaving he Union because of teh slavery issue.

    How abuot the sinking of the Maine or the Gulf of Tonkin. what were we taught in school and what did the history books tell us abuot those incidents.

    Let me guess, the Sons and Daughters of the Confederacy (2 separate groups) are behind this revisionist history.

  125. Bryan

    Madness? This! Is! SPARTA!!!!!

  126. What does Neil being a scientist or not have anything to do with anything? The article says they want to remove him from ‘social studies’ aka History textbooks. This is history class not science, so how is his being an engineer rather than a scientist even matter? Robert E. Lee wasn’t a scientist lets take him out too. The Alamo how many of the Alamo Defenders were scientist? looks like the alamo is out too Texas!

  127. Mel

    I just looked up statistics for Texas’ literacy. (I have always lived in Texas – btw) According to the U.S. Dept. of Education/National Center for Education, a National Assessment of Adult Literacy statistic for 2003:
    Population: 15,936,279
    Persons lacking basic prose literacy skills: 19%
    95% credible interval*: Low – 16% High – 22%
    *this is the margin for error
    reference: http://nces.ed.gov/NAAL/estimates/StateEstimates.aspx
    I hope this clears up anyone’s misappreshensions regarding our level of literacy.

  128. Justin

    That whole homeschooling thing just keeps looking better and better…

  129. ravar

    CHEMIST . There is no evidence that Columbus raped, enslaved or murdered anyone. The Spanish conquistadors (aptly named) & the Pinzon clan (who supplied the ships for the ist voyage of exploration & discovery) over whom Columbus had no authority (read his Journals) justifably have the credit for those acts. There is however ample evidence that Columbus explored & discovered – that is travelled to/documented his travels in areas previously unknown to his Western European culture and brought those areas & cultures into the conciousness of his culture. That is what exploration & discovery mean. Duh.

  130. Rita

    You know, I do wonder what these sorts of people will come up with next…Maybe it will be one thing at a time and before you know it, no more history or science or FACTS!!

  131. defective robot

    So e (#131), not to derail this conversation, but are you saying that southern plantation owners were perfectly willing to let the government take away their free labor so that they could replace it with more expensive hired help and thus drastically reduce their profit margins?

    No?

    Oh, so then the Civil War was caused by economic concerns! OK, got that straight.

  132. Travis

    Thank you Mark Janovec, you said what I was going to say. Asserting that the Apollo astronauts weren’t scientists and that Apollo didn’t contribute to science is just lunacy (get it, heh heh).

    However let’s put aside all the science that was gleamed from their rock samples, and various deployed instrumented experiments, and just hypothesis that all they did was walk around and plant a flag, did that not contribute to science in its own way? Why there is first the fact that they are walking around at all and not just sinking helmet deep into a layer of fluffy regolith (granted this was already largely discounted because of robotic landers but you wouldn’t know for sure until the guys got there) so that right there is scientifically important. Then, at the end of the EVA, they reentered the LM and re-pressurized it. That the dust that had collected on their suits did not combust when it came into oxygen proved another scientific point since it had been hypothesized that this was a possibility.

    Slight derail, about the “Myth of Columbus thing.” Can anyone even find a school where the “myth” is taught? It sure wasn’t taught at my school where we ended our history of Columbus pretty much just short of burning the man in effigy.

  133. Don Sizemore

    Amazing, to leave out the greatest single accomplishment by the human race, which confirms our sentience, by leaving the surface of our planet, safely landing on the surface of another celestial body, and then returning home safely – on the first try…!!! Unfortunately we must still suffer the folly of fooles. Maybe we should put all of these idiots on a rocket and transport them to the moon…!!!

  134. ND

    defective robot,

    In other words it was about slavery. What do you think that “free labor” was? You forgot the other economic market, selling of slaves.

    Wording it in terms of economy obscures the underlying issue. Enslavement of human beings. Classification of humans as property based on racial lines. This was an untenable situation that went against the spirit in which the US was created in the first place.

    I hope I misread your post.

