Proposed Texas textbooks distort climate change facts

"An examination of how proposed social studies textbooks for Texas public schools address climate change reveals distortions and bias that misrepresent the broad scientific consensus on the phenomenon," charged the Texas Freedom Network and the National Center for Science Education in a joint press release issued on September 15, 2014. Accompanying the press release was a brief analysis (PDF) of the treatment of climate change in the textbooks.

Among the most problematic claims about climate science in the social studies textbooks submitted for state adoption:  a statement that fossil fuel emissions have caused a hole in the ozone layer over Antarctica; a claim that scientists "disagree about what is causing climate change"; and a quotation from a notorious climate change denial organization presented in rebuttal of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

"The scientific debate over whether climate change is happening and who is responsible has been over for years, and the science textbooks Texas adopted last year make that clear," explained NCSE's Minda Berbeco. "Climate change will be a key issue that future citizens of Texas will need to understand and confront, and they deserve social studies textbooks that reinforce good science and prepare them for the challenges ahead."

But the social studies textbooks under consideration too often fail to reach that goal, added Kathy Miller, president of the Texas Freedom Network Education Fund. "In too many cases we're seeing publishers shade and even distort facts to avoid angering politicians who vote on whether their textbooks get approved," Miller said. "Texas kids deserve textbooks that are based on sound scholarship, not political biases."

According to the Austin American-Statesman (September 10, 2014), the Texas state board of education is scheduled to have a public hearing on the social studies textbooks on September 16, 2014. Thomas Ratliff, a member of the board, told the newspaper that the board considers only whether the books have factual errors and cover fifty percent of the state standards: "If there's a complaint about the standards, that ship has sailed."

The Texas state board of education is expected to make a final decision on the social studies textbooks in November 2014. Concerned Texans are urged to add their names to a joint petition from NCSE and the Texas Freedom Network which will be delivered to the Texas state board of education and to the publishers of the textbooks in question, demanding that the errors about climate science be removed and corrected.

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