'Where I'm from, we believe all sorts of things that aren't true. We call it history.'

By Sheril Kirshenbaum | March 14, 2010 10:10 pm

Having just signed our lease in Texas, I’m extremely disappointed with my new state’s Board of Ed. In case you missed it, they’ve voted to remove Thomas Jefferson, the Enlightenment, and more from the world history standards. And it gets much worse:

Details at The New York Times, Bad Astronomy and The Loom.


Comments (20)

  1. Dake

    I concur with your disappointment.

  2. Luke Vogel

    I apologize for going off topic. I just researched something I read on the Center for Inquiry forum (the thread started from Chris’ latest podcast) that you have been named a Templeton Fellow in journalism. Is this true? Does this include (as was said on the cfi forum) a Templeton Foundation grant? If so, what a heartbreak. No wonder you think you have been clear on the science and religion front and have sounded as though you want to unjustly limit scientific skepticism.

  3. Luke, I think that’s Chris who won the Templeton, Not Sheril.
    But bravo if ya both did!

  4. ChrisD

    Rick Perry was talking about secession a while back–maybe we should just let him do it. Sometimes Texas is just damned embarrassin’.

  5. Luke Vogel

    Lab Lemming, thanks for pointing my attention to the fact that this was posted by Sheril. My question was directed to Chris, hence me mentioning Chris’ latest podcast etc.

    What does it mean he “won” the Templeton? Is there any statements by Chris around concerning my question and having “won” the Templeton?

  6. Luke Vogel

    Ok, I found a blogpost by Chris concerning Templeton.


    “The fellowship is basically two months long, with three weeks in Cambridge and two at “home” (wherever that is, in my case), during which one reads and studies up on the subject of science and religion.”

    But, Chris you’ve already been so clear on the science and religion front 🙂 This is supremely disappointing.

  7. There is just more and more evidence that we need National Standards for education that are enforced consistently.

  8. People like this make me sad. It gives normal, intelligent Christians a bad name.

  9. Walker

    Welcome to Texas. I lived there for most of the 2000s. Got out. Don’t miss it.

    But at least you are in Austin. There are worse places — like Dallas.

  10. james wheaton

    I am becoming more and more convinced that fundamentalist Christianity is perhaps the most influential element of the entire right wing agenda in this country now. It just keeps cropping up too much. I have resisted attacking Christianity for most of the issues we see today (obstructionism, race baiting, conspiracy theories, denialism, etc) – but I think it is behind the curtain pulling the strings. Amazing that a religion that justifiably professes to be the most peaceful and fulfilling on earth, and is supposedly over the bad stuff (Crusades, inquisitions, etc), is now becoming so outright dangerous again.

  11. @10 Walker
    So far, I’m loving Austin 🙂

    @5 ChrisD
    Links fixed, thanks.

  12. LBrrr

    Luke, I think you owe Sheril an apology.

    This situation seems to be too much like Dover. It’s frightening that people can claim themselves as experts in a field without any sort of qualification.

    Also, I would like to add that if you become friends with the National Center for Science Education on Facebook they update pretty frequently with interesting topics.

  13. Anthony McCarthy

    The spectacle of the broken Senate has made it necessary that states with an effective population of progressives unite and practice progressive regionalism as a counterweight to states with an effective majority of far right voters. If progressives in progressive states flexed their power they might be able to do a lot for the entire country, including people who live in regressive states.

    Fundamentalist “christianty” is Mammonism with a veneer of bibliolatry covering reality. It’s got little to nothing to do with either the first or the second testaments.

  14. Anthony McCarthy

    Luke Vogel @2

    Are you calling for purity tests for the money that scientists and the like accept? Because there’s a lot worse than Templeton that regularly funds research and it’s called the normal course of events in science. How about armaments or petroleum geology or any number of other areas of science?

    Or is it just that someone might read a bit of the book that is one of the main topics of intersection in the politics of science and society today that is forbidden?

  15. Elena Strange

    Man. I used to be kinda impressed with Texas, because they counted computer science towards high-school science requirements. (Just a little bias toward my own field. Can’t help it.) But this is just awful, seriously. I agree with @Doug: national standards, as long as the fundamentalists don’t get their paws on that, too.

