We r Srs Schl District. This is Srs Science

Houston Schools Bravely Protect Students From Deliberately Fake Science Book

Bryan Fischer TRIED to warn us about this sort of thing, but did we listen?Ah, Texas, a place where the teaching of science is always just a state school board vote away from including the Book of Genesis, where the state’s textbook selection process sets the agenda for textbooks across the nation, and where the state GOP platform actually calls for schools to stop teaching “critical thinking skills” (risk of “undermining parental authority,” you know). So it shouldn’t be surprising to learn that the Houston Independent School District is worried that science teachers might do irreparable harm to the schools’ reputation by stooping to include (horrors!) funny comedy jokes in their classroom materials. In response to a teacher’s request to purchase Fake Science 101: A Less-Than-Factual Guide to Our Amazing World, a parody textbook spun off from Phil Edwards’ Fake Science website, HISD sent this mind-blowingly tone deaf memo:

I received one such request for an alternative textbook “Fake Science 101.” I am aware how it would be used, but we are concerned it will reflect poorly on the district. A book like that may be intended humorously, but it is mocking the quality of education in our district.

We cannot have our district ridiculed as a non-scientific one (see many Westinghouse/Intel awardees). This book is not permissable for you to distribute or your students to have. Our textbooks are not “fake” and no textbook should give that impression. It would negatively impact students.

We will not have the serious business of education tainted by such japes and tomfoolery! Learning cannot involve “amusement,” for heaven’s sake! It’s bad enough they let that godless heathen Thomas Jefferson back into the history standards.

Fake Science 101 co-author Phil Edwards had a typically elitist reaction to the foofaraw:

Lessons from the blog have been used by teachers to introduce scientific concepts in the past and many classrooms have enjoyed using Fake Science to start conversations. I also think satire encourages the skeptical thinking that makes science work. That thinking shouldn’t be prohibited.

Happily, Edwards has also incorporated the ban into the book’s marketing plan, featuring it prominently on the Fake Science site. He has also offered to help the anonymous teacher whose book request was turned down: “tell him I’m happy to speak in front of the class until I’m tazed or something.”

UPDATE: Also, too, here is a nice piece that Phil Edwards wrote for Slate, about being a fake scientist and meeting real scientists.

Don’t forget to join Doktor Zoom tomorrow for our weekly look at unintentionally funny textbooks from Christian Publishers. This week, World History: The Important Stuff Happened in Europe.

[Houston Press / Fake Science 101]

About the author

Doktor Zoom Is the pseudonym of Marty Kelley, who lives in Boise, Idaho. He acquired his nym from a fan of Silver-Age comics after being differently punctual to too many meetings. He is not a medical doctor, although he has a real PhD (in Rhetoric and Composition).

View all articles by Doktor Zoom
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  1. SorosBot

    But bear knife fights would be awesome; I want them to exist, so I will believe they do.

    (And that's how conservative "science" works.)

      1. SorosBot

        Yeah, much less interesting than the real science too. Well except maybe for the part with cave men riding dinosaurs. But certainly the big bang is a fuckload cooler than some magic dude flipping on a light switch. And string theory provides a much more mind-blowing description of extra dimensions and other universes than the dull heaven, hell and purgatory.

        (Well hell at least is a little interesting, certainly much more so than the other two; there's a reason a lot more people read Dante's Inferno than the other two books of the Divine Comedy.)

        1. Naked_Bunny

          The Divine Comedy is essentially fan fiction, so the fact that even a third of it is more interesting than the canon says a lot about the source material.

          1. SorosBot

            Part fan fiction, and part revenge fantasy; Inferno is filled with Dante's personal enemies getting what (to him) was coming to them.

    1. Chichikovovich

      That's going to be in Texas textbooks soon. In fact, it's stated in lost manuscripts of the Second Book of Kings, in reference to the two bears who were sent by God to maul and eat the 42 youths who had been mocking the prophet Elisha, that the bears had been knife fighting just before Elisha brought down the curse.

      That showed just how badass those bears were, just in case the 42 young corpses left any room for doubt.

      1. tessiee

        "the two bears who were sent by God to maul and eat the 42 youths who had been mocking the prophet Elisha"

        All follicularly challenged persons approve of this verse.

