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)

During last week’s public hearing on proposed science standards, evolution deniers on the Texas State Board of Education insisted that they had no intention of promoting “intelligent design”/creationism in public schools. Stephen Meyer, co-founder of the anti-evolution Discovery Institute in Seattle, echoed the claims of the board’s anti-science faction. They just want kids to learn “all of the evidence” about evolution, pro and con, we were told.

Oh, talk to the hand.

Why was Meyer invited to serve on a special science curriculum review panel and to speak at the hearing? It certainly wasn’t because of his science credentials — he’s not a research scientist.

Meyer was on the panel because the Discovery Institute is the biggest shill for “intelligent design,” which the Disco folks puff up as a “scientific” alternative to evolution. But because there isn’t a shred of real scientific evidence to support “intelligent design” (essentially creationism dressed up in a lab coat), the Disco Institute spends most of its time attacking evolution.

One of the ways it does this is by hosting “Summer Seminars” for college undergraduates and graduate students. This year’s seminars include “Intelligent Design in the Natural Sciences” and… Read More

It’s been interesting how easily evolution deniers rely on and even promote falsehoods to bolster their attacks on teaching sound science. While live-blogging the Texas State Board of Education public hearing on proposed public school science curriculum standards last week, we noted a good example of this. In case you missed it, we thought we’d make it a separate post.

Our friends at the National Center for Science Education decided to do a little research into a particularly egregious falsehood spouted by state board member Cynthia Dunbar, R-Richmond, at the first hearing on the proposed standards in November. You remember Dunbar. She’s the board member who believes that President Obama sympathizes with terrorists out to destroy America and that public education is a “tool of perversion,” “tyrannical” and “unconstitutional.” Yeah, her. Hard to forget, yes?

Anyway, back in November Dunbar argued that a prominent biologist and Nobel laureate had recently written an article suggesting that he was an evolution skeptic. Well, that would certainly be big news. So the good folks over at NCSE decided to investigate. What they discovered suggests that Dunbar either had no clue what she was… Read More

Texas State Board of Education members are beginning debate on new public school science curriculum standards. The board will likely take a preliminary vote (or votes) today on whether to amend the draft standards submitted by teacher writing teams and then post them for public comment. A formal vote on posting the standards comes on Friday, but we’ll get the main debate today. The final vote to adopt the standards will come in March. We’ll keep you updated over the next couple of hours on the action here.

1:17 p.m. – Board member Cynthia Dunbar, R-Richmond, moves to put “strengths and weaknesses” back in the standards. She argues that “strengths and weaknesses” hasn’t been challenged in two decades (we assume she means in the courts).

1:21 – Board member Mavis Knight, D-Dallas, opposes the motion: “Longevity is not an indication of the quality of something.”

1:23 – Bob Craig, R-Lubbock, also speaks in opposition, arguing that the board should approve what the writings teams — made up of teachers and academics appointed by the board — have drafted over the past year. “Some (here) think they know better how to teach than the teachers.” “‘Strengths and weaknesses’ has… Read More

5:49 p.m. – We’re entering the home stretch (maybe). Charles Garner, a creationist chemist from Baylor, is up. “There is an effort to redefine theories and how they distinguish from hypotheses” that’s not accepted by everyone in science. We certainly agree that there has been an effort to redefine scientific theories, but that effort has been primarily from the creationist side.

5:51 – Garner is offering a PowerPoint presentation showing some of his research. This involves “stereoelectivity in peptide bond formation.” Now, do we know anything about this topic? Of course not. Do any of these board members? We’ll say (safely) no. This is a common tactic by evolution opponents: dazzle nonscientists with scientific jargon as if they can really understand it. Then use that to justify their arguments against evolution. Seelke tried this tactic earlier (and was shot down later by Wetherington).

6:10 – Garner: “I’m not in favor of bringing creationism or ‘intelligent design’ into public schools.” Oh, no. Perish the thought. He just wants to bring into the classroom the arguments that creationists and ID supporters use to attack evolution.

6:13 – Garner: “Anything you don’t allow to be questioned is … religion. You don’t want to… Read More

4:04: Ralph Seelke is up, introducing himself as the grandson of a Texas cotton farmer and holding a doctorate in microbial genetics. Seelke has been a common face for the Discovery Institute in testifying against evolution in various locales. Seelke says he wants students to challenge what they learn, to ask: “How do they know that?” We agree. That’s how they learn. But we could ask the same of creationists: How do you know that evolution is a fraud? How do you know God created the universe in six days? They can’t know because they have no scientific evidence, but they can certainly believe. Faith, however, is not science. There is nothing inherently wrong with that faith — unless you want to determine what students learn based on your faith.

4:12 – Seelke asks: Why include “strengths and weaknesses” in the standards? His answers: “It’s good common sense.” “It makes for good stories, and students remember stories.” Good heavens. Is that really the standard he wants for deciding what to teach in science classes? There are lots of good stories about space monsters, ghosts, psychics and the like, but do we want to teach those stories in science class, too?… Read More