Is Texas preparing to censor climate change in textbooks?

Fayette coal power plant in Fayette County, Texas.

Fayette coal power plant in Fayette County, Texas. Photo by Sam LaRussa on Unsplash.

The Texas state board of education recently adopted "a series of changes to its operating rules ... that could influence school decisions on book purchases," especially with regard to the human influence on climate change, E&E News reports (March 16, 2023) — and NCSE was featured in the story.

The changes include a requirement that instructional materials "present positive aspects of the United States and Texas and its heritage and abundant natural resources." Patricia Hardy, the board member who proposed the changes, told E&E News, "If they're going to tout how wonderful the alternative climate change stuff is, then they need to also say all the things that are not good about it and not just hit on the fossil fuel industry." She added, "Our schools are paid for by the fossil fuel industry for the most part."

Also included in the changes were a requirement of the recognition of "the ongoing process of scientific discovery and change over time in the natural world," and language requiring instructional materials to "present factual information, avoid bias, and encourage discussion." While ostensibly neutral, it seems likely that these would be deployed selectively against areas of science doubted by the board. At a meeting of the board, Hardy specifically endorsed teaching "both sides" of climate science in order to "avoid bias."

A map of the United States showing activities NCSE is monitoring.

As for the source of the changes, "Hardy told E&E News that she worked on the changes with the Texas Energy Council, a coalition of oil and gas companies, as well as newly elected board member Aaron Kinsey, CEO of American Patrols, an aviation oil-field services company. The goal of the group was to eliminate 'textbooks written by people not from Texas who have a negative view of fossil fuels and a positive view of electric cars.'" Another member of the board, Will Hickman, works as an in-house attorney for Shell.

NCSE's Deputy Director Glenn Branch told E&E News that it was unusual for a state board of education to attempt to exercise such detailed control over the content of textbooks. "Texas is an outlier," he explained, "because the State Board of Education has a long history of using the state's clout when it comes to textbook purchase to lean on publishers to try to compromise scientific accuracy in the favor of some ideology, whether that's ... creationism in regard to evolution or climate change."

Also appearing in the story are the NCSE/Texas Freedom Network Education Fund study of climate change in science standards, the Texas A&M climate scientist Andrew Dessler (a recent recipient of NCSE's Friend of the Planet award), and Katie Worth, the author of Miseducation: How Climate Change is Taught in America.

Glenn Branch
Short Bio

Glenn Branch is Deputy Director of NCSE.