Censorship Group Targets Science Materials

It’s increasingly clear that the Texas State Board of Education this summer will be ground zero — once again — in the religious right’s war on science. The newest indication of the pending battle comes from the website of Educational Research Analysts, one of the nation’s oldest textbook censorship organizations. The website shows that the East Texas-based group will target the scheduled adoption of science instructional materials by the Texas state board in July.

The religious-right outfit in Longview was founded by the late Mel and Norma Gabler, who began pressuring publishers to censor their textbooks in the 1960s. The Gablers later turned their operation over to Neal Frey, who continues to run the shop. Here’s what the group’s website says about the upcoming science adoption:

In July, Texas will be approving supplemental high-school Biology materials for local adoption later this year. Of the online supplements up for Texas approval, we are examining submissions by Holt McDougal, Prentice Hall, and School Education Group (a McGraw-Hill division) to determine how well they conform to Biology standards, particularly Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills §112.34 (c)(3)(A).

Holt McDougal, Prentice Hall and School Education Group are three of the nation’s largest publishers of textbooks and other educational material. Many smaller vendors have also submitted materials for the science adoption in Texas.

Here is how standard §112.34 (c)(3)(A) reads:

(3) Scientific processes. The student uses critical thinking, scientific reasoning, and problem solving to make informed decisions within and outside the classroom. The student is expected to:

(A) in all fields of science, analyze, evaluate, and critique scientific explanations by using empirical evidence, logical reasoning, and experimental and observational testing, including examining all sides of scientific evidence of those scientific explanations, so as to encourage critical thinking by the student (Emphasis added by TFN)

Creationists on the State Board of Education hope that standard — among others the board adopted in 2009 — will force publishers to include creationist arguments against evolution in their instructional materials. They adopted the standard after failing to win approval for a requirement that students learn phony “weaknesses” of evolution. They insist that creationist arguments are “scientific” and should be included in instructional materials under the requirement of “examining all sides of scientific evidence” (even though those arguments have no support in mainstream science).

The Texas Freedom Network and the National Center for Science Education have already identified at least one vendor that has submitted creationist materials for adoption by the Texas state board this summer. In addition, TFN Insider has reported that members of the state board’s far-right faction have succeeded in placing creationists on the teams that will review the proposed materials for science classes. Science materials approved by the state board will be available for use in Texas public schools this September.

6 thoughts on “Censorship Group Targets Science Materials

  1. As a person who has taught 3-6 year olds a science class with critical thinking as the foundation, I am appalled that this age group might
    have to move on to creationist teaching masqueraded as science education. Children like to rely on their senses for information as to
    what is credible. They can usually spot an explanation which doesn’t fit with their experience and visual reinforcement. Even if they
    keep their mouths shut, they will not willingly accept a supernatural explanation. Nuh-uh, they say. We should too.

  2. As an expert reviewer for the TEKS science adopti0n, I made the following comments on 1/21/09 to the SBOE regarding the value of and teaching of critical thinking skills:

    During the review process some have supported the presence and use of the “strengths and weaknesses” expectation as an avenue for teaching critical thinking skills. There is widespread agreement that the development of such skills is important. For example, the authors (Abrami et al., 2008) of a December 2008 comprehensive review of the research that has studied the question of how instructional interventions affect critical thinking skills and dispositions asserted:

    At a broader societal level, a democracy composed of citizens who can think for themselves on the basis of evidence and concomitant analysis, rather than on emotion, prejudice, or dogma, is a plus—in fact it sustains, builds, and perpetuates democracy.

    The use of evidence and analysis and the rejection of prejudice and dogma are important skills not only for democracy, but also in science classrooms and laboratories. These authors noted six skills identified with critical thinking: interpretation, analysis, evaluation, inference, explanation, and self-regulation. Among the 19 dispositions associated with critical thinking were inquisitiveness, open-mindedness, and understanding others. I think we would all agree that these six skills and three dispositions should be nurtured in science classrooms.

    The authors indicated that studies showed that the teaching of critical thinking as an independent track within a specific content course has had the largest effect of various interventions whereas the immersion method, where critical thinking is regarded as a by-product of instruction and not as an explicit course objective had the smallest effect. (p. 1121). Thus, an emphasis on the strengths and weaknesses of any concept or theory in science for use in achieving the goal of developing critical thinking as a by-product may have at best only modest success. Thus, the assertion that the analysis of the strengths and weaknesses of various theories and concepts in science is important in the development of critical thinking skills is not supported by existing research and should be rejected by this Board.

    Abrami, P. C., Bernard, R., Borokhovski, E., Wade, A., Surkes, M, Tamin, R., & Zhang, D. (2008). Instructional interventions affecting critical thinking skills and dispositions: A stage 1 meta-analysis, Review of Educational Research 78 (4) 1102-1134.

    Based on this meta-analysis, an attempt to teach critical thinking skills in relation to evolution and not as an independent track has little chance of developing such skills in students enrolled in Texas biology courses regardless of the textbook or instructional material used. Any argument that proposes that it is possible to develop these skills in a fragmented approach needs to provide evidence that such an approach has a record of effectiveness.

  3. Before there was critical thinking, there was objectivity, the opposite of which was convervatism, establishmentarianism, capitalism, and/or militarism. Anything that wasn’t dialectici materialism wasn’t objective.

    That was at the University of Communism at Berkeley before there was a Peoples’ Park. This was BEFORE there were activist protesters against everything in general and for not much in common,

  4. Marilyn Stavinoa:
    I am very curious about the idea of teaching young people critical thinking — perhaps the most important skill we need and one that is in too short supply. Might I suggest you tape a ten minute segment for YouTube, which could lead to much more. I have a good idea how you would start at early teens, but that there is a way to start that young is amazing and admirable. Please tell us more.

  5. The fundamentals of critical thinking can be easily taught on line together with a simulation game that allows for decisions to be measured in terms of success in solving problems.

    Education has traditionally been subject matter oriented rather than oriented to solving problems using the subject matter. The military switched from subject matter orientation after Vietnam, although the inevitable anal retentive have problems with problem solving that doesn’t involve regurgitating that which was retained verbatum.

    Younglings are computer savvy and using net centric learning is fast, efficient, and can be made fun to learn,