If social conservatives on the Texas State Board of Education have their way, the science textbooks used in the state's public schools will be rewritten to promote an anti-abortion agenda, cast doubt on evolution, and sow skepticism about global warming.
Texas is in the midst of its decennial process of approving textbooks for use in the state's public schools, a historically contentious event. Since July, board-appointed panels of citizen reviewers have been poring over draft science textbooks and haggling with publishers over their contents. The process has been playing out behind closed doors. But last week, the Texas Freedom Network, a liberal watchdog group, obtained the panels' official comments on high school biology textbooks, which show that reviewers have pushed to include creationist views, undermine climate science, and add disputed information on fetal development that's often cited by anti-abortion activists. These local efforts have wide-reaching implications. Because Texas has one of the largest public schools systems and some of the most rigid textbook requirements, publishers have traditionally tailored the classroom materials they sell nationwide to the Texas market.
On Tuesday, the State Board of Education held a public hearing on the textbooks under consideration, where some of the main players in the controversy weighed in. Their comments, especially on the topics of evolution and climate change, offer an illuminating glimpse into the contentious textbook debate playing out in Texas.
One of the biology textbook reviewers who voiced his views at the hearing was Ide Trotter, a retired dean at Dallas Baptist University and a tireless anti-evolution activist. He asserted that Darwinism was "dead" and complained that the textbooks under review treat evolution as an established fact. "Nothing could be further from the truth," he argued.