This Thursday, the Texas Board of Education will vote to adopt science textbook supplements.
You’ll recall that the board approved new science standards a couple years ago, and that they were a mixed bag. They dropped inaccurate language about “strengths and weaknesses” of scientific theories (language used to attack evolution in textbooks last time they did textbook adoption). But they stuck in a line about “all sides of the evidence,” whatever that means, and inserted language requiring greater scrutiny for evolutionary concepts than for all others, and inserting creationist ideas about cellular complexity and “sudden appearance” of fossil species.
It’s rare that I’m relieved to see a statewide school system underfunded, but in this case I’ll make an exception. Because the state legislature is using money set aside for textbooks to close their budget deficit, the board can only afford to buy online supplements to cover the new material added to the standards. Texas buys a lot of textbooks, but these supplements are less likely to turn up in other places than a Texas edition of a textbook might be. Then again, a supplement has a lower barrier to entry for a publisher.
At least one creationist group decided to jump on the opportunity. A newly formed company called “International Databases” released a series of password protected PDFs, which look to be slideshows by someone who enjoys roadtrips and the occasional visit to a creation museum. That the company’s name can be shortened to “ID” is surely an accident. They describe intelligent design as “the default position in science,” but insist that they aren’t promoting that creationist idea.
ID, LLC, and other publishers had their supplements reviewed by committees of scientists, teachers, and other Texans a few weeks ago. The ID supplement didn’t make the cut there, but may still be revived by the board’s creationist members, at least if they manage to get a few of the newly elected members to join them. Or the board might decide to force mainstream publishers (ID, LLC seems to run out of a garage in New Mexico) to insert creationist nonsense. Given that publishers are likely to fold these supplements back into their textbooks, and then sell those textbooks nationwide, NCSE and a ton of Texans are doing all we can to keep that from happening.
So off I go, having barely unpacked my bags from TAM!, I’m repacking to testify before the board this Thursday. I fly out tomorrow, and will spend Wednesday with friends and colleagues in Austin, testify and livetweet at @JoshRosenau and @NCSE (using hashtag #txtxt, if you care) on Thursday, then watch the board vote on Friday, and come home. It should be a blast, but also fairly whirlwind. All told, I’ll have been traveling three of July’s 5 weeks, for a total of 14 days. That’s eight flight segments, for a carbon footprint I don’t even want to think about.
Next week’s my birthday, and seriously, I think I’ve earned that iPad on my Amazon.com wishlist.