The Houston Chronicle today published the following opinion column by Texas Freedom Network President Kathy Miller about the adoption of new science textbooks for Texas public schools this year:

The State Board of Education is marching once again toward a showdown over what Texas students should learn in their public school science classrooms. And with political shenanigans and problems over transparency already emerging, the debate over science education in the Lone Star State could again become the butt of national jokes.

The state board will hold a public hearing on Tuesday and will vote in November on which science textbooks the state’s schools should use over the next decade. What those textbooks say about evolution (and even climate change) is, as in the past, at the center of the debate.

Science scholars at the University of Texas and Southern Methodist University have given solid marks to how publishers dealt with evolution in the high school biology textbooks they submitted to the state in April. Their findings are available on the Texas Freedom Network’s website.

Sadly, a number of state education board members nominated anti-evolution activists to sit on official panels reviewing the textbooks. Those ideologues want publishers to include in the new textbooks discredited arguments attacking… Read More

Today the Texas Freedom Network Education Fund has some good news about proposed new high school biology textbooks in Texas. A review of the new textbooks by science scholars at Texas universities shows that publishers have largely resisted — so far — efforts by political activists to include junk science that weakens coverage of evolution.

This new report from the TFN Education Fund comes after we reported that six proponents of “intelligent design”/creationism got influential positions on the State Board of Education‘s review panels for the proposed biology textbooks. And state board Chair Barbara Cargill, R-The Woodlands, has refused to say whether she tried to get the review panels to pressure publishers into weakening textbook content on evolution.

So while it’s clear that publishers are likely under a lot of pressure to dumb down their textbooks, the versions they submitted for consideration in April treat evolution as established, mainstream science. This is very good news because creationists on the State Board of Education made revisions to curriculum standards in 2009 that they hoped would force publishers to include discredited arguments against evolution in their new textbooks. Publishers refused to do so.

The challenge now will… Read More

According to at least one observer inside the Austin hotel ballroom where reviewers are going over proposed new science textbooks for Texas public schools, State Board of Education (SBOE) Chairwoman Barbara Cargill, R-The Woodlands, spent much of Wednesday working with those supposedly independent panels. Cargill is one of the state board’s leading evolution critics. During a state Senate hearing last spring, for example, Cargill insisted that instructional materials should teach “another side” when discussing evolution.

Cargill reportedly spent time with all of the biology review panels but considerably more working with a panel that includes arch-creationist Raymond Bohlin, vice president of vision outreach for the fundamentalist Christian organization Probe Ministries in Plano. Bohlin is one of at least six creationists nominated by SBOE members to review the proposed new textbooks. The reviewers are charged with reporting to the Texas education commissioner and the SBOE whether the proposed textbooks and online instructional materials cover the state’s curriculum standards.

Publishers often make changes to their textbooks in response to objections raised by the review panels. All interaction between the review panels and publishers is outside of public view. State lawmakers in 1995 reined in the ability of… Read More

OK, so who is being intolerant here?

Houston-area creationist David Shormann, author of The Exchange of Truth: Liberating the World from the Lie of Evolution, says members of several Houston organizations who support sound science education are intolerant, anti-Christian bigots. And he wants a Houston museum to bar those groups from using its facilities to educate the public about the war on evolution and science education.

That’s right: the guy who claims other people are intolerant wants the Houston Museum of Natural Science to ban groups he doesn’t like. What’s next? A book burning?

Shormann is upset because organizers from Houston Atheists, Humanists of Houston and Houston Oasis are renting space at the museum to host “Answers In Science: What On Earth Do We Know?” The event on Aug. 4 comes the day after the Texas Home School Coalition ends a three-day convention (in The Woodlands, north of Houston) that features militant creationist Ken Ham, the controversial founder of the Christian ministry Answers in Genesis.

Organizers of the Answers in Science event on Aug. 4 have lined up speakers to discuss what the scientific… Read More

So how did at least six evolution deniers get placed on panels charged with reviewing proposed new biology textbooks for Texas public high schools? Look no further than the corrosive influence creationists have had over the Texas State Board of Education (SBOE) for years.

When Gail Lowe lost her bid for re-election to the state board in 2012, supporters of science education in Texas had good reason to cheer. During Lowe’s time on the board, the Lampasas Republican and other creationist board members helped turn debates over curriculum standards and textbooks for public school science classes into heated “culture war” battles. (See here, for example.) And that in turn helped make Texas appear to the rest of the country as a hotbed for anti-science fanaticism.

But even with Lowe no longer an SBOE member, she’s still influencing the board’s adoption of new science textbooks and other instructional materials this year. Before leaving the board at the end of 2012, Lowe nominated at least nine of 28 individuals whom the Texas Education Agency (TEA) invited to participate on the biology review panels this year. Of those nine, at least five are creationists: Raymond Bohlin… Read More