    2. Dudleydidwrong

      "When you wish upon a star–like Clint Eastwood–your dreams and your science come true." Five Pinocchios

      1. Geminisunmars

        Now if they titled it "Genuine Adulterated Disfactualized Misinformation" it might have gotten through.

  2. smitallica

    Science has always had a known liberal bias, mostly because it is based on fact, critical thinking, and not being a complete fucking moron.

    1. sewollef

      See, there you go again bringing that fact-y stuff into the conversation. You know that can get you expelled, right?

      1. LibertyLover

        The bible has so many different versions (Greek, Roman, King James, New American,etc.) though, they can't all be wrong, can they? ;-)

      2. tessiee

        Not to be too much of a buzzkill, but if religion no longer serves the purpose that it used to (e.g., explaining the weather or why people get sick or what-not) because science has provided better explanations…

        I don't see any reason why religion can't change so that it actually… oh, I don't know… helps people. We don't use the same techniques to build houses or grow crops or make clothing or travel from place to place as we did 2000 years ago — so assuming that we're going to have religion at all, why shouldn't religion adapt? If nothing else, it would make them look less like a bunch of pissy soreheads than digging in their heels and whining every time they're proven unable to hold their own against the competition, the way they do now.

    1. OneYieldRegular

      If they'd featured bears having gun fights, Texas would be distributing this book to every kid under 18.

    2. Negropolis

      How British of this commie author. I mean, the bears engage in knifecrime? This is America, buddy. Semi-automatics or GTFO.

      BTW, I was really surprised to find a few years ago that Texas is one of maybe half-a-dozen states in the nation where open carry is not allowed.

    1. SorosBot

      I'd like to train some bears and deer to use guns, so that hunting could become a real sport where the hunters have just as much a chance of getting shot as the targets.

      1. BerkeleyBear

        Slap some reactive armor on them the next time they get tagged by some biologist, and tie the tracking collar in to the drone strike platform (I'm sure someone could work out automatic reverse trajectory and location from data of the initial shot). Suddenly hunting would involve a lot more risk for both sides.

    2. Fairtackle

      And that brings up the whole "natural selection" debate, and nobody wants to go down that road again.

    1. GemlikeFlame

      Actually, it's specifically forbidden along with outcome-based learning and other heresies. In an earlier post on this topic I predicted that should that plank become actual or de-facto law the SACS regional accreditation agency would immediately decredit Texas public school districts en masse.

      Turns out, that may not matter so much. While about 50% of national high schools don't maintain accreditation, only 7 of about 39 HISD high schools do and other Texas school districts follow suit.

      I'm just waiting for the first rebellious teacher to be burned at the stake. Idiots.

  3. IceCreamEmpress

    Our textbooks are not fake! Except for the ones about how God made dinosaur fossils as a prank test of faith. I mean, those aren't fake at all, either. TEACH THE CONTROVERSY

    1. aboutheagora

      And the Jesus came to the path that was blocked by the big fucking brontosaurus, who had a splinter in his paw.

  4. SexySmurf

    The publisher of Fake Science 101: A Less-Than-Factual Guide to Our Amazing World also publishes Business Ethics for Bain Capital Executives, The Paul Ryan Social Studies Reader and Journalism 101 by Edward R. Murrow by Jonah Lehrer.

    1. Geminisunmars

      "Home Economics" by Ann Romney, a sequel to her beloved "How to Make Do With an Ironing Board and Two Sawhorses".

      1. tessiee

        "Ironing Board"

        Are you trying to suggest that Ann Romney is flat-chested?
        No wonder that eagle on her shirt looked so pissed off.

        1. Geminisunmars

          No, that was a quote from her convention speech. And I quote (from the fox news transcript): “Our desk was a door propped up onsaw horses, our dining room table was a fold down ironing boardin the kitchen. But those were the best days.”http://www.colbertnation.com/the-colbert-report-videos/418456/august-29-2012/the-mitt-romney-story—ann-romney-s-gop-convention-speechabout 38 secs in

          1. Biff

            My sawhorses are named Secretariat and Rafalca.
            And her story is one of the biggest lines of bullshit to ever emit from her piehole. That, and the 3-pack of shirts from Costco she claims to have bought.