  16. John Kwok

    @ Elena –

    Know Carl Zimmer has been writing about this too, and it was the subject of a flawed, though still useful, article written by Russell Shorto in The New York Times Magazine a few weeks back. Really wished that the Texas State Board of Education, as it is currently constituted, displayed substantially more sense.

    Unfortunately, it seems as though I have to concur with Doug too. We need National Standards not only on science, but regrettably, apparently history too.

  17. TB

    You need to be active with your local school board too and make sure they don’tpurchase any text books that conform to Texas standards.

  18. Michael Kingsford Gray

    This is what one gets when one panders to faith.

  19. Michael Heath

    Geran Smith stated:

    People like this make me sad. It gives normal, intelligent Christians a bad name.

    I’ve been seeing this slight spin-off of the ‘no true Scotsman’ argument quite a bit in forums writing about this topic. I think it’s important to note that the Texas SBOE board members who are amending the drafts of what historians presented them to the subsequent revisionist garbage were voted into office. The actions these members are currently taken was their primary platform plank along with their wanting to promote anti-science, scientifically illiterate positions as well. They didn’t hide what they were going to do, they instead featured it in their campaigns.

    I think if “normal, intelligent Christians” exist (the intelligent aspect), they would be ostracizing these people and their ideas from their faith community. I not only see that happening, but I instead see this movement growing in power as they increase their dominance of the Republican party. Therefore I’d argue that what we are seeing out of these SBOE board members is in fact part of the “norm” of Texas Christianity and perhaps not so different from the norm found in other Bible Belt states.


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About Sheril Kirshenbaum

Sheril Kirshenbaum is a research scientist with the Webber Energy Group at the University of Texas at Austin's Center for International Energy and Environmental Policy where she works on projects to enhance public understanding of energy issues as they relate to food, oceans, and culture. She is involved in conservation initiatives across levels of government, working to improve communication between scientists, policymakers, and the public. Sheril is the author of The Science of Kissing, which explores one of humanity's fondest pastimes. She also co-authored Unscientific America: How Scientific Illiteracy Threatens Our Future with Chris Mooney, chosen by Library Journal as one of the Best Sci-Tech Books of 2009 and named by President Obama's science advisor John Holdren as his top recommended read. Sheril contributes to popular publications including Newsweek, The Washington Post, Discover Magazine, and The Nation, frequently covering topics that bridge science and society from climate change to genetically modified foods. Her writing is featured in the anthology The Best American Science Writing 2010. In 2006 Sheril served as a legislative Knauss science fellow on Capitol Hill with Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL) where she was involved in energy, climate, and ocean policy. She also has experience working on pop radio and her work has been published in Science, Fisheries Bulletin, Oecologia, and Issues in Science and Technology. In 2007, she helped to found Science Debate; an initiative encouraging candidates to debate science research and innovation issues on the campaign trail. Previously, Sheril was a research associate at Duke University's Nicholas School of the Environment and has served as a Fellow with the Center for Biodiversity and Conservation at the American Museum of Natural History and as a Howard Hughes Research Fellow. She has contributed reports to The Nature Conservancy and provided assistance on international protected area projects. Sheril serves as a science advisor to NPR's Science Friday and its nonprofit partner, Science Friday Initiative. She also serves on the program committee for the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). She speaks regularly around the country to audiences at universities, federal agencies, and museums and has been a guest on such programs as The Today Show and The Daily Rundown on MSNBC. Sheril is a graduate of Tufts University and holds two masters of science degrees in marine biology and marine policy from the University of Maine. She co-hosts The Intersection on Discover blogs with Chris Mooney and has contributed to DeSmogBlog, Talking Science, Wired Science and Seed. She was born in Suffern, New York and is also a musician. Sheril lives in Austin, Texas with her husband David Lowry.Interested in booking Sheril Kirshenbaum to speak at your next event? Contact Hachette Speakers Bureau 866.376.6591 info@hachettespeakersbureau.comFor more information, visit her website or email Sheril at srkirshenbaum@yahoo.com.


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