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.


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)

The creationists on the Texas State Board of Education just can’t seem to help themselves. Once again one of the board’s far-right members — Ken Mercer, R-San Antonio — makes clear that religious agendas are driving efforts to dumb down science education in Texas public schools.

Writing in a San Antonio Express-News opinion column, Mr. Mercer says the claim that he and other creationists are trying to promote religion by challenging evolution in public school science classrooms is a “red herring.” Then, following a familar pattern, he contradicts himself:

For the last twenty years, teachers have been required to present both the strengths and weaknesses of scientific theories; and I challenge the Express-News to find one science book approved by the SBOE that includes either creation science or intelligent design.

In fact, members of Texans for Better Science Education, who listened to the numerous testifiers at the public hearing, have stated that the three Republican SBOE members who voted to delete the “weaknesses” provision were swayed by  “Darwinists, atheists, ACLU members, and at least one bona fide signer of the infamous Humanist Manifesto III, in an attempt to promote indoctrination over critical thinking skills.”

I pray for my… Read More

 The level of arrogance displayed by anti-evolution pressure groups and their activists in the war on science has been astonishing.

We have witnessed, for example, creationists openly question the faith of people who see no conflict between their religious beliefs and accepting the science of evolution. (Of course, their rhetoric gets even more heated when they attack atheists.) Now the Texas Freedom Network has obtained an e-mail to the Texas Education Agency (TEA) that provides yet more evidence of this arrogance — and the contempt evolution deniers have for those of us who want Texas kids to get a 21st-century science education based on facts, not ideology.

When TFN learned in November that the Texas State Board of Education would limit testimony to just four hours at its January public hearing on proposed science standards, we protested. We asked supporters of sound science to call on the board to reverse that decision. After all, these standards will be in place for a decade and will dictate the science education of a generation of Texas kids. The least that state board members could do was listen to the concerns of fellow citizens traveling to Austin for the hearing. (And we… Read More

The header above is from the subject line of a wild-eyed screed sent circulating around the Internets this past weekend by Donna Garner, a former language arts teacher in Central Texas. Social conservatives on the Texas State Board of Education seem to think Ms. Garner is some kind of curriculum guru. (Never mind that most other folks see her as little more than a right-wing gadfly with an e-mail list.)

Last year Ms. Garner helped the board’s far-right faction (led by board chairman Don McLeroy) derail a more than two-year process revising the state’s language arts curriculum standards. (See here and here.) Now she seems to have turned her attention to evolution and proposed science curriculum standards. The e-mail criticizes the state board for giving tentative approval last month to new standards that don’t require students to learn phony “weaknesses” of evolution. It mocks three Republican board members, in particular, each of whom voted to keep the “weaknesses” requirement out of the standards. They “all claim to be conservative Republicans,” the e-mail sneeringly states. One of the three, Bob Craig of Lubbock, the e-mail notes, “says he’s a ‘strong Christian.'” And on it goes. (Will any… Read More

Have you wondered how Texas State Board of Education Chairman Don McLeroy persuaded fellow board members last month to add an amendment weakening proposed science standards dealing with evolution? Well, here’s an interesting Web page put together by an enterprising fellow: “Collapse of a Texas Quote Mine.” The site looks at the many quotes from reputable sources that Dr. McLeroy used to justify calling into question common descent, a core concept of evolutionary theory. The site lists each of the quotes culled by McLeroy (or whoever provided his talking points) and explains how they were distorted and taken out of context in the cause of promoting pseudoscientific nonsense.

Here’s an example. The Web site notes that Dr. McLeroy cherry-picked this quote from Ernst Mayr’s What Evolution Is (2001):

…the various steps in the history of the change from ape to man … is entirely based on inferences and any part of it may be refuted at any time.

Sounds like skepticism about a key part of human evolution over time, yes? Well, Mayr certainly didn’t mean it to be. This is the quote in context from his book:

Yet, as far as… Read More

Creationists on the Texas State Board of Education have repeatedly insisted that their attempts to dumb down the science curriculum on evolution have nothing to do with promoting their religious beliefs. But often their own words and actions betray them.

At the end of the Jan. 21 public hearing on the science standards, board members were given the opportunity to choose a handful of speakers to close out testimony. Among those chosen by the board’s creationist bloc was one David Muralt, whose affiliation he listed simply as “self.” Muralt put the lie to creationists’ claims that they aren’t trying to promote religion in science classrooms. We have transcribed his testimony (from the 4:26:44 mark on the Full Board Part A 1/21 archived audio file), which includes:

Why do we persist teaching students the religion of atheistic humanism, under the guise of scientific, factual evolution? Which is neither scientific nor factual, when you only present one point of view.

Teaching students that they evolved and are nothing more than animals degrades their quality of life, and robs them of meaning and purpose for life. The twisted reasoning of humanism in seeking to exalt man, reduces him to an animal… Read More