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Evolution vs. Creationism in Texas Science Textbooks [POLL]

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The State Board of Education and the topics of Evolution and Creationism are all back in the news. More than 50 people signed up speak yesterday at a hearing dealing with the issue. The SBOE is preparing to adopt new textbooks and materials in November according to the Austin American Statesman.

The debate will likely pick up just where it ended in 2009 when the board approved new science curriculum standards under a bright national media spotlight. At that point, then-Chairman Don McLeroy declared that “somebody’s got to stand up to experts” on evolution.

A lot has changed in the past four years: McLeroy lost his re-election bid in 2010; the controlling conservative bloc on the board lost its majority; and the State Board of Education lost its grip on the textbooks and other instructional materials that are used in Texas classrooms.

Even so, critics have pointed to the comments of some board-appointed reviewers as evidence that the conservatives retain influence over what will end up in the textbooks.

One reviewer, Karen Beathard, a lecturer on nutrition at Texas A&M University, offered the comment on two textbooks that called for “creation science” to be included in every biology book. But Beathard’s comment will probably have no effect because both of the textbooks were deemed to cover all of the state standards so no changes would be needed to get the board’s seal of approval.

Other textbooks, however, could be subject to changes because they were found to missing standards by some reviewers.

It is unclear how — if at all — the textbook publishers have responded to the reviewers’ comments. That information is not currently available to the public because publishers are in continuing discussions with the Texas Education Agency.

Board Chairwoman Barbara Cargill, R-The Woodlands, announced on Tuesday she would ask publishers to release the new content voluntarily in advance of a second public hearing and board vote in November. That information would have to be reviewed at the agency or one of the regional Education Service Centers.

Publishers have less incentive now to meet the demands of board members and their appointed reviewers.

Prior to 2011, school districts could use state textbook dollars only to buy materials that had received the board’s seal of approval. That effectively made the State Board of Education the gatekeeper to Texas’ big and potentially lucrative textbook market.

But legislative changes made in 2011 freed school districts to use their money for anything, including technology and online programs, that they see as necessary — as long as they are meeting state standards. The adoption of the new science textbooks will be the first real test of the newly decentralized and deregulated market.

What do you think should be taught in schools? Let us know in today’s KFYO Poll of the Day.


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