Texas board rejects science textbooks over climate change and evolution – “No monkey pushing”

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The Texas Board of Education rejected numerous textbooks, primarily due to concerns over their portrayal of climate change. The Republican-controlled board also expressed apprehensions regarding evolution, specifically that the books included teachings about evolution but not creationism.

“Woke environmental agenda”

Mother Jones reported how Republican Railroad Commissioner Wayne Christian criticized climate science as a “woke environmental agenda.” In a letter, Christian wrote, “Despite what the mainstream media reports, the debate over climate change is far from settled, as none of the catastrophic events they predicted in the last 20 years have occurred.”

The Republican added, “These catastrophists are using the CO2 boogeyman and the threat of apocalypse to frighten people into submission.” While Texas schools are not limited to using board-approved books, they are often chosen because they comply with state curriculum standards.

The board also expressed an issue with book publisher Discovery Education over writings that the U.S. isn’t energy independent. Other rejected books were, according to MSNBC, published by companies with environmentally friendly policies or portrayed fossil fuel use in an insufficiently favorable light.

“No monkey pushing”

LJ Francis, a member of the board, said that people in his district asked for “no monkey pushing,” adding he wanted “ample clarification that’s not what’s being taught in Texas schools.”

Another board member, Evelyn Brooks, proclaimed, “There is no evidence that an entirely different species can come from another species.”

“The origins of the universe is my issue — big bang, climate change — again, what evidence is being used to support the theories, and if this is a theory that is going to be taught as a fact, that’s my issue,” Brooks said, and wondered, “What about creation?” This happened during the discussion of McGraw Hill’s biology textbook, and the chairman reminded Brooks that including creationism might be against the Constitution.

Throwing away the student’s choices

Matthew d’Alessio, science director at Silicon Valley startup Green Ninja, which publishes textbooks the board rejected, said, “They canceled all the folks doing things a little bit new, different, more innovative.” He added, “We feel like they’ve really thrown away a lot of choices for Texas students.”

While talking about fifth-grade science materials from Savvas Learning Company, board member Julie Pickren stated, “There are theories about fossil fuels, there are not agreed-upon facts,” adding how an anti-fossil-fuel position “would have a detriment to the Texas GDP, the Texas economy, considering the amount of our GDP that is related to fossil fuels and the amount of our workforce.”

The Texas Freedom Network got involved in the discussion, and so did others who challenged the Republican-controlled board’s opinions.

The push back

“I fear that we will render ourselves irrelevant moving forward when it comes to what publishers want to work with us and will help us get proper materials in front of our young people,” said Marisa Perez-Diaz, a Democrat and board member. She added it was a “heartbreaking” situation.

Texas Freedom Network’s spokeswoman Emily Witt shared, “Talk of what’s best for kids was really missing from that meeting.” Robert Baumgardner, a retired geologist who worked for the Bureau of Economic Geology at the University of Texas, was at the board meeting and told the members, “It’s high time that climate change was presented in a straightforward way in Texas science textbooks, beginning in the eighth grade.”

According to the Texas Tribune, another board member, Ethan Michelle Ganz, added, “Climate change is happening right now. It’s not a future thing. … We need to be competitive in the world market.”

But the fight for textbooks and education might be expanding in Texas. Republican lawmakers are passing bills regarding the teachings of race, gender, and history.