About Those Texas Science Reviewers, Ms. Cargill…

by Dan Quinn

“The dietician actually has a degree in food science technology, and they have to take all kinds of science courses, I know, at colleges. And then the person you’re referring to is the retired businessman specializing in finance was the gentleman with the doctorate from Princeton in chemical engineering, so he’s certainly qualified. I’m looking at this list, and I’d be happy to show it to anybody that wants to look. Our biology panels, and there were three panels, because we did have a lot of interest. And I want to know, where were the teachers when we put out the call all over the state? I know they were busy teaching, but a lot of the reviews were done this summer. So please, please, in the future, get the word out to your contacts because we needed more help, actually.”

That’s Barbara Cargill, the Republican chairwoman of the Texas State Board of Education, responding to critics who say the official state review panels for new high school biology textbooks this year were stacked with unqualified ideologues who reject evolution.

The claim that a dietician with a degree in food science technology and a chemical engineer who built a career in the business world were qualified to review biology textbooks is absurd. They might be well-qualified in their own professional fields, but they are no more qualified to review biology textbooks than a biologist would be qualified to review a mathematics or engineering textbook. This year unqualified individuals served as biology reviewers simply because their anti-evolution beliefs are shared by like-minded ideologues (such as Cargill) serving on the State Board of Education.

But what about Cargill’s suggestion that science teachers failed to step up to the plate and offer their time to serve on the review teams? That’s simply not true. There were scores of them, all offering to serve as reviewers.

We obtained from the Texas Education Agency the list of individuals who applied or were nominated by State Board of Education members to serve as biology textbook reviewers. Of the 183 individuals on that list, we identified more than 140 who are classroom teachers, school science department chairs, curriculum and education specialists for science, an assistant principal, and assorted other educators. The vast majority of them have degrees and teaching experience specifically in biology.

Some of them are among the 28 individuals appointed as biology textbook reviewers. But all of the others were passed over for the dietician, business and finance professionals, and various chemical, mechanical, systems and civil engineers who used their positions on the review teams to promote completely discredited junk science attacking evolution (or simply to call for teaching “creation science based on biblical principles” in biology textbooks). If you didn’t see all the qualified teachers who volunteered to serve as reviewers, Ms. Cargill, then you were looking at the wrong list.