          2. Geminisunmars

            I loved Colbert's take on it. Something to the effect that dining on the ironing board was so difficult when the maid came in to do the ironing.

  5. aaarrrgh

    so…the gist of this article is that bears actually Don't have knife fights? then why did god make animals in the bible? i don't understand. there must be gaps in my home schooling.

    1. BoatOfVelociraptors

      On the fifth day god created bears. On the sixth day, he created knives. On the seventh day he sobered up, saw what he created, and bugged out of town.

  6. KennyFuckingPowers

    Chickens have lips, snakes have hips, and a women's bodies can wish away a rape wad….Sure as fuck!

      1. Butch_Wagstaff

        Thanks to Chrome zoom, I saw (I think) Papa Bear and Mama Bear. Baby Bear looks like he's going to cut Scarlette O'Hara but she looks like she has a samurai's sword so I think she'll be okay.

  7. YouBetcha

    HSID's memo went on to say, "We are now praying for God to smite this heathen sinner whose teaching career will either end in firing, or a plague of locusts. Amen."

  8. weejee

    Likely moar knife fights among non-Tejas university admissions boards on whether to 'downsize' the Tejas high skool records of applicants by 15 or 25 percent.

    ed: While retaining CIA level plausible deniability obvs.

    1. SorosBot

      I thought bears mostly liked to shit in the woods, and then insist on using Charmin™-brand toilet paper to wipe their asses.

  9. BoroPrimorac

    Does Cuba have charter schools? I can't bear the thought of my children being educated in a public school system this fucked up.

    1. Negropolis

      Probably, though, I'm imagine that they teach that Fidel physically breaths life into the nation by the light of the early morning sun or some shit.

  10. OneYieldRegular

    This is the problem with taking away critical thinking skills: you end up with school administrators afraid that kids will think bears actually engage in knife fights and that prohibiting the use of parody will somehow not "reflect poorly on the district."

  11. Arborista

    But would these TX students know enough about science to get the jokes? Satire presumes familiarity with the subject being lampooned, no?

  12. orygoon

    One reason I put my kids in a private school in Texas was when I went to pick up The Heir one day, I saw in his classroom that the teacher had incorrectly drawn an insect on the board–legs emerging from the abdomen.

    I had almost decided to be an entomology major in college, and I really like bugs, except when I don't. The teacher was nice and all, but this wasn't tolerable. Even in elementary school.

  13. fartknocker

    The picture from the NYT article is priceless. It shows 3 nice Republican Christian women who are all appointees by the Governor or the Legislature. They are focused on one thing and that is the content is Jesus-approved. Remember, this is the same state where Gubnor Big Hair told the world that the Mancado/Transocean off-shore platform fire and explosion in the Gulf of America was "an act of God."

    I'm sure one of those 3 ladies also believes birth control can be accomplished by squeezing an aspirin with your knees.

    1. Jukesgrrl

      The Republicans should be more careful about making nice agreeable ladiez their political appointees. That's how Jan Brewer got to be governor of Arizona.

  14. coolhandnuke

    Years back, our local High School Board approved the showing of "BJ and the Bear" for Sex Ed classes, and we haven't had one legitimate or illegitimate teen pregnancy reported.
    Life is swell here on the dark side of the moon.

    1. MaxNeanderthal

      Well yes, but then again, homosexual sex with a chimpanzee (Was the Bear male?) has seldom resulted in pregnancy, no?

    2. Dudleydidwrong

      If all your sex is by BJ or with a bear then pregnancies aren't too apt to happen. Well, maybe in Texas or Florida…

  15. Arborista

    I wonder if the authors of this fine text were listening to Joan Armatrading when they came up with the knife fight idea?

    "He had me down but I put up a fight
    I saw those teeth and I groped for my knife
    Big brown bear with the juice from his mouth
    He tastes my leg and he thought he'd got me…"

  16. Fare la Volpe

    I for one welcome our new knife-fighting bear overlords, and would like to remind them that my enemies' skulls are full of delicious honey.

  17. Grokenstein

    "I also think satire encourages the skeptical thinking that makes science work."

    Whoops, there it is. Texas isn't worried about disrupting the learning process, they're worried about disrupting gullibility development in tomorrow's destitute servants.

