You Can Ignore Evolutionary Theory In Texas

Turns out Texas parents can opt out of having their children learn anything about evolution. All they have to do is send the kids to science classes at “virtual school” through the

Texas Virtual Academy

program offered by the charter school

Southwest Schools

in Houston.

Like lines from the old hymn “The fight is o’er, the battle won,” creationists have figured out a way to keep their kids away from all that monkey talk without further fights before the Texas Legislature. The Texas Virtual Academy buys its curriculum from K12 Inc., which was co-founded by former Education Secretary Bill Bennett (remember him for his Book of Virtues?).

And here’s what K12 has to say about evolution:

How does K¹² teach Evolution?

The concepts of evolution and creationism do not come up in grades K-2. In later grades, we teach evolution as a theory broadly accepted in the scientific community as an organizing theory of biology. We believe that a complete education includes understanding the basics of what this theory is about, even if one disagrees with it. K¹² emphasizes that parents have every right to explain to their children why they do or do not accept the theory and what they believe instead, including the concept of creationism. If parents aren't interested in any teachings surrounding the theory of evolution, they can skip these lessons. (Emphasis ours.)

Yeah, just skip it, but still get state credit toward your graduation!

What makes it even better is that Texas Education Commissioner Robert Scott recently approved an extension of the areas of the state in which the Texas Virtual Academy can be offered. It has grown from its beginnings here and in the Dallas-Fort Worth area to now include Corpus Christi, Waco, San Antonio and Austin.

Asked about this apparent state-approved gigantic loophole, a Texas Education Agency spokeswoman said she didn’t know about the program herself but would put out calls. We’ll update when we hear back from her.

Update:Debbie Ratcliffe, spokeswoman for the Texas Education Agency, got back to us with this response:

Evolution is required to be taught as part of biology which is a high school level course and this charter school (Southwest Schools) only goes up to the eighth grade. Parents can opt out of anything in the curriculum if they object to it. …They would have to just tell their district they want to opt out; they wouldn’t have to tell us … we wouldn’t have any numbers one way or the other about how many people do it. But even if the child is pulled out of the class, they’re still responsible for learning our curriculum standards and they could be tested on evolution because it is part of our 10th grade TAKS [Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills] test. So that’s something for parents to weigh if they do pull their child out. I did look at the Southwest Schools website and it does mention teaching an element of evolution at the sixth grade level. K12 is a national company so I think that FAQ you found is their nationwide response to that question and isn’t peculiar to Texas.

So this is a nationwide loophole? What a relief.

Margaret Downing

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