Disappointing decisions on science textbooks from the Texas state board of education

Pumpjack located south of Midland, Texas.

Pumpjack located south of Midland, Texas. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

The Texas state board of education finalized the list of science textbooks approved for use in the state's public schools at its November 17, 2023, meeting. As expected, there was a partisan divide on the board, with right-wing members of the board expressing dissatisfaction with the treatment of evolution and climate change in the textbooks — and voting accordingly.

Earlier, at a committee of the whole meeting on November 14, 2023, the board voted to remove textbooks published by Accelerated Learning, Discovery Education, EduSmart, Green Ninja, and McGraw-Hill from the list of approved textbooks after discussions in which evolution and/or climate change were misrepresented as scientifically controversial.

At the November 17 meeting, the board reversed its decisions with respect to the Accelerated Learning and McGraw-Hill Biology textbooks, citing revisions by the publishers. Motions to restore the Discovery Education, EduSmart, and Green Ninja textbooks were defeated, with evolution and/or climate change again misrepresented as scientifically controversial.

The majority of textbooks were revised in between the meetings, sometimes in such a way as to elicit concern. McGraw-Hill removed a number of diagrams illustrating the evolutionary lineage of human beings from its high school biology textbook, while Discovery Education removed a reference to fossil fuel use contributing to the greenhouse effect in its Grade 6 textbook.

Textbooks from five publishers were removed from the list of approved textbooks without any expressed concerns about evolution and/or climate change at the November 14 meeting and not restored at the November 17 meeting. Textbooks from two different publishers, however, were removed and then restored.

In discussing the November 14 committee's deliberations, NCSE's Deputy Director Glenn Branch told the Associated Press (November 17, 2023), "Members of the board are clearly motivated to take some of these textbooks off of the approved list because of their personal and ideological beliefs regarding evolution and climate change."

Evidently agreeing with Branch's diagnosis, the National Science Teaching Association urged members of the board, in a letter sent before the November 17 meeting, not to "allow misguided objections to evolution and climate change impede the adoption of science textbooks in Texas," the Associated Press reported.

Glenn Branch
Short Bio

Glenn Branch is Deputy Director of NCSE.