FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
AUSTIN – The Texas Freedom Network is hailing the State Board of Education’s final approval today of science curriculum standards that – for the first time in decades – no longer include misleading requirements designed to undermine the teaching of evolution.
“The politicians on the state board have finally listened to scientists and classroom professionals who know what students need to get a 21st-century education,” TFN President Kathy Miller said. “This is an important victory for science, for science education, and most importantly, for Texas students. The culture wars have no place in our classroom, and today’s decision is one important step toward this board recognizing that.”
Today’s vote came after teachers and scientists on a state-appointed panel recommended the removal of a number of problematic curriculum standards for high school biology. Creationists on the state board approved those standards in 2009 in an effort to force textbooks and classroom instruction to include junk science arguments attacking evolution.
The debate over what Texas students should learn about evolution stretches back many decades. But it became more intense with the adoption of statewide curriculum standards for the first time in 1984. A short summary of the fight over evolution since then follows below.
Southern Methodist University professor Ron Wetherington, who served on the state-appointed panel, praised today’s outcome.
“For the first time in decades, the science standards contain no controversial student expectations and represent mainstream science,” Wetherington said. “Also for the first time, the Board reached out to teachers for ongoing comment on their amendments and paid attention to the experts in the classroom.”
While today’s vote is encouraging, Miller warned that politicians and powerful special interests will continue to attack the teaching of evolution and established, fact-based science.
“Even now some state board members insist that the overwhelming scientific evidence behind evolution is wrong,” Miller said. “So while today’s vote is gratifying, it likely won’t be the last time this board debates whether Texas kids should learn sound science in their 21st-century classrooms.”
Timeline: How Texas Has Evolved on Evolution
- 1984: Over the objections of creationist activists and organizations, the first statewide curriculum standards in Texas included a requirement that biology students “be given an opportunity” to study evolution. (Education Week, Feb. 22, 1984)
- Late 1980s: To appease creationist critics, the State Board of Education approved a standard that students study so-called “strengths and weaknesses” of scientific theories. For the next three decades, creationists used that standard to attack textbooks that did not include junk science arguments attacking the overwhelming evidence supporting evolution.
- 2009: Teachers and scientists prevailed in stripping the “strengths and weaknesses” requirement from the Texas standards. But at the urging of creationists, the state board added a new requirement that students examine “all sides of scientific evidence.” Creationists hoped that this and several other problematic requirements added to the standards would force textbooks and classroom instruction to include anti-evolution arguments.
- April 21, 2017: At the urging of teachers and scientists, the state board approves the removal of the “all sides” requirement. Other anti-evolution standards are also removed or gutted.
The Texas Freedom Network is a nonpartisan, grassroots education watchdog based in Austin. The organization’s more than 130,000 religious and community leaders support religious freedom, individual liberties and public education