Our report that Texas State Board of Education (SBOE) Chair Barbara Cargill, R-The Woodlands, appeared to be interfering on Wednesday with the independent teams reviewing proposed new biology textbooks became a topic of discussion at a state board workshop session today.

As the session was about to end, SBOE member Marisa Perez, D-San Antonio, expressed her concerns about board members trying to influence the work of the review teams. She also asked for clarification on what Cargill had done and the board’s rules regarding members’ contact with the teams. Those were entirely reasonable concerns and good questions.

Cargill expressed surprise that anyone would suggest she was trying to influence the review teams. All she was doing, she said, was saying hello to the reviewers and thanking them for their service. She also invited anyone with concerns to ask her directly. So we’re taking her up on that invitation and are forwarding our questions and concerns. We will report back on what we hear.

But we think it’s important to correct some misinformation from today’s SBOE meeting. Contrary to what board members were told, the work of the review teams is not “open” to the public. Observers are directed to… 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

It looks like the Lone Star State’s reputation as a hotbed of anti-science fanaticism is about to be reinforced. At least six creationists/”intelligent design” proponents succeeded in getting invited to review high school biology textbooks that publishers have submitted for adoption in Texas this year. The State Board of Education (SBOE) will decide in November which textbooks to approve. Those textbooks could be in the state’s public school science classrooms for nearly a decade.

Among the six creationist reviewers are some of the nation’s leading opponents of teaching students that evolution is established, mainstream science and is overwhelmingly supported by well over a century of research. Creationists on the SBOE nominated those six plus five others also invited by the Texas Education Agency to serve on the biology review teams. We have been unable to determine what those other five reviewers think about evolution.

Although 28 individuals got invites to review the proposed new biology textbooks this year, only about a dozen have shown up in Austin this week for the critical final phase of that review. That relatively small overall number of reviewers could give creationists even stronger influence over textbook content. In fact, publishers are making changes to their… Read More