JUST mentioning a controversial name in an office e-mail can cost you your job in a narrow-minded place like Texas.
The Texas Education Agency oversees instructional material and textbooks for the state's public schools. Recently, Christine Comer, director of science curriculums for the agency, dared to forward an e-mail to colleagues informing them that author and activist Barbara Forrest was to give a talk on her book "Inside Creationism's Trojan Horse: The Wedge of Intelligent Design."
For this simple communication, Comer was rebuked in a way that forced her to resign. According to the TEA, she had committed, among other fatuous charges, the unforgivable transgression of taking sides in the creation science/ evolution debate.
Score one for the flat-earthers.
So what does this have to do with Pennsylvania? Well, Dec. 20 is the second anniversary of Pennsylvania's landmark case Kitzmiller v. Dover (the Dover intelligent-design trial), in which a federal judge ruled that teaching the religious concept of creationism disguised as intelligent design is unconstitutional.
Forrest, the subject of the e-mail that forced Comer's resignation, was an expert witness at that trial. Professor Forrest provided testimony supporting the claim that intelligent design is both a religious belief and another term for creationism.
She also exposed the district's science textbook "Of Pandas and People" as a creationist tract. The board's lawyers tried to have her disqualified before and during the trial. They failed.
The intelligent citizens of Dover voted to dismiss the school board that had tried to send their children back to the dark ages, and U.S. District Judge John E. Jones finished the job by ruling that imposing the teaching of intelligent design was an attempt to insert religion into a public-school science classroom where it does not belong.
His decision was a scathing rebuke of the board for trying to pull a fast one. But religious extremists are relentless, and they don't forget their enemies or anyone who associates with them.
They have just made a martyr out of Christine Comer.
NOW THE Texas State Board of Education, like Kansas before it, is on the verge of insinuating more of this nonsense into their science curriculum. And the voice of the woman who could have advised against it has been silenced.
Texas science teachers are facing the real possibility that state curriculum standards and textbooks could be changed for the political purpose of forcing them to teach a religious approach to science education. This a warning for all of us. The purchasing power of big states like Texas influences all textbook publishing.
If left unchallenged, the opponents of evolution will continue to compromise science texts all across the country, simply by changing the language. They have one agenda: to make this a theocratic nation. Science teachers would have to hold their noses while being forced to use textbooks that say that evolution is filled with "controversy."
But it isn't, except in the minds of those who want to erase the last 150 years of progress in the field of biological sciences, including the development of vaccines and antibiotics and other discoveries dependent on the principles of evolution. *
Gloria C. Endres teaches a course in math and science education for Temple. E-mail her at email@example.com.