Texas is editing the science out of our textbooks

A new school year means new objections to evolution and climate change

By Lindsay Abrams
September 11, 2013 7:37PM (UTC)
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"The authors need to get caught up" on evolution and climate change, a review panel of Texas high school textbooks is arguing. Caught up, that is, to the idea that the theory of evolution is just a theory, and should only be included in biology textbooks alongside "creation science." Or, you know, that we "don't really know that the carbon Cycle (sic) has been altered."

In records uncovered by watchdog groups Texas Freedom Network (TFN) and the National Center for Science Education (NCSE), the panel made such ideology-based objections to content in textbooks from at least seven different publishers, reports Mother Jones.


"As an educator, parent, and grandparent, I feel very firmly that 'creation science' based on Biblical principles should be incorporated into every Biology book that is up for adoption," one reviewer wrote directly to the textbook companies Houghton Miffin Harcourt and Scientific Minds.

The opinions all come from official reviewers, appointed by the Texas State Board of Education. According to NSCE, few possess the credentials one would assume they'd need to evaluate the content of science texts. But several are involved in anti-evolution organizations.

Writing last year in the New York Review of Books, Gail Collins traced the state Board of Education's long history of deciding what counts as science:


Approval of environmental science books was once held up over board concern that they were teaching children to be more loyal to their planet than their country. As the board became a national story and a national embarrassment, the state legislature attempted to put a lid on the chaos in 1995 by restricting the board’s oversight to “factual errors.” This made surprisingly little impact when you had a group of deciders who believed that the theory of evolution, global warming, and separation of church and state are all basically errors of fact.

In 2009, when the science curriculum was once again up for review, conservatives wanted to require that it cover the “strengths and weaknesses” of the theory of evolution. In the end, they settled for a face-saving requirement that students consider gaps in fossil records and whether natural selection is enough to explain the complexity of human cells. Don McLeroy, the board chairman who had opined that “evolution is hooey,” told Washington Monthly that he felt the changes put Texas “light years ahead of any other state when it comes to challenging evolution!”

The board's opinions carry a disproportionate amount of heft. If the textbooks don't receive top ratings from the panel, writes Mother Jones, they could be rejected by the state at a final hearing to take place in November. And because Texas has one of the nation's largest public-school systems, publishers tend to tailor their content to the state's whims. It's not just students in Texas, but throughout the country, who could be subjected to material that has little basis in reality or, you know, science.

Lindsay Abrams

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Climate Change Creationism Evolution Public Schools Texas