Politicization of Science Instructional Materials Adoption
Continues at the Texas Education Agency
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Texas Citizens for Science
August 26, 2011
Contact: Steven Schafersman, President
Texas Citizens for Science
The recent adoption of new supplemental science instructional materials by the Texas State Board of Education (SBOE) was largely a victory for science. Although the biology curriculum standards were unfortunately damaged in 2009 by a politically radicalized majority of SBOE members who inserted four new standards that compromised the scientific integrity and accuracy of biology standards, the mainstream publishers produced biology materials that met the requirements of all the new standards plus did not insert any scientifically untrue content in their instructional materials.
Unfortunately, the victory for science was not an unequivocal victory. The adoption of one publisher's biology materials, Holt McDougal, was delayed for several weeks by the SBOE until it could be reviewed by the Commissioner of Education and several unknown advisers. The purpose was to resolve eight errors identified by a biology panel review member who was known to be a Creationist. Only Holt was unlucky enough to have its biology materials reviewed by this Creationist; the other major publishers were not affected and their biology materials were adopted without criticism or censorship. In its initial response, Holt defended its original text against the alleged errors, but six members of the SBOE wanted to vote to change the Holt text. At the same time, eight other members appeared to want to vote to strike the errors and adopt the Holt materials unchanged. To avoid a divisive debate, the SBOE voted to allow the Commissioner to negotiate with Holt and make changes suitable to him and hopefully both sides.
Contrary to its original convictions, Holt McDougal offered to make five minor changes that, while not strictly untrue, nevertheless pedagogically weakened the scientific presentation of evolution in their biology materials. The educational effect would be small, but Texas Citizens for Science nevertheless objects to the process to which Holt was subjected. As has happened dozens of times in the past three decades, Holt was intimidated by the political power of a small number of education officials to self-censor its own well-written biology instructional materials concerning the topic of evolution. The company was obviously concerned about losing its state contract unless it agreed to make some changes when, in fact, none were scientifically necessary.
Steven Schafersman, president of Texas Citizens for Science, observes, "Why should Holt McDougal have to change anything in their instructional materials that is not a factual error? And yet Holt made five such changes to its biology materials--materials that only a few weeks before they defended as being scientifically accurate and factually correct."
"Holt's biology materials were altered for purely political reasons in ways that have no scientific justification. The traditional Texas policy of publisher intimidation, political manipulation of specific text passages, and adulteration of science instructional materials text for non-scientific reasons by non-scientists is continuing in Texas. This is a loss for the integrity of science education in Texas and something that must be exposed, publicized, and challenged."
"Such continued abuse of scientific and educational integrity is consequential even if the particular changes themselves are minor. Will the identical scenario repeat itself next year when health education and social studies instructional materials are chosen? Will publishers submit materials that have been pre-censored to satisfy the desires of the most extreme members of the Texas State Board of Education or will responsibility and principle finally prevail."
Full documentation of TCS's explanation of how Holt's biology materials came to be politically revised in an unscientific manner by the Texas State Board of Education and the Commissioner of Education is at:
Background information about the politicized adoption of the Biology Standards is at:
Background information about the TEA Biology Review Panel is at:
TCS's analysis of the Creationist identification of bogus "errors" in Holt's materials is at: