News Archive

The Texas State Board of Education is reviewing its high school science curriculum standards this year. The Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS)are the embodiment of those standards. These standards are important because they have a profound influence on how science is taught in Texas, including impacting textbook content. Because many other states adopt Texas standards and textbooks, TEKS can have a big impact across the country for a number of years. The stakes are high. Fortunately, there are a number of ways that concerned citizens can participate in the review process. 

draft of the TEKS was released on September 22nd and I have reviewed the Biology TEKS. Although I’m not a biologist, I certainly am familiar with how the creationist culture warriors might try to sabotage the standard. While all science TEKS have the suspect phrase, "Science may not answer all questions," the standard looks pretty good with respect to evolution. There is no taint of the old "strengths and weaknesses" wording that they had slipped in in the past, opening the door for casting doubt on evolution and thus leaving the door ajar for “intelligent Design” pseudoscience that is just religion in a lab coat. 

Unfortunately, the SBOE has been stacked with creationist members with a not-so-hidden agenda of sabotaging the teaching of evolution. More recently, the SBOE has appointed a creationist-friendly review committee to review the science TEKS. It’s not clear what mischief will come of these developments, but many science advocates are concerned and watching. 

A number of groups have gotten involved by drafting reports, crating petitions, and marshaling concerned citizens. The National Center for Science Education is monitoring these culture war skirmishes from across the nation. The 21st Century Science Coalition is a group of scientists who have weighed in with a petition to the SBOE. The Texas Citizens for Science have monitored the board, specifically the political firing of Science Director Chris Comer. The Texas Freedom Network has done a great job of monitoring the SBOE and organizing citizen actions in response

Concerned individuals can get involved in a number of ways. If you’re interested in monitoring the situation, signing a petition, or testifying in front of the SBOE on November 19th, TFN can help you. Consider doing all three. These things are serious grassroots activism for the cause of science education. Testifying may sound like a lot of work, but it’s a great experience that will allow you to express your perspective as a taxpayer and as a Texan. Usually testimonies are just a few minutes—just long enough to make a point or two. You’ll be doing it along side other concerned activists who will be there with you making a difference. 

It is also possible to review the TEKS standards online and submit comments directly to the board. This is another great way to participate. To do this, go to the Science TEKS page and read the relevant portion of the "High School science" TEKS. You will then get the "High School Courses" form and fill in your comments. There are multiple ways of submitting the form. You will submit one form for each science course TEKS you would like to respond to. If you do this, please remember to follow the instructions and make your comments relate to specific sections of the TEKS. Be assertive, but polite. 

The ACA would like to encourage all people interested in the quality of science education to participate in this important process for the betterment of our country and our futures or consider donating to these groups that are making a difference. 

Don Baker

This year's ACA outing to Hell House will be on Saturday, October 25th. 

As most of you know, Hell House is a Pentacostal Christian production consisting of ridiculous morality plays. It is among the more absurd and extreme Hell Houses and was featured in the 2001 documentary "Hell House." Several of us went last year and had a great time. It is located in Cedar Hill, TX (just south of Dallas). As with last year, we will be meeting at the Alamo Drafthouse Lake Creek in North Austin and carpooling up to the event. We should leave around 2 pm, so it would be good to get to the Alamo around 1:40 to allow for driving arrangements. We will group people with drivers and make a stop for food along the way. 

Admission is $10 per person. Tickets can be purchased online in advance, and there is a possibility of securing reservations, so please RSVP to Shilling if you can. Once we have a large enough group, we can try to get reservations to lessen the amount of time spent in line. 

Alamo Drafthouse Lake Creek
13729 Research Blvd., Austin, TX, 78750 

Trinity Church
1231 Pleasant Run Rd., Cedar Hill, TX 75104 

Information about this year's Hell House: http://www.darkrailhellhouse.com/.

In this election year, the ACA has finally decided to enter the political fray. While our 501(c)3 organizational status does not allow us to support any particular party or political candidate, we can raise our issues in the political arena. And there are plenty of issues that atheists care about that are largely missing from the nation’s political dialog. Church-state separation would be a major one, but we also care about fair treatment, promotion of science, and other topics. As an active atheist group in the Capitol city of the second largest state, the ACA is well positioned to make a big impact. To do that, we have decided to create a voters’ guide for issues that concern atheists. 

The 2008 Voters’ Guide has been announced on the ACA Web site. Results will be published on or before October 13th. The guide will be based on the results of a survey of candidates running for offices voted on by Texans in the 2008 general election. Because every candidate for each race is given the same opportunity to respond, the voters’ guide will allow voters to make an informed choice on the issues behind the questions. 

We are hoping that the survey gets some publicity and raises awareness for our issues. We do not expect large numbers of the surveys to be returned to us. Even so, the survey will have an educational impact on the candidates and the community at large. 

We feel the voters’ guide is a great initiative that advances our mission and provides a public service. We are doing our part to improve our nation by helping to elect highly qualified candidates regardless of party. Thanks to ACA members who have contributed to the project. If you support this effort, consider making a donation to the ACA to defray costs. See you at the voting booth!

An outing to the San Antonio Zoo is slated for Saturday, September 27th. Members should meet at the ticket booth at the zoo at 8:45 am that morning and go in together. The zoo opens at 9am. The early time is to avoid the heat, get better parking, and because the animals are more active in the mornings. 

Members are encouraged to dress for being outdoors for several hours. Please bring friends and kids and make it a larger group. If there are enough people gathered, a group discount is possible.

ACA's first garage sale will be September 6th as a group fund raiser. 

The sale will be held at members Lisa's house who lives in north Austin. The sale will run from 8am to around 4pm or whenever things are sold. Proceeds from the garage sale will go to the ACA. 

Please donate to the event. What we are looking for are items that you would just take to Goodwill, anything that you don't use, or just want to get rid of. 

There will be two locations where items can be dropped off. You can drop them off at Lisa's house in north Austin and Mike's house in south Austin. Please contact Lisa or Mike to make arrangements. More detailed contact information is available for ACA members when they log in to the web site. We request that all items be dropped off by Wednesday, September 3rd. 

We also ask that you mark the items on what you feel they are worth. Lastly, any items that aren't sold will be taken to Goodwill the next day, so please leave us items that you don't want back if not sold. 

Thanks a lot, and now let's clean out some closets for a good cause!

Atheist Community of Austin

The Atheist Community of Austin is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization dedicated to promoting positive atheism and the separation of church and state. The ACA serves the local Austin community through outreach programs, providing informational resources and various volunteer activities. In addition, the ACA serves the community-at-large through free online portals including informational wikis, regular audio/video podcasts and interactive blogs.

We define atheism as the lack of belief in gods. This definition also encompasses what most people call agnosticism.

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