A long-simmering battle over teaching evolution in Texas boiled over recently, as the Board of Education extended preliminary approval of new science books for use in classrooms across the state but held up one biology text because of alleged factual errors.
Some of the state education board members singled out a textbook by Pearson Education, one of America's largest publishers. Many of the 20 concerns pertained to the theory of evolution. After a lengthy debate that got testy at times, the board voted to have three of its members pick a trio of outside experts to further scrutinize the book.
If the issues can be resolved, it will win approval. But if not, it will be returned to the board for consideration at its January meeting.
Textbook and classroom curriculum battles have long raged in Texas pitting creationists — those who see God's hand in the creation of the universe — against academics who worry about religious and political ideology trumping scientific fact. At issue this time are proposed high school textbooks that could be used statewide starting next school year and through 2022 at least.
State law approved two years ago means school districts can now choose their own books and don't have to adhere to a list recommended by the Board of Education — but most have continued to use approved books.
What Texas decides is important nationally since it is so large that many books prepared for publication in the state also are marketed elsewhere around the country.
Publishers submitted proposed textbooks this summer, but committees of Texas volunteer reviewers, some nominated by creationists who are current and former Board of Education members, raised objections. One argued that creationism based on biblical texts should be taught in science classes, while others objected that climate change wasn't as settled a scientific matter as some of the proposed books said.
Pearson and many other major publishers weren't willing to make suggested major edits and changes, however. Indeed, Pearson has challenged the 20 alleged errors that the citizen review panel claims are in the biology book.