More Nonsense from the Texas Education Agency

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Last December I commented on the case of Christine Castillo-Comer, the former director of science curriculum for the Texas Education Agency who was forced out of her job for allegedly opposing the teaching of creationism. The basis for her removal was that she had forwarded an email announcement of a talk by an opponent of the teaching of "intelligent design". Texas Education Agency officials claimed that

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.

As I pointed out then, this is plainly false. No inference as to one's position on the topic of a talk can be drawn from one's drawing attention to the talk.

The email that Ms. Comer forwarded may be found here. According to all reports, she forwarded this email without commentary beyond: "FYI".

Ms. Comer has now filed suit, demanding reinstatement and compensation, and it turns out that the TEA's claims are even sillier than it seemed. The TEA also claims that:

The e-mail also violated a directive for her not to communicate with anyone outside the agency regarding the upcoming science curriculum review, officials said in the documents.

This is patent nonsense: the email says nothing whatever about any science curriculum review. Announcing a talk on a topic relevant to science curriculum is hardly the same thing as discussing a review of the curriculum.

It isn't in the least surprising that fundamentalist politicians would attempt to suppress the teaching of science, but I find it stunning that there is no process of administrative review that prevents them from harassing officials on the basis of blatant nonsense whose falsehood is revealed by mere inspection of an email message. This is not a case in which there are conflicting accounts of what happened. It is all about a single forwarded email message whose content is undisputed. If nothing else, you'd think that the TEA's lawyers would tell them that they didn't have a leg to stand on.

I am hard put to tell whether the TEA officials are incapable of the most elementary
analysis of a text or whether they are simply lying.


  1. Drew Smith said,

    July 6, 2008 @ 3:22 pm

    For that matter, why must the Texas Education Agency remain neutral on the subject of whether or not a particular viewpoint is scientific? Isn't it necessary to have a position on that so as to design a science curriculum?

  2. Janice Huth Byer said,

    July 6, 2008 @ 4:34 pm

    TEA is apparently firmly behind the "fundamentalists who want to suppress the teachings of science" suggesting Ms. Castillo-Comer was a goner, even before she did noting wrong. This fits with the history of Texas, where a state legislator opposed to bilingual education late last century, successfully argued that, "If English was good enough for the Lord Jesus, it's good enough for Texas." ( By which he later said he meant only that Jesus had uniquely inspired the English language translation.)

    Texas has the proven power to dumb down textbooks for every state, because national publishers rightly balk at publishing two versions of school books, what with their market being limited. For that reason, in addition to its academic interest, it's a genuine public service for Bill to bring this injustice to our attention.

  3. Alvin Arnold said,

    July 6, 2008 @ 7:45 pm

    If TEA's professed neutrality on creation science were true, it would be unable to reach a conclusion about teaching/not teaching the subject. What would be more important to my way of thinking would be for another state (California, perhaps, because of its size) to _require_ the inclusion of a genuinely reasoned discussion of the merits of evolution vs intelligent design. This might force the textbook producers off their one-size-should-fit-all approach to book design and allow the vast majority of states to obtain reliable science textbooks.

  4. Eric Bakovic said,

    July 7, 2008 @ 1:55 am

    Janice — see this Language Log Classic post on the unlikelihood of the "good enough for Jesus" quote being something that a Texas legislator said (besides, it is most frequently attributed to a woman, Texas Governor Miriam Amanda "Ma" Ferguson).

  5. Meep said,

    July 7, 2008 @ 12:32 pm

    Perhaps they objected to the signature of the original sender of the email:
    "Not in Our Classrooms: Why Intelligent Design Is Wrong for Our Schools"
    That's still a stretch to say that Ms Comer was the liable party for… forwarding an email? Thinking? But perhaps they misread the email (or didn't read it at all).

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