The amazing Zack Kopplin has been filing FOIA requests to find out what is being taught in science classes in a large charter school network on Texas. I’m sure you’ll be shocked to hear that they’re teaching creationist nonsense in those classes while receiving more than $80 million in taxpayer funds.
Charter schools may be run independently, but they are still public schools, and through an open records request, I was able to obtain a set of Responsive Ed’s biology “Knowledge Units,” workbooks that Responsive Ed students must complete to pass biology. These workbooks both overtly and underhandedly discredit evidence-based science and allow creationism into public-school classrooms.
A favorite creationist claim is that there is “uncertainty” in the fossil record, and Responsive Ed does not disappoint. The workbook cites the “lack of a single source for all the rock layers as an argument against evolution.”
I asked Ken Miller, a co-author of the Miller-Levine Biology textbook published by Pearson and one of the most widely used science textbooks on the market today, to respond to claims about the fossil record and other inaccuracies in the Responsive Ed curriculum. (It’s worth noting that creationists on the Texas State Board of Education recently tried, and failed, to block the approval of Miller’s textbook because it teaches evolution.)“Of course there is no ‘single source’ for all rock layers,” Miller told me over email. “However, the pioneers of the geological sciences observed that the sequence of distinctive rock layers in one place (southern England, for example) could be correlated with identical layers in other places, and eventually merged into a single system of stratigraphy. All of this was established well before Darwin’s work on evolution.”
The workbook also claims, “Some scientists even question the validity of the conclusions concerning the age of the Earth.” As Miller pointed out, “The statement that ‘some scientists question,’ is a typical way that students can be misled into thinking that there is serious scientific debate about the age of the Earth or the nature of the geological record. The evidence that the Earth was formed between 4 and 5 billion years ago is overwhelming.”
Another Responsive Ed section claims that evolution cannot be tested, something biologists have been doing for decades. It misinforms students by claiming, “How can scientists do experiments on something that takes millions of years to accomplish? It’s impossible.”
The curriculum tells students that a “lack of transitional fossils” is a “problem for evolutionists who hold a view of uninterrupted evolution over long periods of time.”
“The assertion that there are no ‘transitional fossils’ is false,” Miller responded. “We have excellent examples of transitional forms documenting the evolution of amphibians, mammals, and birds, to name some major groups. We also have well-studied transitional forms documenting the evolution of whales, elephants, horses, and humans.”
These are tired old creationist claims that no scientifically literate person should take seriously. There should be a lawsuit here, but it would probably have to come from a student at one of the charter schools in order to have standing in court.