Textbooks under attack in Texas

Ideologues on official state textbook review teams are attacking the treatment of evolution and climate change in science textbooks under consideration in Texas, charged the Texas Freedom Network and the National Center for Science Education in a joint press release issued on September 9, 2013. "Once again culture warriors on the state board are putting Texas at risk of becoming a national laughingstock on science education," TFN's president Kathy Miller warned.

As the press release explains, documents obtained by the TFN show "that reviewers made ideological objections to coverage related to evolution and climate change in textbooks from at least seven publishers, including several of the nation's biggest publishing houses. Failing to obtain a review panel's top rating makes it harder for publishers to sell their textbooks to school districts or can even lead the State Board of Education (SBOE) to reject the textbook altogether."

"The arguments in these reviews are the same discredited claims anti-science activists have pushed for years," commented NCSE's Joshua Rosenau. Among those claims, various reviewers:

  • called for the inclusion of "'creation science' based on Biblical principles"
  • asserted that "no transitional fossils have been discovered"
  • insisted that there is no evidence for a human influence on the carbon cycle
  • claimed that there is no evidence about the effect of climate change on species diversity
  • promoted a book touting "intelligent design" creationism as a reliable source of scientific information
  • denied that recombination and genetic drift are evolutionary mechanisms
  • mischaracterized experiments on the peppered moth as "discredited" and as "fabrication[s]"

“This is scary because of Texas'[s] big influence on publishers and on textbooks used across the country," Rosenau said. "Publishers should listen to real experts, not unqualified reviewers who don't seem to understand even basic scientific terms.”

TFN's president Kathy Miller agreed, commenting, "What our kids learn in their public schools should be based on mainstream, established science, not the personal views of ideologues, especially those who are grossly unqualified to evaluate a biology textbook in the first place. What we see in these documents makes it imperative that the board finally establish genuine qualifications for those entrusted with reviewing textbooks or curriculum standards for our kids."

As the press release observes, it was members of the state board of education who nominated the reviewers, including the evolution and climate deniers. Few of the reviewers critical of the inclusion of evolution and climate change possessed any scientific credentials. Among those who did, several — Ide Trotter, Walter Bradley, and Ray Bohlin — are active in state or national antievolution organizations such as the Discovery Institute.

What's next for Texas? According to the press release, "Negotiations between publishers and the reviewers are ongoing. TEA officials say they cannot release documents showing what changes — if any — publishers are offering to make to their textbooks before the only scheduled public hearing on the books on September 17. A final vote on whether to approve or reject the textbooks for Texas schools is set for November."

Texans: Will you join NCSE and your fellow Texans for science education in fighting for honest science education, without any taint of religious or political ideology? Visit NCSE's Taking Action page for Texas textbooks to register to obtain up-to-date information about when and where hearings will happen, what you have to do to ensure you get a chance to speak, and how to prepare your statement for the board.