Today is the first day of school in my neck of the woods. Those ponderous yellow buses are plying the streets this AM snatching up clusters of students wearing their best first-day school outfits. Nine months from now the scene will be reversed and those yellow buses will spit out these same students. The question to be raised is: how much did they learn in the interim?
I was prompted to check out some state statistics on education by a recent comment on this blog about right-wingers questioning science. Yes, that one again. Rick Perry and evolution and climate change come to mind. Michele Bachmann and her evangelical followers too. Neither ‘like’ science. Both denigrate it at every opportunity. Naturally, they are playing to their base- that group of hard-right ideologues who will determine the candidate representing the GOP.
So, what does this group have against science? I could suggest that maybe it was because they did poorly in it in school, but that would be only an assumption on my part. What I do think is that there are two reasons for the disdain of science over in the hard-right section of the political spectrum. First, corporate loyalty. You know, pollution, the environment, government regulations [EPA], global climate change- stuff like that. They, as cheerleaders for the corporate world, deny the findings of the scientific community- especially in climate change- because…well, because they are cheerleaders for the corporate world.
The second group denigrates the science community because of their Bible beliefs. The fundamentalists don’t like science because it often ‘interferes’ with what the Bible states. Evolution mostly, but creation too. The discoveries in science, especially in astrophysics, are exploding, to use a pun. The Big Bang with the suggestion that a Deity had nothing to do with creation is not abided in the world of fundamentalism. After all, the Bible says…
So, science gets two black eyes. Or four because many on the hard-right are both corporate cheerleaders and fundamentalists.
Rick Perry, the current ‘shining star’ on the right, often touts the ‘Texas miracle.’ If only the entire United States were like Texas, eh? Wait! Is he now not wishing to secede from the Union? Confusing.
I thought I’d check out whether that Texas miracle extends to education. One might question just how smart the citizens of Texas are in that they elected and reelected Perry. Further, there was quite the dust-up a few years ago over the membership of the Texas Board of Education. It was reported last year that 7 of the 15 were ‘hardcore Evangelical fundamentalist creationists.’ Not only did this Board mess with the Texas science curriculum but also the social studies curriculum- revisionist history for all of the children of Texas. You can read and weep HERE.
In the yearly ranking of U.S. Universities by U.S. News & World Report, the top Texas school landed in position #17, Rice. The next Texas school on the list was #45, University of Texas–Austin. Next was #56, Southern Methodist.
On the website, Measuringup.org, the state of Texas had these listed weaknesses in education:
- Only a fair percentage of high school students enroll in upper-level science courses, despite substantial improvement on this measure over the past 12 years.
- Eighth graders perform very poorly on national assessments in science.
- Only a fair percentage of low-income 8th graders perform well on national assessments in math, even though this percentage has more than doubled over the past nine years.
- Fairly small proportions of 11th and 12th graders take and score well on Advanced Placement tests, but this percentage has more than tripled over the past 12 years.
- Very small proportions of 11th and 12th graders take and perform well on college entrance exams.
- Only a fair percentage of secondary students are taught by teachers with an undergraduate or graduate major in the subject they are teaching.
Perhaps the most interesting statistic about the state of Texas is this: About 22% of adults do not have a high school diploma or its equivalent (compared with 14% of adults nationwide), reducing their likelihood of participating or succeeding in higher education.
One out of four Texans did not graduate high school. There’s the Texas miracle. Enough said. Apparently the yellow high school buses are quite empty. Not many getting on. Miracles indeed. Well, at least there are lots of miracles in the fundamentalist churches in Texas.