Creationists Are Choosing Texas’ Science Textbooks

The state of the universe.
Sept. 20 2013 3:48 PM

Showdown Over Science in Texas

Creationists corrupted state education standards and may push evolution out of textbooks.

130920_SCI_PetitionRally
Texas Freedom Network's rally before the state Board of Education meeting on science textbooks in Austin, Texas, on Sept. 17, 2013.

Photo courtesy of Meg Seidel/Texas Freedom Network

The Texas state Board of Education is in the process of adopting new science textbooks that will be used in public schools for the next decade. On Tuesday, the board held its first hearing for public comment on which textbooks should be adopted. Creationists came out in full force and demanded that “biblical truth,” rather than evolution, be presented in the state’s biology textbooks.

These anti-science activists could compromise the teaching of evolution all across the country. They’ve been working toward this moment for years.

In 2009, the Texas state Board of Education adopted new science standards. The standards presented to the board had been written by a group of scientists and educators, and the proposal covered evolution fully. More than 50 science organizations endorsed the original standards, but creationists successfully amended them. Now the standards include loopholes that allow evolution to be attacked and creationism to be snuck into public school classrooms.

The standards call for students to “analyze and evaluate the fossil record and the complexity of the cell.” They also say that students should “analyze, evaluate, and critique” scientific theories and that students should be exposed to “all sides of scientific evidence of those scientific explanations so as to encourage critical thinking.”

These requirements sound reasonable; we all want students to think critically, analyze, and evaluate. But these standards are designed to bring non-science into the classroom under the cover of analyzing, evaluating, and critiquing evolution.

Advertisement

This is a longtime creationist strategy. Louisiana, where I was born, has its own creationism law that calls for “critiquing” evolution in order to promote “critical thinking.”

Gov. Rick Perry helped make it clear that the Texas curriculum standards are meant to allow creationism into the classroom. During the 2012 presidential election, Perry said, “In Texas we teach both creationism and evolution in our public schools.”

Perry was asked by PolitiFact to clarify this statement, and his spokeswoman said, “It is required that students evaluate and analyze the theory of evolution, and creationism very likely comes up and is discussed in that process. Teachers are also permitted to discuss it with students in that context.”

These standards are already harming Texas students, but now they are poised to damage science education all across the country. Because Texas buys textbooks for more than 4 million students, publishers tend write textbooks designed to capture the Texas market. They then sell the same textbooks in other states. If textbooks in Texas don’t teach evolution, the entire country will suffer.

130920_SCI_PetitionRallyPano
Texas Freedom Network rally on Sept. 17, 2013.

Photo courtesy of Rob Stepan/Texas Freedom Network

In 2009, Kathy Miller, president of the Texas Freedom Network, a pro-science watchdog organization, warned, “The board crafted a road map that creationists will use to pressure publishers into putting phony arguments attacking established science into textbooks.”

Four years later, it’s clear she was right. The state Board of Education requires every textbook that it adopts to meet the science education standards that include the creationists’ amendments. Creationists have used the “analyze and evaluate” requirement to call for any textbook that doesn’t challenge evolution to be rejected.

The first step in this year’s process of choosing new textbooks came when the board appointed reviewers to comb through biology textbooks, offer revisions, and determine which books should be adopted. If a book fails to receive top reviews and isn’t amended in response, publishers will have a very hard time selling that book in Texas.

TODAY IN SLATE

War Stories

The Right Target

Why Obama’s airstrikes against ISIS may be more effective than people expect.

The One National Holiday Republicans Hope You Forget

It’s Legal for Obama to Bomb Syria Because He Says It Is

I Stand With Emma Watson on Women’s Rights

Even though I know I’m going to get flak for it.

Should You Recline Your Seat? Two Economists Weigh In.

Doublex

It Is Very, Very Stupid to Compare Hope Solo to Ray Rice

Or, why it is very, very stupid to compare Hope Solo to Ray Rice.

Building a Better Workplace

In Defense of HR

Startups and small businesses shouldn’t skip over a human resources department.

Why Is This Mother in Prison for Helping Her Daughter Get an Abortion?

Use Facebook to Reconnect With Old Friends, Share Photos, and Serve People With Legal Papers

  News & Politics
Foreigners
Sept. 23 2014 6:40 PM Coalition of the Presentable Don’t believe the official version. Meet America’s real allies in the fight against ISIS.
  Business
Moneybox
Sept. 23 2014 2:08 PM Home Depot’s Former Lead Security Engineer Had a Legacy of Sabotage
  Life
Outward
Sept. 23 2014 1:57 PM Would a Second Sarkozy Presidency End Marriage Equality in France?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 23 2014 2:32 PM Politico Asks: Why Is Gabby Giffords So “Ruthless” on Gun Control?
  Slate Plus
Political Gabfest
Sept. 23 2014 3:04 PM Chicago Gabfest How to get your tickets before anyone else.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 23 2014 8:38 PM “No One in This World” Is One of Kutiman’s Best, Most Impressive Songs
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 23 2014 5:36 PM This Climate Change Poem Moved World Leaders to Tears Today
  Health & Science
Science
Sept. 23 2014 4:33 PM Who Deserves Those 4 Inches of Airplane Seat Space? An investigation into the economics of reclining.
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 23 2014 7:27 PM You’re Fired, Roger Goodell If the commissioner gets the ax, the NFL would still need a better justice system. What would that look like?