December 2013 Church & State | People & Events

It looks like creationism won’t be coming to Texas’ public school science books anytime soon.

Creationists in the state have been lobbying the Texas State Board of Education to undermine sound science in Texas’ public schools, where they’ve received a friendly hearing.

But there’s one problem: Biology textbook publishers have refused to give into fundamentalist demands that call for evolution to be treated as “controversial.”

In the latest twist of a long-running battle, the Dallas Observer reported in October that the board has narrowed its biology textbook options down to 14 titles – and not one of those choices includes any theories that run counter to evolution.

Unfortunately, no credit is due the board for this development. Many of its members wanted creationism in the books, but textbook publishers refused to put religious concepts into secular science books.

The recent turn of events surprised some observers. Board chair Barbara Cargill is an avid advocate for creationism. In fact, she and her allies invited a few dozen people to review the textbook options this summer, including a handful of known creationists.

Critics believe the review process was stacked to aid creationists. The board has long leaned toward teaching creationism, and this year additional anti-science advocates secured spots on the oversight body.

The Texas Freedom Network (TFN), an Americans United ally, monitored the situation carefully. TFN said the initial drafts of science curricula and textbooks under review “have an uncensored, robust discussion of evolution without any promotion of creationism or intelligent design,” – but teams appointed to re­view the materials by the board included known creationism advocates as well as plenty of people with no relevant science background or expertise.

TFN also reported that some comments made during the review process “include suggestions that publishers water-down or censor in­struction on evolution; and the whole review process has been compromised by lack of qualified review teams participants, meddling by SBOE members and confusion about the basic rules governing the process.”

TFN later obtained detailed information on one of the curriculum review panels, noting that a team of four reviewers “is shockingly devoid of any relevant teaching experience or advanced education in biology.” The panel had just one “experienced classroom teacher,” TFN said.

Many of the comments by the reviewers, TFN said, indicated a desire to weaken instruction about evolution.

TFN organized a “Stand Up For Science” campaign to mobilize Texans in support of sound instruction about evolution. A final vote on the books was due Nov. 22, after this issue of Church & State went to press. 

TFN President Kathy Miller said she was pleased by the turn of events but called for continued diligence.

“[This is] a very welcome development for everyone who opposes teaching phony science,” Miller said.