Creationists Target Publisher in Texas Adoption

by Dan Quinn

Update: TFN has obtained a copy of letter addressed to the state board signed by five members of the official biology review panels. The letter challenges the alleged “errors” identified in the report presented to the board late yesterday, concluding:

“Holt McDougal’s supplement, as well as the publisher’s response to the reviewers, accurately describes the current state of the science, satisfies the TEKS, and matches the other supplements already approved by the board on Thursday.”

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The Texas State Board of Education’s public hearing and debate over proposed new science instructional materials today went well — until a big bump at the end. Most of the instructional materials the education commissioner has recommended for adoption received preliminary approval from the state board. The board has scheduled a final vote tomorrow.

But toward the end of the debate this afternoon, Texas Education Agency staff revealed that a review team had identified eight objections to content in the Biology instructional materials submitted for approval by publisher Holt McDougal. Board members were told that Holt McDougal is arguing that the objections are based on bad science.

Indeed, the objections appear to be largely the work of a young-earth creationist — David Shormann — on the team that reviewed the company’s materials. Here is a review Shormann wrote about the Holt McDougal materials and shared with his review team. We obtained this document last week through a Public Information Act request to TEA.

You can see that many of Shormann’s objections in his review have been repeated — almost word for word — in this document TEA distributed to state board members this afternoon. The TEA document lists the eight objections and includes Holt’s rationale for not making the changes Shormann demands. Because of the very abbreviated and opaque review process the state board established for this science adoption, it appears that few people outside TEA and Holt McDougal even knew about these objections. Indeed, the ability of the public to get information about the proposed instructional materials and reviews has been very limited.

In any case, the state board’s creationist members obviously smell blood. In fact, they successfully opposed even permitting a representative from Holt McDougal to address the board and explain why the demanded changes represent bad science. So the board will have to sort through this issue tomorrow.

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