Late last week, TFN finally obtained an official list of the biology textbook reviewers who attended the in-person review panels in Austin earlier this month. You can see the list of reviewers – along with the products they were assigned – here.
We don’t yet know what is contained in the official recommendations these teams made to publishers, nor do we know how publishers are responding to those recommendations (TEA will hopefully release those public documents soon). But just scanning this list provides a clue about which publishers might be under pressure behind closed doors to compromise their products.
For starters, look at the members of the team at “Table 12”:
Karen Beathard, a lecturer in the Department of Nutrition and Food Science at Texas A&M University. Ms. Beathard has an MS degree and manages the Accreditation Council for Education in Nutrition and Dietetics Didactic Program in Dietetics at Texas A&M.
Raymond Bohlin, vice president of vision outreach for Probe Ministries in Plano and a research fellow for the anti-evolution Discovery Institute. Bohlin has a doctorate in molecular and cell biology from the University of Texas at Dallas. (We’ve covered Bohlin’s anti-evolution activism in more detail here.)
Chandra Donald, a biology teacher in Alief ISD. Ms. Donald has a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Biology and English from Huston-Tillotson University, a Master of Arts Degree in Counseling fromPrairie View A&M University, as well as a 16 years of teaching experience.
Richard White, a systems (network) engineer in Austin. In previous applications, White has indicating no teaching experience on his application to serve on science review teams. But he has testified at SBOE hearings in years past: “…These are all well-known scientific problems with modern evolutionary theory, and they do not exhaust the list. The entire list is a very long one.”
This panel does have an experienced classroom teacher, which is extremely important. But otherwise, it is shockingly devoid of any relevant teaching experience or advanced education in biology (Bohlin’s degree notwithstanding). And more alarmingly, it has two members whose whole purpose on the panel is clearly to target evolution.
It’s a safe bet Bohlin and White were lobbying aggressively for changes to the evolution sections in the products they were reviewing. (Additionally, one eyewitness tells us that SBOE chair Barbara Cargill spent more than an hour engaging with the members of this very panel.) It’s quite possible that their recommendations were passed along to publishers as the official report from the panel. This table reviewed at least one textbook from a major publisher — Texas Glencoe Biology — and several other products from smaller publishers.
Also concerning is the presence of prominent creationist Ide Trotter on “Table 11,” the panel that reviewed, among other products, the widely used Pearson Biology textbook. While there appear to be genuine experts in biology and/or secondary science teachers sprinkled throughout these teams, we do not know if individuals — like Trotter — made recommendations to the publishers, or if the groups operated on a consensus model.
To be clear: we do not know conclusively that any of these publishers are being pressured by the review teams to make problematic changes to their products. Unfortunately, no one outside of the publishers themselves and the review team participants, who are bound by a “no contact” provision in their agreement, know what’s happening in these high-stakes negotiations. The public is completely in the dark.
But at some point in the coming days, those review team documents, along with publishers’ responses, will become public. I sure hope we don’t have to say “I told you so.” Unfortunately, history tends to repeat itself at the Texas SBOE.