Texas’ education board approved new Science textbooks on Friday, November 17.
However, how the textbooks address climate change was at the centre of a key vote, after a few Republican education officials criticised books for being “too negative” toward fossil fuels in America’s biggest oil and gas state.
The Texas State Board of Education, in the past, already faced contentious curriculum disputes over how evolution and US history are taught to more than five million students. Now, it is clear how the Board stands divided about which textbooks to approve, stated a report in PTI.
It must be noted that science standards that the Board’s Conservative Majority in 2021 do not mention “creationism” as an alternative to evolution. Those standards also mention human factors as contributors to climate change.
However, the current textbook options were waved off by some Republicans on the 15-member board this week. The reason was that the textbooks had too negative an attitude toward fossil fuels and failed to include “alternatives” to evolution.
Wayne Christian of the Republican Party, one of Texas’ oil and gas regulators, has asked the board to “choose books that promote the importance of fossil fuels for energy promotion.”
There are over 1,000 school districts in Texas, yet none are required to utilise textbooks approved by the board. Nonetheless, the endorsements are significant.
Glenn Branch, Deputy Director of the National Center on Science Education said, “Members of the board are clearly motivated to take some of these textbooks off of the approved list because of their personal and ideological beliefs regarding evolution and climate change.”
Friday’s vote, then, was to decide whether the proposed textbooks met the standards set in 2021. Branch said multiple books comply with the regulations set then by the board and follow the consensus of the scientific community.
Scientists are nearly unanimous in their belief that heat-trapping gases emitted by the combustion of fossil fuels are raising global temperatures, disrupting weather patterns, and harming animal species.
During a debate of the materials this week, Aaron Kinsey, a Republican board member and executive of an oil field services company in West Texas, criticised photographs in certain textbooks for negatively depicting the oil and gas industry.
Hearst Newspapers quoted Kinsey saying, “The selection of certain images can make things appear worse than they are, and I believe there was bias.”
Aicha Davis, a Democrat, asked him, “You want to see children smiling in oil fields? I don’t know what you want.”
The National Science Teaching Association, which represents 35,000 science educators throughout the country, urged the board on Thursday not to “allow misguided objections to evolution and climate change to impede the adoption of science textbooks in Texas.”
According to Emily Witt, a spokesman for the Texas Freedom Network, a left-leaning board watchdog, the number of textbooks the board could reject depends on the grade level and publisher.
She stated that their organisation had found only two textbooks that would not meet the 2021 standards.