There is a lot of crazy in the textbooks that the State Board of Education is considering for approval this week, and which will be going to a final vote on Friday. They downplay the role of slavery in the Civil War, claim Moses was an early influence of democracy, gloss over the Inquisition and cite Islam as the source of all terrorism in the world, to name a few examples. But even if the textbooks are racially biased, misleading and full of conservative drivel, at least they won’t deny climate change thanks to relentless pressure from advocates.
In a striking turn of events, climate change denial will no longer be found in the social studies textbooks under consideration by the State Board of Education. Two textbook publishing companies – Pearson Education and McGraw-Hill – have submitted corrected textbooks.
The McGraw-Hill textbook previously stated, “Scientists agree that Earth’s climates are changing. Not all individuals, however, agree on the causes of these changes.” Given that 95 percent of scientists believe human activity is the cause, this passage was removed. The Pearson Education book struck similar passages suggesting that scientists disagree about the cause of climate change. Both publishers also corrected factual errors about the science behind climate change.
Texas Freedom Network led the charge against misleading textbooks, organizing an effort that resulted in over 116,000 signatures in support of accurate climate-change information in textbooks. “We applaud these publishers for responsibly listening to scholars and the tens of thousands of people from across the country who have signed petitions insisting that the textbooks put education and facts ahead of politics,” Texas Freedom Network Kathy Miller said in a statement. “We hope they will stand firm in their decision and resist pressure from politicians on the state board to lie to students about one of the biggest challenges facing our planet.”
Earlier this year, a study from the National Center for Science Education criticized Texas textbooks for distorting the science around climate change. Among other offenses, a section of one textbook weighed evidence between the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change on par with evidence from the Heartland Institute, a conservative think tank whose mission is to promote free-market solutions to social and economic problems. They are not scientists. “This misleads students as to good sources of information,” the study stated, by “pitting an ideologically driven advocacy group that receives funding from Big Tobacco and polluters against a Nobel Peace Prize winning scientific body.” Another textbook made the claim that some scientists believe temperature levels will soon level off or potentially drop.
“Pearson, McGraw-Hill and the other publishers did the right thing by making these changes,” Josh Rosenau, the programs and policy center for the National Center for Science Education said. “They listened to us and the nation’s leading scientific and educational societies, ensuring that students will learn the truth about the greatest challenge they’ll confront as citizens of the 21st century.”
The State Board of Education held a preliminary vote on several dozen textbooks yesterday, including the ones that were recently corrected. There was a tie over whether to approve them, with five of the 15 members voting to approve the slate of books, five (all of the Democrats) voting not to, four abstaining and one not present. There was also quite a bit of lively debate, with a representative of the Texas Eagle Forum calling climate change science part of a United Nations conspiracy to redistribute wealth globally.
Publishers will make additional changes before the final vote on Friday, where the board will have to break the tie. The textbooks will be in use for the 2015 – 2016 school year.