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Louisiana Wins, But There’s Work Still to do in Texas

To update you on the science textbook issue story we discussed here a few weeks ago, the Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) voted 8-2 to approve high school biology textbooks, despite ongoing complaints by creationists objecting to the treatment of evolution in the books. In short, the books the board adopted are the high school life science textbooks that creationists have been opposing.

. . . on December 7, 2010, a committee of the board voted 6-1 to move forward with the purchase, “over the objection of a crowd of people who wanted books that at least mention creationism or intelligent design or say that evolution is not a fact,” according to the Lafayette Daily Advertiser (December 7, 2010).

Executive director of the National Center for Science Education (NCSE), Dr. Eugenie Scott says:

“The board’s decision is a ray of sunlight, especially because the creationist opponents of these textbooks were claiming — wrongly — that the 2008 Louisiana Science Education Act requires that biology textbooks misrepresent evolution as scientifically controversial. It’s refreshing to see that the board withstood the pressure to compromise the quality of biology textbooks in the state. . . . Thanks to all in Louisiana, including especially Barbara Forrest and her comrades at the Louisiana Coalition for Science, who helped to convince the board to do the right thing for Louisiana’s students.”

And in related news, the Texas State Board of Education, as you may remember, last year allowed very suspect language to be included in the science curriculum guidelines that the state’s teachers follow in the classroom. New textbooks were scheduled to be adopted in 2011 that many feared would reflect the suspect language that could allow creationists to sneak their mythology into science classrooms. Due to budget constraints, however, Texas will not be adopting new textbooks next year, as scheduled. Instead, the state board of education will adopt curriculum supplements, which only cover content added to the guidelines in the last revision; in other words, content specific to the suspect additions.

The state board has started the process to adopt these supplemental science curriculum materials. As part of that process, 18 publishers have submitted materials that a panel will review prior to their adoption by the board this coming spring. The Texas Education Agency is now accepting applications from teachers, scholars, and other citizens to review those materials. The state board will then consider those reviews when it decides which materials to adopt in April (for high school classes) and July (for classes in Grades 5-8).

And this is where we come in. Please read the information about volunteering to serve on the review panel after the fold.

Josh Rosenau of the NCSE gives us all the information:

Please volunteer to serve on a panel. Volunteers will review instructional materials submitted by publishers in the spring. High School review panels will meet in March, and Grades 5-8 review panels will meet in June. Review panels typically meet over the course of one or two days in Austin. The Texas Education Agency will cover the travel and lodging costs of review panelists. You can go to this website for all of the necessary information: http://www.tea.state.tx.us/index2.aspx?id=2147487077.

The deadline for the nomination form for the high school review panel is December 31, 2010. The deadline for the nomination form for the grades 5-8 review panel is January 28, 2011.

If you are interested in applying for the panel, please contact Val Benavidez ([email protected], 512-322-0545) who is keeping a list of all of the people who have applied. We would also like your help in spreading the word about this through your own networks. Please forward this information to as many of your colleagues as possible. We want to make sure review panels are filled with individuals who support sound science education. If you need help with any step along the way, please do not hesitate to contact me or Val directly.

TFN has posted more details on the process at their blog: http://tfninsider.org/2010/08/19/texas-preps-for-next-science-battle/

If you have further questions, you can also contact us here at Skepchick, and if we are unable to assist you, we will find someone who can.

Sam Ogden

Sam Ogden is a writer, beach bum, and songwriter living in Houston, Texas, but he may be found scratching himself at many points across the globe. Follow him on Twitter @SamOgden

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11 Comments

  1. Perhaps the pro-science people can lobby to have language in an educational standard which requires that textbooks explain how ID and IC have failed verification? It occurs to me that the legislation/standards which crop up like the hydra’s heads imply that ID and IC are “on the same level” as evolution and natural selection. Maybe it’s time to start teaching at the high school level the philosophy of science and some of the complexities involved in verification?

  2. Had a really horrible thought last night, tangential to this. A future in which the state simply does away with biology as a required course. Rather than teach evolution, simply let it go as an non-required class, and thus eventually just bump it out for funding.

  3. @Hanna:

    Ah, silly question, but I want to make sure: you have to live in Texas, right?

    Great question. I’m sorry I wasn’t clear in the post.

    Actually, the answer is no. You do not have to be from Texas to fill out a nomination form. Nominations are open to all.

    However, the TFN has informed me that the board will likely have preferences for local people when making panel selections. So it’s reasonable to believe that Texans will be selected over non-Texans.

    Still, please pass this information on to all the outstanding science people you know, if for nothing else than to keep the issue in the public’s crosshairs.

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