Texas prepares for evolution vote with national implications

The state's school board is considering a new anti-evolution curriculum that could affect how the subject is taught throughout the country.

Published March 26, 2009 2:00PM (EDT)

On Thursday and Friday, the Texas Board of Education will be holding one of the most important votes on evolution in recent years. The board is considering whether to adopt a new curriculum that will have teachers question aspects of the theory, suggesting that there are gaps in the fossil record, that life on Earth does not spring from a common ancestor and that cells are too complex to have evolved. That sort of thing is pretty common these days, but this vote could affect the rest of the South, if not the nation as a whole.

When it comes to textbooks, Texas public schools are the equivalent of McDonald's or WalMart. Because they're such a big customer, textbook publishers figure it's just easier to follow Texas standards, even for books sold elsewhere in the U.S. So this vote could mean textbooks that would be teaching Texas' anti-evolution curriculum to students outside of the state.

The new standards under consideration are of course not being presented as creationism, just as an attempt to make sure that students are taught everything about evolution, including so-called weaknesses in the theory. But the chairman of the school board, who's been pushing this, is a young-Earth creationist.

This isn't the first time Texas has talked about evolution and its textbooks; in 2003, our own Katharine Mieszkowski wrote about another attempt to attack evolution in the state's textbooks. Her article is here.

By Alex Koppelman

Alex Koppelman is a staff writer for Salon.

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