  135. Chuck S.

    I’m a native Texan. I read things like this about my beloved state and it makes blood squirt out of my ears! WTF, Texas? Have we surrendered completely to the Yankee liberals that moved down here in hordes in the 1980s? When did it become a requirement for someone to have a lobotomy once they took a position in government at pretty much any level above dogcatcher?

    I weep for my state and my country.

  136. Jim Garland

    This is the state that still hangs on to creationist ideas and renames it intelligent design.

    Unfortunately intelligence has been dropped as a requirement for board members.

    They gave us G.W. Bush…….

  137. Walter Johnson

    It never stops amazing me how far from the norm Texas Board of Education standards are. I learned they have violated a core principal of history too by deleting major historical figures to put in talk show hosts that are still alive and have had only nominal impact on history at best.

    I told my sister and her husband not to retire to Texas, but they did to avoid income taxes. They got exactly what they didn’t pay for, and nearly all of their now adult children have had serious problems. One time when I visited her, I was real frustrated with the almost random signage as small towns changed, so I asked a fast food windows order person why on earth they moved to Texas. The woman said she had lived in a much smaller town in Texas (apparently where she was from since birth); she hated Texas, and especially Dallas but had to move there to find work and she couldn’t afford to move out of Texas because of her low wages.

    I twice got bacterial infections when visiting my sister, so we haven’t seen each other since our mother’s funeral because I won’t go back again and get another infection. The last one took two months of expensive antibiotics ($800 cost) to cure. I think I got that infections by ignoring a sign after exiting the interstate that said the local water supply was not approved. For some reason I assumed the water was safe but just not tested. I had water to drink only at the restaurant. After that, two visits and one infection each trip. I then told my sister I would never visit her again in Texas and I have not. She can’t afford to visit me.

    If Texas can’t even meet common national health standards, it should come as no surprise they don’t share national educational standards either.

    My experience may be coincidence, but if my state ever bought Texas Board of Education approved textbooks, especially for science or history, I would work to bar such purchases permanently. The sole reason that the Texas Board of Education has such an impact is that they order textbooks in large quantities, whereas may states don’t make statewide textbook decisions for every class.

  138. Bill

    For years, I told my wife (a native Texan) she should be thankful I got her out of there because the people who live there suffered from “brains baked by the sun”. This confirms it.

  139. Steve

    All this clamoring about what is in textbooks (right or left) is BS. Just teach the kids how to read and they will find truth for themselves. God knows you wont find it in any textbook these days.

  140. Alan Granger

    We have to thank Gov. Shrub and his replacement Gov. Goodhair, for who I am going to register my approval by voting for Kinky.

  141. Bill M

    I am astonished at this, and there is no explaination for it. History is what it is, like it or not, and not to be “touched up” to make it more palatable. It should be learned from and is a source of information on our heritage. It needs to be accurate, not “fair and balanced”. Also, I am an Engineer and an Engineer is indeed a Scientist. Undergraduate Chemical Engineering for example is one heck of a lot harder than undergraduate Chemistry or BioChemistry, I can tell you that from personal experience in both and both involve science at every turn, so to say that because Niel Armstrong was an Engineer so he was not a Scientist is sheer lunacy and shows a degree of lack of understanding that I can’t fathom.

  142. Wart

    Dumbosity = the state of being a Texan. (with a few exceptions)

  143. Dustiedog

    Being a native Texan myself, (although I won’t tell anyone here that), the move from the mental black hole that is our second largest state was the best move I ever made. Northern Nevada is beautiful and the people are polite, sincere and intelligent. It’s like living in a whole other world compared the intelligence void I suffered from in Texas.

    If you are planning a trip, or worse yet, to move to Texas, please take my advice and change your plans immediately before that state has a chance to suck the intelligence from another innocent American.

  144. Dustiedog

    Most of the smart Texans have already left.

    I say let them secede and if they no longer wish to, let Mexico have it back. It will be an easy transition for their tiny Texas minds with little difference in driving skills, language and education, they probably wouldn’t even notice.

