Back in October, I wrote about the debate over biology textbooks in Texas and the high number of creationists on the committee making the recommendations (The Great Texas Textbook Throwdown). Just last week the Texas Board of Education made a move to ease tension over this issue, announcing “it will limit the use of citizen review panels and instead give priority to teachers in determining science and history curricula” (NPR Feb 2014, emphasis mine). Teachers and professors will now be given priority when those serving on textbook review panels are selected, and outside experts may be called in if serious objections arise within the panel.
While this is a major blow to many in Texas who hold creationism or intelligent design to be true, it puts much of the power back into the hands of actual educators, where I believe it belongs. Textbooks are only effective tools when the teachers support them and engage with them, otherwise students are not going to recognize them as resources, and they sure won’t take the time to look through them or use them to study.
Time will tell whether these changes will have a significant impact on Texas’ textbook and curricula decisions, particularly in regards to science courses. I think the biggest question is whether having teachers and professors on the review panels will push science textbooks back to evolution, discarding intelligent design. Texas continues to be a state where 34% on Texans identify as Evangelical Protestant, and another 50% identify as some kind of Christian (Pew Forum on Religion), and where more than one third of adults affirmed creationism in 2010 (Texas Tribune Feb 2010).
Is the Texas Board of Education really taking a step forward? Will the recommended textbooks reflect an increased presence of teachers and professors? Or will we still be seeing intelligent design theories when we help kids with science homework?
Live in Texas? Passionate about the textbook throwdown either way? Find who represents you on the State Board of Education at http://www.fyi.legis.state.tx.us/Home.aspx and let them know your thoughts.