Because of a small meeting in Texas on Friday, science textbooks across the nation will teach high school students real climate science — and not the version of science advocated by the fossil fuel industry and conservative ideologues.
Last week, the Texas Board of Education voted to approve 14 textbooks used in biology and science classes. “These textbooks were recommended by the top scientists and teachers in Texas,” said Joshua Rosenau of the National Center for Science Education.
Texas is the second-largest textbook market in the country, and because the State Board of Education decides which books to purchase (instead of local school districts), publishers pay serious attention to which books the Board buys. These choices become the basis upon which standard textbooks are written across the country. A publishing executive told Washington Monthly in 2010 that “publishers will do whatever it takes to get on the Texas list.”
The fate of climate science was never certain. In September, some reviewers “insisted that there is no evidence for a human influence on the carbon cycle,” and asked that textbooks include disclaimers saying this.
After giving preliminary approval to go along with a law unanimously passed by the Texas State Legislature to drop the mandate of passing Algebra II to graduate high school, the Texas Board of Education turned on Friday to the somehow-controversial question of science textbooks.
A majority of the Board members voted to adopt the books, thought there is one hitch. One environmental science textbook published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt will be revised slightly before receiving final approval. The publisher agreed to revise material in the book that could be outdated, though according to the Texas Freedom Network, scientists reviewed the changes and none “compromised the integrity of the science.” A spokeswoman for Houghton Mifflin told the New York Times in an email that “We stood by the integrity of our content, and made no material changes to instruction or point of view.”
The book was attacked during the Friday hearing on the same grounds that Becky Berger, a Republican candidate for the Texas Railroad Commission, and self-identified oil and gas professional, attacked it two days earlier. While Berger focused on errors about the process of fracking, she also said schools shouldn’t have to teach environmental science classes.
One biology book will have to go through another round of review by outside experts because of the objections of a reviewer concerned that evolution is presented as fact, rather than theory.