Missed this from last week:
The state’s director of science curriculum has resigned after being accused of creating the appearance of bias against teaching intelligent design.
Chris Comer, who has been the Texas Education Agency’s director of science curriculum for more than nine years, offered her resignation this month.
In documents obtained Wednesday through the Texas Public Information Act, agency officials said they recommended firing Comer for repeated acts of misconduct and insubordination. But Comer said she thinks political concerns about the teaching of creationism in schools were behind what she describes as a forced resignation.
Agency officials declined to comment, saying it was a personnel issue.
Comer was put on 30 days paid administrative leave shortly after she forwarded an e-mail in late October announcing a presentation being given by Barbara Forrest, author of “Inside Creationism’s Trojan Horse,” a book that says creationist politics are behind the movement to get intelligent design theory taught in public schools. Forrest was also a key witness in the Kitzmiller v. Dover case concerning the introduction of intelligent design in a Pennsylvania school district. Comer sent the e-mail to several individuals and a few online communities, saying, “FYI.”
Agency officials cited the e-mail in a memo recommending her termination. They said forwarding the e-mail not only violated a directive for her not to communicate in writing or otherwise with anyone outside the agency regarding an upcoming science curriculum review, “it directly conflicts with her responsibilities as the Director of Science.”
The memo adds, “Ms. Comer’s e-mail implies endorsement of the speaker and implies that TEA endorses the speaker’s position on a subject on which the agency must remain neutral.”
I dunno, I guess if you take a really hard-line view of whatever appropriate-use email policy the TEA may have in place, this could be construed as a violation. I daresay under those conditions, you’d have to fire everybody else as well, but hey, rules are rules. What confuses me, as it also confuses The Scientific Activist (link via School Zone) is why wouldn’t this be considered a normal part of her job? Does the TEA not take any position on any scientific “controversy” – would she have been fired for notifying folks about a speech by Bob Park on the subject of perpetual motion machines – or is it just “intelligent design” that’s off limits?
I doubt it. This is pure politics, and the Statesman is right to call a spade a spade:
The education agency, of course, portrays the problem as one of insubordination and misconduct. But from all appearances, Comer was pushed out because the agency is enforcing a political doctrine of strict conservatism that allows no criticism of creationism.
This state has struggled for years with the ideological bent of the state school board, but lawmakers took away most of its power to infect education some years ago. Politicizing the Texas Education Agency, which oversees the education of children in public schools, would be a monumental mistake.
This isn’t the space to explore the debate over creationism, intelligent design and evolution. Each approach should be fair game for critical analysis, so terminating someone for just mentioning a critic of intelligent design smacks of the dogma and purges in the Soviet era.
But then, this is a new and more political time at the state’s education agency.
Can we please leave the scientists and not the hacks in charge of the science curriculum? I mean, what’s the point of spending money to cure cancer if we’re not teaching our kids real science in school? Vince, Hal, Lightseeker, and Easter Lemming have more.