Belief

How Creationists in Texas Are Pressuring Schoolbook Publishers to Bring God into Biology

A special interest creationist group is trying to undermine science education.

Photo Credit: Stuart Miles

It seems creationists in Texas have resorted to bullying and lying in an attempt to force evolution out of the classroom.

In November 2013 the Texas State Board of Education adopted new science standards for its textbooks that will bring evolution into the Texas public school classroom.

All eyes were on Texas as the SBOE voted on the new proposed changes to the science curriculum that would change textbooks around the US.

Texas is the largest purchaser of public school textbooks. Because publishers do not want to publish different textbooks around the US, they look toward Texas for what they will be including in the new books each year. As goes Texas, goes the nation.

This can be bad news if special interest groups such as the misleadingly named group, Educational Research Analysts (ERA), get their way. ERA is a creationist lobbying group that stood firmly against the 2013 decision to introduce evolution into Texas classrooms.

Neil Frey, acting on behalf of ERA, has been aggressively lobbying since the decision to change much of the wording in the textbooks. Frey’s complaint, filed with the Texas Education Agency (TEA) alleges that Pearson Education’s high school biology textbook is wrong in explaining the close similarities between chimpanzee and human DNA. The textbook states that scientific evidence shows that chimpanzees are the closest living genetic relatives of humans. 

Chimpanzees are in fact the closest living relative to humans, but creationists do not like that, so they file complaints. Pearson responded to these claims, disputing Frey’s complaints, stating that making these changes would be misleading to students' education.

Now Frey has convinced an SBOE board member, Barbara Cargill, that his claims are valid. This comes as no real surprise as Cargill was a board member who opposed the standards change from the beginning.

In an email between Cargill and a TEA staff member, obtained under the state's open records law by the Texas Freedom Network, Cargill tries to pressure TEA into siding with Frey and forcing all the publishers to update their texts or risk massive fines.

Cargill writes in her email:

“Pearson has been very hard-nosed during this adoption, so I hope staff at least agrees that these 3 items must be changed, especially knowing that 3 other publishers agreed to the changes. If the science experts at McGraw, Houghton, and STEMscopes agreed with Neal, that says a lot. Neal does his homework, and I looked into it too, just to be sure. The research is solid, accurate and current.”

But did three other publishers agree to make these changes, as Cargill states? It does not appear so. None of the publishers have shown any signs that they are agreeing to the changes and STEMscopes have said outright that they are not.

Cargill also doesn’t seem to have gotten board approval or worked with any other SBOE board members before emailing TEA and attempting to pressure them into making Frey’s changes. Her colleagues voted in favor of the changes and it would seem odd they would then back up her mission to undo them.

To claim that both Frey and Cargill have “done their homework” on these claims is blatantly dishonest as the claims made in the textbooks are fully in line with scientific evidence and consensus on human and chimpanzee DNA.

This action seems to be a new low, even for creationists in an effort to undermine scientific education. Groups like ERA know that if they can change textbooks in Texas, it is a nationwide victory. They will stop at nothing to perpetrate their myth at the expense of American students.

Below is the email from Barbara Cargill:

A facsimile of an email from Barbara Cargill and a TEA member in regards to publishers updating their textbooks.
Photo Credit: 
Texas Freedom Network
Dan Arel is the author of Parenting Without God and blogs at Danthropology. Follow him on Twitter @danarel.
 
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