  18. BerkeleyBear

    By all means, let's make sure science is as inapproachable and sterile as possible – you wouldn't want the little shits thinking it was fun or anything.

  19. LibertyLover

    How has Doktor Zoom not gouged his eyes out from having to do book reports on the New Science?

    I find it odd that when I was growing up, these same people raged against the "New Math" concepts and see what they are doing here?

  20. Me_K_Cong

    "This book is not permissable for you to distribute or your students to have."

    First of all, it's permissible, not permissable. I will use it in a sentence to clarify.

    In America, it is not permissible for you (a school board bureaucrat) to ban any book that does not contain nudity, profanity or violence even if you take it personally (or interpret the request to buy it as a stick in your eye).

  21. offlogic

    Fake science is all in fun, and at its absolute worst is better than what the GOP incorporated into their party platform.
    Sorry, but it's true.

  22. SayItWithWookies

    The school board's decision is at least consistent — insofar as science comes from the Bible, making fun of it would actually be blasphemy, which is far worse than claiming nonsense is factual.

    1. BoatOfVelociraptors

      Magnetic knives would certainly change the discourse of knife fighting. You would go from an east-side west-side paradigm to a north-side south-side discourse.

  23. Chichikovovich

    What? 63 comments and no "Right to arm bears" joke yet?

    Amazing but true: Maybe some jokes are just too obvious and clichéd even for Wonketeers.

    Well, except for me.

    And I'm doing it, like, all meta, and stuff.

    1. Butch_Wagstaff

      "What about the right to bare arms? Why should the government control our sleeve lengths?"
      –to paraphrase Melora Creager

    2. tessiee

      "What? 63 comments and no "Right to arm bears" joke yet?"

      Also no references to Chicago/Da Bears/Da Bulls.
      Everybody must be away for the Labor Day weekend.

  24. DustBowlBlues

    Must remember to send tomorrow's Xian text book story to my English friends. The Mathematics professor (Imperial College, Univ of London = too fucking smart for me to figure out what he's talking about) was speechless for hours about Set Theory. His wife, an elementary school teacher should enjoy a refreshingly new version of history.

  25. DustBowlBlues

    Oh, fuck me. Moyers is on and it's just too depressing to listen to the power of the self-labeled Xian right and that pissant Ralph Reed during the mourn-for-the-aged-hound dog we had euthanized yesterday weekend. (BTW–She has a better chance of going to heaven–I feel assured of that–than the lying bastard dipshit assholes on the Jesus-right.

    1. Geminisunmars

      Turn off the tv and the computer, pour yourself a stiff one, and join me on the veranda to toast the critters we've loved, and who make more sense and are more compassionate than those righters. (I know how you feel. My best friend called me this morning to report the loss of her pooch, and I have two rescued dogs right now insisting that it is time for their dinner. I'll give them extras, in honor of you.)

    2. Dudleydidwrong

      My sincere condolences. Losing a pet dog or cat (or bird, for that matter) is a real loss. Just remember the good times…

    3. Doktor Zoom

      "The dog is a gentleman; I hope to go to his heaven, not man's."

      – Mark Twain, letter to W.D. Howells

    4. ttommyunger

      Who sickens me more: Holier Than All Bill Moyers or Ralph "Satan Spawn" Reed? Decisions, decisions…

  26. DustBowlBlues

    Wonder if the "fake science" includes curriculum that Texans (most of them, excluding wonkeratti) will include as real science as soon as they retake control of the TX State School Board. Can't make fun of something you're apt to be teaching any day now.

    1. Butch_Wagstaff

      Iron deficiency could explain the irritability & outbreaks of Pica that one can find in those states.

    2. tessiee

      I thought they were all anemic from hookworms and being the product of brother-sister incest, but…
      Iron*Y* deficit.
      Never mind.

    1. Chichikovovich

      You people are taking what he said out of context to make him look heartless. He didn't mean that he should go to the home currently underwater. He obviously meant that she should take the private jet to the summer home on Georgian Bay and call 211 from there.

    2. Dudleydidwrong

      And he immediately ordered one of his minions to bring up dive gear and give the woman a quick lesson in SCUBA diving so that she could reach her phone.

