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A Ray of Hope from the Lone Star State

2013-12-03

TexasMap2

By United States Census Bureau, modified by Decius (Based on Image:Serbin TX.PNG with dot erased), colour added by PonderTerra, [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

From way up here in the Great White North (aka Canada) it is easy to view Texas as a collection of stereotypes. Many of us have some kind of mental image involving cowboy boots, ten-gallon hats and plate-sized steak dinners. Those of us who grew up with Dallas (the TV show) may also think of big bad oil companies.

When the discussion shifts to science and education, what comes to my mind are the textbook battles that the state seems to go through on a regular basis.

Two of the most publicized battles involve the teaching of evolution and climate change.  In my superficial understanding of the situation, the groups responsible for selecting the science textbooks for the entire state’s schools have been infiltrated by unscientific groups who exercise significant control in choosing the content.  As a result, evolution and climate change are either removed, rebranded as possible theories, or placed up against competing and contradictory pseudo-scientific theories. In both cases, the intent is to place doubt in the real scientific results and, by association, the scientists and their methods.  Indoctrinating people when they are young, especially with the help of publicly funded institutions, is much more cost effective for those wanting to sell an alternate, unscientific message that goes against what science is telling us.

Since Texas is one of the biggest textbook markets in the US, their choice frequently directly influences what other states use.  In other words the stakes are huge.

Imagine my pleasant surprise when I saw the following recent article at thinkprogress.org:

Science Textbooks Across the Country Will Teach Real Science Because of a Decision in Texas

This time around, it appears that the Texas Board of Education consulted with top Texan scientists and teachers and accepted their recommendations almost without change. As a result it is more likely that evolution and climate change science will now be taught without too much of a taint from special-interests.

As for me, it’s probably time for me to review my collection of Texas stereotypes.

References and Some Further Reading

2013-11-29:  Ryan Koronowski, thinkprogress.org: Science Textbooks Across the Country Will Teach Real Science Because of a Decision in Texas

2003-07-09:  Steven Schafersman President, Texas Citizens for Science;  TEXAS TEXTBOOK ADOPTION: An Historical Analysis

National Center for Science Education:  Climate Change Education

2013-11-27:  Chris Mooney, MotherJones.com:  Why Climate Change Skeptics and Evolution Deniers Joined Forces

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