Scientific American cites NCSE studies in its coverage of climate change in Texas textbooks

School books in a pile.

Writing for Scientific American (October 13, 2013), Katie Worth not only reviewed the ongoing controversy over the treatment of climate change in science textbooks submitted for adoption in Texas but also took a look at the textbooks herself — and NCSE is prominently featured.

The stakes are high, she explains. "Because Texas is among the largest textbook markets in the U.S., the state has had long-standing influence over textbooks published nationwide. That means content written with Texan politics — and the state's fossil-fuel industry — in mind winds up in classrooms across the country. Textbooks often have a long shelf life, so the approved materials will likely be read by children into the 2030s."

Examining the grade 8 science textbooks submitted for approval by the three largest K-12 publishers, McGraw Hill, Savvas (formerly Pearson), and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Worth "found that the proposed new textbooks include much more robust information about the climate crisis than their earlier editions did. In some cases, however, the books appear to cloud the human causes of the crisis."

Citing the 2014-2015 NCSE/Penn State survey (PDF) of climate change educators, Worth observes that "more than half of science teachers across the U.S. say they teach the causes of climate change as a debate," although "expert climate educators" — here she cites NCSE's Executive Director Ann Reid, writing in Education Week in 2019, among others — "discourage this approach" as leading to misunderstanding on the part of students.

Worth notes that a review of the textbooks by NCSE and the Texas Freedom Network Education Fund found that they generally conformed to "the limited requirements of the new standards." But NCSE's Deputy Director Glenn Branch commented that "even the best of the books have lots of room for improvement," and Judy Dickey, who collaborated on the review, suggested that they overemphasized urbanization and deforestation while underemphasizing fossil fuels.

The Texas state board of education is expected to make a final decision on the textbooks submitted for adoption during its next meeting, during the week of November 14, 2023. Texas residents can submit written comments online on the textbooks until October 30, 2023.

Glenn Branch
Short Bio

Glenn Branch is Deputy Director of NCSE.