30 November 2007

The Texas Education Agency and Chris Comer, continued

Political narratives become established quickly.

I mentioned yesterday's worrying new story about Chris Comer, a member of the Texas Education Agency.

Here's how it's being pitched elsewhere.
  • "Evolution Debate Led to Ouster, Official Says" - Associated Press
  • "McCarthyist-like witch hunt" - Email from Tom Johnson, Texas Faculty Association
  • "I did assume that the Texas Education Agency would support science education. I guess I was wrong. The situation is really bad, though, if learning about science is a subject that gets the Texas Legislature upset." - PZ Myers on Pharyngula
  • "Apparently, not being a team player in the The Republican War on Science is a firing offense at the TEA." - Wesley R. Elsberry on Panda's Thumb
The narrative being told by many is real clear: This is an attempt by religious people to get rid of someone who would oppose the weakening of biology teaching so that concepts friendly to biblical literalism can be introduced into the public school curriculum.

Now, just because such shenanigans have happened before -- repeatedly -- doesn't mean they happened this time.

Good for the Austin American-Statesman to have the actual copy of the memo in question (PDF format). I looked at this and tried read it as objectively as I could.

My impression was that this was perhaps not as clear cut as many would like it to be. This whole thing isn't about one forwarded email. There's a series of events, and it looks like there had been warnings delivered before about how her employers wanted things done.

But I have to say these do not look like the sort of issues that people lose their job over. I wouldn't quite call them trumped up charges yet. The whole things reeks of a bad (maybe hostile) working relationship. But the situation may be more complex than a one-note summary termination that some are saying this is.

And yes, there's enough there that I still have the nagging suspicion that this could be part of a bigger trend to reduce opposition to introducing pointless language about evolution into the Texas education standards.

The Texas Education Agency should expect a lot of very careful scrutiny in the next little while. Because if there is any further hints of "criticism" of evolution, they can expect a huge fight on their hands.

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