Now the veil is dropped.
We already knew that creationists on the State Board of Education had nominated anti-evolution ideologues to sit on teams reviewing proposed new high school biology textbooks in Texas. We now have seen the actual reviews from those ideologues — and they’re every bit as alarming as we warned they would be.
Many of the reviews offer recitations of the same pseudo-scientific mumbo jumbo anti-evolution activists — like the folks at the Discovery Institute in Seattle — have been promoting for decades. Never mind, of course, that each one of those arguments has been debunked by scientists (repeatedly). No, they are insisting that Texas dumb down the science education of millions of kids with such nonsense.
Even more astonishing is a demand that “creation science based on Biblical principles should be incorporated into every Biology book that is up for adoption.” Some of the reviewers are clearly oblivious to the fact that teaching religious arguments in a science classroom is blatantly unconstitutional. The U.S. Supreme Court has made that abundantly clear.
Tuesday, September 17, is the first (and only scheduled) public hearing on the proposed new biology textbooks. [UDPATE: A TEA official contacted us this afternoon to let us know that the state board will hold a second public hearing in November.] Those textbooks could be used in classrooms for a decade. Come to TFN’s Stand Up for Science rally at noon on Tuesday in Austin and help us send a message to the anti-science fanatics on the State Board of Education: Stop putting personal agendas ahead of the education of Texas students and ensure that public schools provide a science education that prepares students to succeed in college and the jobs of the 21st century.
Ideologues appointed to official state review teams are pressuring publishers to weaken instruction on evolution and climate change in new high school biology textbooks up for adoption in Texas this year, documents obtained by the Texas Freedom Network reveal. The textbooks, once adopted, could be used in the state’s public schools for a decade.
The documents 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 documents, obtained from the Texas Education Agency (TEA) through a request under the state’s Public Information Act, are available at www.tfn.org/sciencereviewdocs. (See a sampling of objections from the reviewers here.)
“Once again culture warriors on the state board are putting Texas at risk of becoming a national laughingstock on science education,” TFN President Kathy Miller said. “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.”
Officials at the National Center for Science Education in California are also expressing alarm.
“The arguments in these reviews are the same discredited claims anti-science activists have pushed for years,” said Josh Rosenau, Programs and Policy Director at NCSE. “This is scary because of Texas’ big influence on publishers and on textbooks used across the country. Publishers should listen to real experts, not unqualified reviewers who don’t seem to understand even basic scientific terms.”
SBOE members nominated the evolution deniers serving on the review teams. Most of the critics are not biologists or even scientists. They include a College Station dietician, an Austin systems engineer and a retired Dallas businessman with a background in finance.
Some of the country’s most prominent evolution deniers are also on the review teams. They include Ide Trotter, a retired chemical engineer who has served as a spokesperson for a Texas creationist group; Walter Bradley, a retired professor of engineering at Baylor University who wrote a founding text of “intelligent design” creationism; and Ray Bohlin, vice president for Probe Ministries, a Plano-based evangelical Christian ministry that rejects evolution. Bradley and Bohlin are also fellows with the Discovery Institute, the Seattle-based institutional home of the “intelligent design” creationism movement.
Science scholars at the University of Texas at Austin and Southern Methodist University in Dallas gave the coverage of evolution in those textbooks passing marks after publishers submitted the books to the state last spring. Those scholars’ reviews are available in a TFN Education Fund report: www.tfn.org/2013sciencereview.
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.