    3. Negropolis

      A man who waved a neon yellow sign reading "Mitt is Our Man" wondered why levees had not been able to protect the low-lying areas of this fishing community.

      "It has really destroyed us," the man said to Romney after the motorcade stopped on the side of the road. "I don't know why we can't come up with something that saves all."

      Oh, god. I'm dying of irony poisoning. You don't know why we can't come up with "something that saves ll"? Really? Because you and your Republican buddies are too fucking cheap and scared of government to pay for it, you fucking moron. And, you are still going to vote for Romney?! **snort**

      I need to calm down. I need to calm down….

      1. tessiee

        "I don't know why we can't come up with something that saves all."

        It's obviously all the fault of that big do-nothing Obama.
        If only he would go into a room, close the door, think for an hour or two, and come up with a solution that pleases everybody.

      1. Negropolis


        Honestly, if this is all he can offer, he would have been better off flying over the disaster zone in a Lear jet…

        I just don't get why Republicans go to disaster zones, anymore, with the party the way it is. I mean, the party has gotten to the point of where it denies the need for emergency aid in many cases. Why even show up if your answers going to be "government is evil, and thus I will do nothing to lessen your suffering."?

        These people don't need your pity, they need your help. Charity don't build no levees, Mr. Romney.

  27. glasspusher

    Science is for losers. I should know: I'm a scientist, and Ms. glasspusher is always calling me a loser.

  28. Chet Kincaid_

    An earlier classic in this genre is Tom Weller's "Science Made Stupid", which I still have in a box somewhere down in the basement. It won a Hugo Award in 1986. It's out of print, but there are author-sanctioned scans of the book and its sequel, "Cvltvre Made Stvpid", online:

    EDIT: Replaced with a link with more options

    1. bobbert

      Thanks for that. I've only glanced at it, but am already taken by the picture caption: "Saturn's rings, looking over the shoulder of a gerbil blown out of a volcano on Titan".

  29. Troubledog

    Bears do not have opposable thumbs, and thus could not possibly carry on in the manner depicted. This is pure nonsense unfit for our children.

  30. An_Outhouse

    smokey does not appreciate this post and is concerned tht sparks from the knives could cause a forest fire. its not a joking matter. smokey is pissed and says he will eat you if he ever encounters you alone in the woods.

    1. tessiee

      "Has anyone written Fake Tits 101 yet? Maybe Houston would go for that."

      If not, there's always the Los Angeles school system.

    2. BarackMyWorld

      The former porn actress Houston? I remember seeing her Howard Stern's E! Network show a long time ago going to some kid's prom with him…definite fakes.

    3. tessiee

      "Has anyone written Fake Tits 101 yet?"

      Maybe Jenna Jameson could do it, especially since the high-paying years of her career appear to be just about over.

    4. HistoriCat

      Given the role Baylor College of Medicine (located in Houston) played in the development of silicone implants, this should be a no-brainer.

      The fact that fake tits were largely developed at a Baptist-affiliated institution is whole other level of weirdness.

  31. Antispandex

    So, you guys are absolutely SURE it was a good idea to take Texas from Mexico? I mean, any chance at all they would want it back?

    1. DustBowlBlues

      We don't want them to become a part of Oklahoma. That is, me and the other couple dozen liberals don't want to annex Texas or anything that would make them a part of Oklahoma. We've got more than enough winger crazy for one small state. In fact, we've got enough to share with all the teeny states in New England.

  32. tessiee

    "we are concerned it will reflect poorly on the district. A book like that may be intended humorously, but it is mocking the quality of education in our district"

    We only like one book that teaches ridiculous nonsense as scientific fact.

    1. BoatOfVelociraptors

      Houston, we have a problem. Apparently the word "fake" in a 20 point font on the cover of a book is indecipherable.

        1. Negropolis

          In fact, it also seems to be the feature of it. Though, to be fair, that's probably true of the public education systems of all but a dozen states or so. America kind of decided or calculated some decades ago that it could get away with not educating its poorz, and blahs and browns so long as we got just enough Americans into advanced fields. Boy, if that ain't comming back to bite us in the ass, huh?

  33. Negropolis

    This is what happens to an entrenched bureaucracy to be serious for a moment. It has a way of grinding down your creativity and humor reflex. This is Houston's response; can you even imagine the response of a conservative, rural district?

