The Foundation for Thought and Ethics, a prominent creationist group, has reversed a stated intention to submit instructional materials this year for use in Texas science classrooms. That decision, publicized on FTE’s website, is very good news for supporters of sound science education and students in Texas public schools.
On the other hand, it almost certainly is a huge disappointment for evolution deniers on the Texas State Board of Education. In 2009 those state board members succeeded in winning the adoption of controversial new science curriculum standards. They hoped the new standards would open the door to creationist arguments against evolution in classrooms across Texas.
As TFN Insider reported earlier this month, the Texas-based FTE was included on a list of vendors made public by the Texas Education Agency on January 20. Those vendors had indicated last fall that they intended to submit instructional materials covering the new science curriculum standards. The state board is scheduled in April to choose which of those materials will go on an approved list. Texas public schools could then use state dollars — if the Legislature makes such funding available — to purchase those approved materials for use in science classrooms beginning in the 2011-12 school year.
FTE is publisher of the “intelligent design”/creationism book Of Pandas and People. That book was at the center of a key Pennsylvania court case in 2005, Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School Board. In that case a federal judge ruled that “intelligent design” is a religious concept thinly disguised as science. Teaching such a concept, the court ruled, would represent an unconstitutional promotion of religion in public schools. The folks at FTE complained that the court’s decision would make Of Pandas and People and other “intelligent design” propaganda “radioative” and unmarketable in public schools.
Of course, they were right. But after the Texas state board approved the creationist-friendly science standards in 2009, perhaps the folks at FTE thought they had another chance to promote their junk science in public schools. Now, however, they apparently have realized that another major defeat — before the Texas board or in the courts — would simply compound their Dover disaster.
Still, other dangers remain for science education in Texas. Anti-evolution groups and state board members are likely to pressure legitimate publishers and other vendors to water down instruction on evolution in the materials they submit for board approval. The Texas Freedom Network helped build a broad coalition of pro-science education groups and activists that successfully blocked such efforts when the state board approved new biology textbooks for Texas schools in 2003. TFN will again work with scientists, other scholars and educators to help ensure that all materials publishers submit for board approval this March actually teach the well-established facts about evolution, not anti-science propaganda.
Note: Our friends at the National Center for Science Education (NCSE) have passed along some helpful background on FTE’s involvement in the 2005 Dover case: