Politics invades textbook selection

Do you want to know what happens when politicians are given the authority to select textbooks for public school students?

You get texts that are meant to appease voters, not necessarily provide a balanced approach to studying certain subject matter.

It’s happening yet again in Texas, which is served by 15 elected politicians who sit on the State Board of Education.


The latest kerfuffle involves climate change. A science textbook is drawing fire from those who contend it sells short what scientists are saying about Earth’s changing climate, that human beings are the culprit.

The National Center for Science Education is critical of a sixth-grade textbook that says this in its introduction to a section on global warming: “Scientists agree that Earth’s climate is changing. They do not agree on what is causing the change.”

Politico reports further: “The text goes on to present students with excerpts from two articles on climate change, one written by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and the other by the Heartland Institute, a conservative advocacy group. ‘This misleads students as to good sources of information, pitting an ideologically driven advocacy group … against a Nobel Peace Prize-winning scientific body,’ the NCSE reviewers write.”

Texas is full of climate-change deniers. Politicians at the highest level of government have gone on the record essentially denying that Earth’s climate is changing.

Of course, the State Board of Education has developed a national reputation for politicizing almost every academic discipline under the sun. It’s the “social conservatives” vs. the shrinking “moderate” wing of the SBOE. The conservatives keep winning these battles. My favorite fight has been the one that involves whether to teach evolution in public schools. The social conservatives keep arguing that the biblical theory of creation deserves equal treatment alongside the notion that Earth evolved over billions of years.

I won’t engage in that debate here, except to reiterate that biblical teachings belong in church, not in public schools.

As for the climate change debate, Texas public school students need to be taught scientific fact, not dragged into the middle of a political argument.

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