  145. Chiron Agnomen

    I wonder whether Neil Armstrong’s contribution was all that valuable after all. I was among those watching when Armstrong stepped out onto the Moon. It was one of the most thrilling moments of my life, a man setting foot on the Moon. It was a significant moment.

    But did it alter the course of the world? Did life on this planet become better – or even significantly different – because of Armstrong’s walk? Not really. It can be argued that the space program yielded enormous technological and scientific benefits. Still, did the Moon walk make that much difference in the world?

    I don’t see it. Yes, we walked on the surface of a different heavenly body for the first time in history. There is a certain amount of wonder to that. But when all is said and done, I don’t see that this made a lasting difference in most peoples’ lives. Had Armstrong never set foot on the Moon, life would have gone on much the same. After a few days of awe and wonder, we all went back to our daily routines.

    We never followed up on the Moon. We landed there a few times, poked around, and came back. We learned a few things from the Moon rocks, but we didn’t start a colony on the Moon, didn’t begin to do anything there. Up and back, and then nothing more for decades.

    The successful launch of Sputnik, I believe, had more impact on humanity. That began a race to space that ultimately led to landing on the Moon. However, it caused lasting changes. Our Earth is surrounded by satellites that allow communications, scientific exploration of the Earth and its oceans, all kinds of useful, continuous benefits.

    The Moon landing was a dead end.

  146. Wow, I have heard David Barton speak many times. I’d put him up against anyone on history and government. Glad to see he is on the panel.

    Intersting to see that satire seems to be the only weapon used to respond to the thoughts that many in this string object to. Some have replied with thought out objections, but many have not. So, who is demonstrating a lack of intellect?

  147. Corby In Tampa

    We needed teachers before we had web sites.

    In Houston (where I am from) they had to tear down a $15 million dollar school, because when it was built, it might have had asbestos in the ceilings, build a new school at a cost of $20 million dollars, and staff the school with dozens and dozens of employees that all have medical and retirement needs, not counting their salaries.

    How redundant is 1.2 million teachers teaching 2 + 2 to seconds graders?

  148. Texas Larry

    I can only dream of the day when my beloved Texas would secede and send all the Yankee’s back up north and run the Mexicans back south. You all are idiots. Think before you speak.

  149. Rich

    Hmmmm, so is Darwin in or out? He wasn’t a scientist (I believe he considered ministry work) but made one of the most revolutionary scientific discoveries of all time- evolu… oh, right, Texas.

    So, Darwin’s out…

  150. Will Not

    It would be poetic justice if the board could not find anyone to publish such rubbish, wouldn’t it? It’s not a “right” or “left” issue, but one of compromising verifiable facts. Sheesh!

  151. Joe

    Texas Board of Education Procedures: §2.12. Public Hearings.

    “The board shall conduct a public hearing on a substantive rule if a hearing is requested by at least 25 persons, a governmental subdivision…”

    So any 25 people can submit a proposal. It doesn’t really mean it passed and it sure as heck doesn’t mean it is representative of that state’s citizens. As a person who was raised in Texas I’m somewhat offended. As a citizen of the United States I’m really offended that an elitist bigot like you is able to exist and flourish under a thin veil of misconception and ignorance.

    You made an epic fail at simple research and seem to have a knack for jumping to conclusions . I think it’s safe to say you’ll never make it into a text book even if you try.

  152. xTexan

    As if Texan children read the textbooks anyway.
    When I last visited, it was apparent the kids there only look at the pictures, if they even open their textbooks at all… (lacking the requisite pix of American Idol hotties)

  153. Do we skip those that contributed to scientific knowledge before there were specific branches of science?

    Copernicus was a mathematician, so do we revert to teaching that the earth is the center of the universe?

    What about accidental discoveries? No more prescriptions for penicillin! Outlaw it! Pull Fleming from the texts!

    Pasteur contributed to modern medicine as the first to suggest a treatment for the cause of a disease rather than the symptoms, but he wasn’t a medical doctor! Get out those leeks and slugs and let’s do a little blood-letting!

    Franklin had very few years of formal schooling, so rip that breaker box from your house and grow longer arms to read your newspaper, IF your house doesn’t burn down in a storm!

