Constitution Society

7793
Burnet Rd #37

Austin, TX 78757

512/374-9585

http://www.constitution.org

textbook@constitution.org

Testimony

of

Jon Roland

President of the Constitution Society

before the

Texas State Board of Education

on textbook evaluation

July 9, 2003

Introduction

Today I will not be addressing errors or omissions in particular
textbooks, but rather addressing general deficiencies common to many of them,
especially in the biological sciences. Your attention is called to a short
article I wrote in 1999, "Evolutionism vs.
Creationism", which discusses some of the problems that deserve attention.
For other testimony and responses see **http://www.constitution.org/reform/us/tx/textbook/textbook.htm**.

The following points should be considered as proposed amendments to the
TEKS standards. I have also begun to develop suggestions for amendments or
additions to those standards that I ask the State Board of Education to
consider adopting. The current state of some of my proposals is at **http://www.constitution.org/reform/us/tx/textbook/teks_amend.htm**.

Recommendations

**Scientific method and terminology.** The older, imprecise
terminology of "theory", "hypothesis", "proof", "fact", "experiment", etc.,
should be replaced with the more modern and precise terminology of
*operation*, *observation*, and *model*. The student should
learn to discuss how the *utility* of a model may be evaluated in terms of
its support for *explanation*, *prediction*, *control*, and*
cost of use*, and how to apply the criteria of *unity*,
*consistency*, *refutabilty*, and *parsimony* to selecting from
among competing models. The student should learn how to develop models —
conceptual, verbal, physical, mathematical, and computer simulation — for
arbitrary observation sets without regard for what real-world phenomena the
observations may represent, and how to fit models to data. The student should
also be introduced to the concepts of complex systems and information
theory.

**Statistics and error analysis.** The student should learn how to
use statistics competently, how to reason with statistics, and how to recognize
misuses of statistics. The student should be able to calculate observational
error and the propagation of errors in calculations. This might begin with
discussion of round-off errors and their effects on significant digits over a
series of calculations.

**Approximation methods.** The student should learn how to develop
and test mathematical approximation methods, and discuss them in terms of a
series of terms which may be subjected to tests for convergence. This could
begin with long division as an approximation method and proceed to
calculus.

**Application of scientific method to "nonscientific" fields.** The
student should learn how to apply scientific method and terminology to fields
not usually associated with it, such as history, government, economics, news
reports, language, sports, and the ordinary problems of their own lives.
Courses in those other fields should be enhanced with applications of
scientific method, especially courses in mathematics.

**Modeling for decision support.** The student should be introduced
to the fundamentals of modeling of complex systems, such as businesses, cities,
government programs, and ecosystems, including discussion of feedback loops,
equilibria, regression, constraint analysis, nonlinear optimization, symmetry,
game theory, public choice theory, and related topics. Tools for computer
modeling, which could take the form of strategy games, should be made available
and the student encouraged to use them for a variety of complex phenomena, such
as competitive diffusion processes.

**Evolution and taxonomy.** The student should learn to discuss
evolution in terms of a system of models of descent relations between pairs of
specimens, and leave open the question of whether all such models may be
unified into a single descent tree or whether there might be contamination. The
student should not be asked to learn a single taxonomic scheme as canonical,
but should be introduced to the several schemes and alternative names for
taxonomic groups favored by various researchers, and discuss the advantages and
disadvantages of each, especially in the light of recent DNA analyses and
evidence of trans-species genetic transfers.

**Speedreading, speedmath, speedlearning.** So much attention has
been devoted to getting students to a minimal level of achievement that we have
neglected to take them to the higher levels of which they are capable. In
today's world it is not enough to read at 200 words per minute. The more
advanced techniques should be part of standard education.

**Library, field and internet research and writing.** More advanced
students are learning this, but it needs to be made a focus for standard
instruction. It should also extend to specialized repositories, such as law
libraries. The student should learn how to write not only research papers, but
do field studies, write legal briefs, and generally do the kinds of work they
will need to do in higher education.

For more on the above topics see **http://www.constitution.org/cs_devel.htm**.
This report, with supporting documentation, is available at **http://www.constitution.org/reform/us/tx/textbook/03709_sboe.htm**