Monday, June 9, 2008

How Texas affects everyone else's textbooks

This article on the battle over evolution in Texas textbooks is a bit worrisome:

Now a battle looms in Texas over science textbooks that teach evolution, and the wrestle for control seizes on three words. None of them are “creationism” or “intelligent design” or even “creator.”

The words are “strengths and weaknesses.”

Starting this summer, the state education board will determine the curriculum for the next decade and decide whether the “strengths and weaknesses” of evolution should be taught. The benign-sounding phrase, some argue, is a reasonable effort at balance. But critics say it is a new strategy taking shape across the nation to undermine the teaching of evolution, a way for students to hear religious objections under the heading of scientific discourse.

This would be no big deal to the rest of us (except of course that it is annoyinig) except that Texas has a lot of power over textbooks nationwide:

What happens in Texas does not stay in Texas: the state is one of the country’s biggest buyers of textbooks, and publishers are loath to produce different versions of the same material. The ideas that work their way into education here will surface in classrooms throughout the country.

Grrrrreat. Now we have to worry about stupid Texas on top of everything else.


david elzey said...

When I was credentialing to teach in California we were told/taught that it was standard practice for textbook companies to make two versions of every textbook: the Texas version and the California version. Depending on the nature of the state's education departments, publishers would present one or the other for adoption and the rest of the states would line up behind one or the other.

This was over 20 years ago, and some teachers I've spoken with tell me it's still pretty much the same. Perhaps some textbook publishers can only afford to cater to one or the other, but states like California and Massachusetts aren't likely to adopt a Texas-approved text, and that's a fair chunk of change there as well.

trev said...

This fight has been going on for decades, ever since the first Creationist lawsuit in 1966 in California. I've been a sometime player in it over the years, mainly writing articles about the conflict. Because of this, it's been easy for me to track the changing tactics the Creationists have used. They've gone from outright "evolution is satanism" through "equal time" arguments to simply packing the school boards with pro-Creationist members who hide their true affiliations until they're elected. (San Diego County held a referendum in the late 90s when the school board there pulled this trick, and to their credit they ousted the Creationists.)

It's a frustrating conflict. Even with major church denominations now embracing evolution, the radicals in the midst continue to wage war against science.

gonovice said...

"Nothing in Biology Makes Sense Except in the Light of Evolution" is a 1973 essay by the evolutionary biologist and Russian Orthodox Christian Theodosius Dobzhansky.

Would make a good title for a biology textbook. Want insight into human behavior? Read about chimpanzees in Jane Goodall's Through a Window!

Anonymous said...

What if we give everyone a copy of the play Inherit the Wind along with the film version, plus the novels Evolution, Me & Other Freaks of Nature and Monkey Town: The Summer of the Scopes Trial? (I have yet to read MT, but I loved Robin Brande's Nature.)

Colleen said...

Monkey Town is excellent - I reviewed it when it first came out. It's fantastic historical fiction; really puts you right in the middle of all the drama.

Good call on the movie, too!