Textbook Censorship

The Texas State Board of Education decides what every student in Texas public schools will learn from kindergarten through high school. The board does so by adopting curriculum standards and textbooks for public schools in the state.

For decades, politicians on the State Board of Education and their activist allies have taken advantage of this flawed system to dismiss the advice of experts and scholars. They have instead worked tod inject their personal views into textbooks on everything from evolution and climate change to the history of slavery, civil rights and separation of church and state.

Resources

The State Board of Education: Dragging Texas Schools into the Culture Wars (2008 report)

Evolution, Creationism & Public Schools: Surveying Texas Scientists (2008 report)

Culture Wars and the Classroom (2010 report)

Senate Bill 6: Changes in the Textbook Adoption Process (2011 report)

Texas Science Curriculum Standards: Challenges (2012 report)

Science Textbook Review (2013 report)

Social Studies Textbook Review (2014 report)

Note: Audio from the state board hearing is available here.

4:53 – Lots of conversations among board members between and during the testimony. We haven’t said much yet about the vote coming tomorrow and Friday. Essentially, we’re where we were in January — it will be very close. Chairman McLeroy and other board creationists have been circulating a list of amendments to the standards, nearly all targeting evolution. And they are certain to try again to force “strengths and weaknesses” back into the standards. We also expect efforts by pro-science board members to try to strip out anti-evolution amendments (particularly those challenging the concept of common descent) added in January.

5:18 – Board members are now being allowed to invite specific individuals to testify. It will be interesting to see who board members bring up.

5:25 – Board member Rick Agosto has invited Genie Scott of the National Center for Science Education to speak. That’s encouraging. Genie makes it clear what’s at stake. Putting “strengths and weaknesses” back in the standards will give evolution opponents ammunition to demand pseudoscience in the 2011 biology textbooks. Other states will likely rebel against such nonsense. Says Genie: You will have a Texas… Read More

2:00 – We thought you might want to know a bit about the atmosphere here. The Texas Education Agency lobby was packed with science supporters when we arrived this morning. The litigators from anti-evolution Free Market Foundation Texas affiliate of Focus on the Family had already begun a press conference promoting the “strengths and weaknesses” propaganda. Following that, TFN started its press conference with educators and scientists. We’ve rarely seen so many cameras for a press event at TEA, although it appears that some of the cameras (including ours) were from non-news organizations.

Both press conferences were disrupted by observers. In our case, one observer shouted “my grandfather wasn’t an ape,” or something to that effect. Another chose to pray loudly in an effort to drown out what our speakers were saying. An argument also marred the Focus on the Family press conference.

It’s standing-room-only in the board room itself. In fact, many people are on the floor on the sides and in the back of the room. Numerous reporters — mostly television — are covering the hearing. A number of educators and scientists are in attendance, but it’s clear that creationist organizations — such as Focus and Probe… Read More

12:25 - Our press conference ran long, and we were late getting into the hearing. Unfortunately, State Board of Education Chairman Don McLeroy has rejected a request for a table for us in the board room (as at the last two board meetings). We're told that's "too distracting" for board members, although we set up in a far back corner. Frankly, the issue is more likely one of not liking what we've been blogging about at past meetings. In any case, we're here, we're blogging, get used to it. (We're so witty.) 12:33 - The board room is overflowing with folks. The creationists are out in force this time, but we still have lots of science supporters (wearing our signature green). 12:37 - A testifier who has worked in the textbook industry is warning the board that what is decided about science in Texas will be taught throughout the country. Indeed. 12:58 - Terri Leo is complaining because two people in a row have testified against "strengths and weaknesses." She points out witnesses should be alternating, for and against. For Pete's sake. 1:01 - A scientist is correctly pointing out that "strengths and weaknesses" is being used as a wedge…… Read More

Newspapers both inside Texas are focusing attention on this week’s showdown over science education in Texas. The San Antonio Express-News, for example, offers dueling op-eds here and here. The Dallas Morning News does the same here and here.

The Washington Post also weighs in here. Money quote:

It’s disturbing enough that the Texas board of education might seek to impose its religious views on public school students in that sizable state. It’s even more alarming that the Lone Star State’s textbook market is so large that many publishers write books to meet its standards and then sell them across the country. The Texas State Board of Education must hold firm to its decision to strip the “strengths and weaknesses” language from the state’s science standard. Texans, like everyone else, are free to believe what they want, but in science class, they should teach science.… Read More

As the Texas State Board of Education nears a final vote on new public school science curriculum standards, board chairman Don McLeroy, R-Bryan, is arguing once again that science classes should include supernatural explanations. In a new op-ed from the Austin American-Statesman, McLeroy -- a creationist who believes Earth is less than 10,000 years old -- writes that the proposed science standards up for a final vote this week include a definition of science that he likes:…… Read More