[October 13, 2010]- Recently candidates for the Texas State Board of Educators had a debate in lieu of the upcoming mid-term elections. The event was sponsored by the Texas Business and Education Coalition. After reading the excerpts of the questions and conversations posed to the hopefuls, I must say I have never been more embarrassed to be an educator in my life.
Education is the great civil right. The entire “American Dream” depends on the options made available to everyone who is willing to work for it. When true, equal education is attainable for all and social mobility becomes a reality. When false, economies stall, oligarchies rise and we wind up where we are in America today. Everyone has benefited from a teacher of some sort. Whenever education is tainted or denied trouble is soon to follow.
American modern education is not perfect. Its shortcomings include economic disparities, conservative leadership who continuously cut funding, and the propensity to over test and rely too heavy on flawed assessments. As crippling as these structural flaws are, this pales in comparison to the real problem American students face are the political/ideological wars that spill over to the realm of academia. This tragedy will make our children far less credible and valuable in the global economy.
It is important to note that the state board candidates were not discussing new or revolutionary issues and opportunities. In Texas, we are still debating evolution. Seriously. Moreover, conservative members on the board are fighting to give Intelligent Design and Creationism the same scientific validity as evolution. The republicans tend to confuse religious dogma with research and study. One of the issues that came up had to do with the belief that dinosaurs and humans co-existed. Without getting too embroiled in the patently ludicrous argument, one should be clear that this was/ is a governing principle of some of the people who decide how we educate our children. This belief is fine for Theology, but it doesn’t work well in 21st century Biology, or any other legitimate academic field. Remember, everything from aspirin to cancer research to vaccines is based upon the abundance of evidence for evolution.
The other main problem that resurfaced was the perennial debacle of sex education for students. Now…I may be a little off with my data but…people have been having sex for a while. Apparently, we all missed the memo that young children were engaging in risky hook ups. The state board, at least the conservative gang, feels there is no age in which responsible sex education could be beneficial. The republicans believe in promoting abstinence as the only option. That would be great…except it is not reality. In Texas abstinence has ruled virtually unchallenged for a generation. Abstinence only “teaching” has succeeded in making Texas the state with the second highest rate of teenage pregnancy in America. In the district I teach the on-campus nurseries have no room for the educator’s children because they are full of teenage-mom infants; worse yet, there is a waiting list.
These two issues are critical, yet they are a drop in the ocean that is our education system. Science and its underlying principles determine our future in this global economy. What we don’t create or innovate today we purchase from other countries tomorrow. The same goes for the hygiene and well being of our future citizens. The fact remains: our kids are learning about sex; who do you want to be their teacher: an accredited scholar or MTV? The state board has an awesome responsibility to educate and empower our future. We as voters share in that responsibility when we decide who sits on this board.See you in November.
Texas on the Brink. Shapleigh.org
Young earth. Wikipedia