    1. HistoriCat

      Remember that Rod Paige used to run HISD. He then went on to be W's Secretary of Education. This is an administrative entity which believes in bowing to power and playing it safe.

  34. tessiee

    I like the illustration. The mother bear is clearly saying, "You kids stop fighting with those knives and go do your homework".

    1. SorosBot

      It's also a holiday weekend, so many people with actual lives are probably busy. Or there's a lot of nerds like me getting all into the season premiere of Doctor Who.

  35. Negropolis

    "This knife is too blunt. This knife is too sharp. This knife is just right." – Burglar Goldilocks in wait for the nice Bear family to come home.

  36. orygoon

    The Heir and The Spare spent most of their school years at a little independent (i.e. not associated with a particular church, or, sigh, receiving support from any church organizations) Episcopal day school, which in that Texas town (a large university town, but not Austin) was the most laid-back school, religion-wise, in town. The public schools were just stuffed to overflowing with Bible-belt religion. The Episcopal school was singing and prayer book services, revised slightly, as written by Thomas Cranmer. I can deal with that. So could Jewish families and Muslim families. And the kids just tuned it out. It was, and is, really quite a fabulous school, with a great curriculum. But far too broke to be "elitist".

    1. Negropolis

      An Episcopal school in Texas is probably viewed as something just short of a secular public school, anyway, what, with all of the Methodists and Southern Baptists. lol

  37. Negropolis

    I guess I got lucky. I went to a religious private school (long story), and of my high school science teachers one was a California surfer hippy and the other was the drama teacher who loved musicals who could never quite conceal his jazz hands, of my two English teachers one was a poetry-loving, free-spirit single woman of a certain age who lived in the hood and who took her classes to Stratford, Ontario every year, while the other was a young, dour woman who also taught French. My art teacher was probably less than ten years older than us and used to call out homophobes in the middle of class.

    Maybe, it was because it was so non-denominational and teachers were afraid to speak up for their denomination out of fear of getting thesleves in trouble with parents or other teachers, but outside religious class, the preaching was really kept at a minimal.

    1. Doktor Zoom

      Reminds me of George Carlin's bit about his progressive Jesuit high school, where they taught him critical thinking so well that he eventually was an atheist by the time he graduated

      1. Negropolis

        The catholics are particularly good at education, or were, not sure how good catholic education is now that they've gone all culture warring on social issues. I mean, the Vatican has a giant assed library and telescopes looking for alien life.

  38. TribecaMike

    I had dinner with Mitt and Ann tonight. I don't mind eating on the ironing board, but do they have to spray starch on everything?

  39. ProgressiveInga

    O/T but I was reading nyt tonight and clicked on Tom Friedman and I actually didn't hate most of the piece, especially this:

    "Sitting through all the speeches, it was clear to me that people who think Romney, having accepted the nomination, is now going to pivot to the center are fooling themselves. There is no organic connection between Romney and the G.O.P. base. You could feel it in the hall. He is renting the party to fulfill his dream of becoming president, and they’re renting him to get rid of President Obama. But this is not Romney’s party. I don’t see him taking it back to his moderate past."

    For some reason, I like the visual of Rmoney 'renting' the wingnuts to fulfill his selfish purposes……….Happy Labor Day Weekend, bitches!

    Link here, if you dare: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/09/02/opinion/sunday/

    1. ttommyunger

      Proving that even a broken clock is correct occasionally; certainly more often than Miss Skinbeard.

  40. tessiee

    No wonder they don't want the schoolchildren to see those bears.
    They're not only carrying knives, they're also bear naked.

    1. DerrickWildcat

      What's really strange is that Donald Duck never wears pants, but in one cartoon he jumped out of the shower and wrapped a towel around his waste because Goofy was looking at him.

    1. James Michael Curley

      The Slasher has a tactical advantage, being a lefty, to be able do damage with only minor cuts.

  41. Whollyholeyholy

    My high school outside of Houston got all worked up over Jonathan Swift and baby eating, and it's not like he wrote that piece the previous week. HISD doesn't want this battle, and sadly, I can't laugh because I just feel sorry for everyone involved.

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