    Edison had no degree in anything! Quick, turn off the lights and close down Hollywood!

    Darwin was just a kid who liked nature and failed at being a preacher. Get him out of the texts!! Oh, my bad, he already is!

    We MUST leave these people and thousands more like them out of text books! We owe it to Jay Leno who needs more fodder when he hits the streets!

  154. Sagramore

    To Texas Larry @158

    you’ll want to send all the “Yankees back” not “Yankee’s back” actually.

    C. M. Kornbluth was a visionary.

  155. Greg A

    I’m glad that I’m from Virginia…..sounds as if the SBOE just wants to take control because it must have offended someone……they must have been a ‘transplant’ and feel left out, knowing that someone in their country wasn’t listed in the text book …….. so they decided to just take out or ‘whine’ enough so the people that really made a difference in our …… OUR ….. THE USA …. science or history should be considered for removal.

    You know, you could re-write that portion of the book(s) to say….. ‘In 1969, a footprint was left on the moon by someone that made a great mark in the world’s……….’

    NOW, I’ve left it wide open to where anyone can visualise any person they want to into this situation.
    Does the book of science have to literally include only scientists?? The whole thing is absurd!!! Just my 2¢ worth.

  156. Slithius Tove

    Are there any Americans in Texas ? The problem may simply be that the residents of Texas, for whom the Board of Education works, do not know American history and neither need nor want to learn it.

  157. luxzia

    I’m from Texas – and though I love it dearly in some ways, I can’t bear to be there because it is full of ignorant fools. I wouldn’t be surprised either way if this was a joke or serious, because there is no place on earth that makes for such post-modernist humor as being an actually intelligent person forced to live in that state.

    So, despite the fact that somehow I left there with something of an education (maybe because I went to the university there and actually paid attention to my professors unlike the sorority girls that had fewer brain cells than I did when drunk), I still think that place is an abomination to humanity. Maybe the Board of Education can discover a new element involving Jesus somehow that explains creationism. It would be a great amusement to this escapee.

  158. gregniowa

    A tempest in a teapot. Books and curriculum for all educational classes must be limited in scope. There is only so much time to devote to the subject in a given year. Therefore, careful consideration must be given as to what to include each year, and when in a student’s education a subject should be addressed and from what perspective.

    The NASA program can be studied from many points of view, including scientific, historical, political, ecomomic and simply factual perspectives. Whether Neil Armstrong should make the cut to be covered in a fifth grade social studies science focused subject layout as opposed to waiting until seventh grade, or say, ninth grade when the cold war and the associated space race might be covered in far more detail or in a later more space related science semester (or address it in all four places at the expense of covering other subjects) is a choice that every curriculum designer must make.

    Social studies is not a one year subject, it is covered from varied perspectives throughout the years of primary and secondary education. To decide to remove coverage of a subject or a historical figure from a single year’s curriculum does not mean it (or they) will not be covered at all.

  159. Whys

    The real problem, as I see it, is the willing relinquishment of truth for cult. It’s not about history, science, or knowledge. It’s about unabashed “Me! Me! Me!” And before these bastions of “truthiness” move forward, they might wish to recall that every supporter of “intelligent” design on the board of education in Kansas was summarily replaced by the voters. Cult has no place in education.

  160. Knoxie

    So, if I read this correctly a single “review team,” made up of parents and teachers, has made a *proposal* to remove Armstrong from the “science strand” of a single 5th grade social studies textbook? But the TBOE has yet to act on it.

    Perhaps we shouldn’t be so quick to condemn the TBOE, and certainly not the *entire state of Texas*, when so far a few people have come forth with an idiotic proposal which has yet to be ruled on.

    Hopefully, the board will come to the obvious conclusion to leave Armstrong and the stunning scientific achievement of Apollo 11 both in the 5th grade curriculum and in the text. (The very argument this review team supposedly made that Armstrong isn’t a “scientist” is both silly and irrelevant.)

