Texas State Board of Education rejects several text books over climate change and evolution

The Texas State Board of Education (SBOE) has rejected multiple publishers' textbooks because of ideological differences concerning the effects of climate change on the environment and the theory of evolution.

Last week, SBOE approved multiple textbooks on the condition that publishers make certain changes, including the removal of an image that shows humans sharing ancestry with apes like chimpanzees, gorillas, and orangutans.

Before Friday’s vote, textbook publishers had the opportunity to change their lessons based on the critiques made Tuesday to win board approval.

The vote was on SBOE’s Proclamation 2024 to determine which textbooks would meet the standards set in the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS).

The 15-member board of SBOE oversees curriculum standards, graduation requirements, and approves instructional materials for the more than five million students in Texas public schools.  After the 2022 election, the board had a dramatic swing in partisan membership with the majority of seats being won by conservatives.

In 2021 SBOE made updates to the TEKS, which are the state standards for school curricula. Included in the changes was language that a student “knows that natural and human activity can impact global climate.” 

Leading up to the Friday vote, the National Center for Science Education (NCSE) noted the controversy, saying that “the teaching of evolution and climate change has divided the board.” 

The NCSE criticized those objecting to the textbooks, stating that “if members of the state board nevertheless insist on objecting to the textbooks' treatments of climate change and evolution, it will reflect only their own misinformed and misguided views of these scientifically uncontroversial topics."

During the debate last Tuesday, board member LJ Francis said he had received emails from people in his district insisting on “no monkey pushing” with regard to evolution, and said that he wanted “ample clarification that’s not what’s being taught in Texas schools.” 

Board member Evelyn Brooks added during Tuesday’s meeting that “there is no evidence that an entirely different species can come from another species.” 

Questions were also raised concerning climate change discussion in textbooks. Board member Julie Pickren said Tuesday that “there are theories about fossil fuels, there are not agreed upon facts.”

Board member Aaron Kinisey objected to some of the climate change-related lessons presented in the textbooks, saying, “There’s an overemphasis on the evil of oil and gas and virtues of renewables.”

“Do you want pictures of children in oil fields, is that what you would like in order to approve some of the submissions?” Democratic board member Aicha Davis said after the debate. “So we literally had that discussion that oil and gas is always seen positively … we want to give students information, we want to give them knowledge… we want them to know how to keep our earth here.”

Although the SBOE endorses the use of certain textbooks and instructional materials, Senate Bill 6, passed in 2011, allows local school districts the ability to receive state funding for textbooks even if they do not purchase SBOE-approved ones.

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