    Fifth grade seems to me a perfect time to spark the imaginations of young students about what can be achieved through a combination of brain power, hard work, and science. Sure, one could argue that other scientific achievements have had a greater impact on society as a whole, but I still remember learning about the Apollo 11 mission when I was around 10 years old and thinking it was the coolest thing ever, and that science was actually pretty interesting after all. At that age, I don’t think I would have been quite as enthusiastic learning about, for example, atomic principles or the discovery of penicillin (though both are significant in shaping both human history and scientific understanding).

    So sure, though a book and a curriculum can’t include “everything,” I hope the TX BOE seriously considers what is developmentally appropriate in terms of making our students enthusiastic learners; when it comes to science, the history of the American space program is a no-brainer for inclusion. And that can’t be taught without including Apollo 11 and the first moonwalk by Armstrong and Aldrin.

    Elementary school aged kids be taught this as a matter of course–I’m perplexed that it would be an issue with any teacher/parent group and can’t fathom what their angle could possibly be.

  161. roninthewest

    As for Rosa Parks being a minority in Montgomery, AL in 1955 that needs a little correction. She was classified as an ethnic Negro and by way of the census of 1956 for the State of Alabama, County of Montgomery and City of Montgomery would have been in the ethnic majority for that city’s population. She and all other Negros were repressed by the segregationist minority Whites in Montgomery.

    The same can be all most said for Caesar Chavez. At the time he was attempting to organize the “Wetbacks” in California, the state was second only to Texas in cotton production, vast acreage set aside for crops that required hand picking i.e. lettuce, grapes, fruit trees and rice. I am not talking about populated counties like Los Angeles or San Francisco but the unpopulated counties from Bakersfield north along Highway 99 through the Central Valley of California to Stockton. When the “migrant workers” (we would now call them illegal immigrants) were needed to pick a crop in one of these unpopulated counties just by headcount they would often by the majority in that county for the time they were needed.

    And if we go back further in history lets not forget the Indian Wars from 1637 through the 1890s, we were pretty good at in wiping out the majority North American Indians and their way of life by the White man.

    As a white man who is old enough to remember the Russians marching into Budapest, I am not proud of our history in race relations but it is history and should be covered in social studies. Its all about what a impact of a person attempting to correct a wrong, whether a minority or majority.

  162. InkedMama

    i dunno.. maybe this has already been touched on.. im not understanding why his scientific status has any bearing on wether or not hes in a “History” book. lots of non-scientists made history. and i’m pretty sure walking on the moon qualifies as history… but hey, if they wanna raise a state full of morons… go for it. Who knows… maybe another one can grow up to be a bad president :)

  163. kenny

    To those of you who are astounded that teachers of all people would want to do this, please understand that the BoE does not comprise teachers. They are political appointments made by the governor, who is currently doing all he can to pander to the religious right for re-election.

    I live in Texas, and believe me, if teachers ran the BoE, things would be much better. I’m going to try to get on that board one day.

  164. Jay

    Everyone seems to be forgetting rule #1 in leadership… The DUMBER they are, the EASIER they are to control. So it starts in Texas… Make them stupid, indoctrinate them into the conservative (or communist) way of thought… Keep them in a cage (even though they cant see it). Same reason why Tobacco and Alcohol are legal and Marijuana isn’t… Ignorance + Lawmaker Payoffs (lobbyists)+ Indoctrination to a conformed way of thinking = Power and Money for the few… It’s your country, do something about it, or keep your head up your a$$ so you dont have to see it.

  165. Danimal

    Do you think if we express sincere regret, and get Obama to apologize, we
    can get Mexico to take Texas back? If we say pretty pleeze?

  166. Like who started this junk. Maybe their next governor?

  167. Jef Davis

    What’s the big deal? It’s a school textbook.
    Think back to when you were in school…..now try to remember anything about any of the textbooks you read…..Now estimate what percentage of learning actually comes from school textbooks.
    So why get worked up about it?

  168. Kirt Pandya

    Texas is a backward state. Where else would Rick Perry be elected twice? May be in Louisiana. Bobby Jindal is worse.

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