Science bests religion in Texas textbook battle; decision trickles down to Arkansas | Arkansas Blog

Science bests religion in Texas textbook battle; decision trickles down to Arkansas

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APPROVED IN TEXAS: New biology textbook.
  • APPROVED IN TEXAS: New biology textbook.
Texas Monthly reports that, after years of control by religionists, the Texas science textbook battle has been won by scientists.  This is a development that has implications in Arkansas,

The final shot of the last battle of the Great Texas Textbook War has been fired. The clash did not end in a blaze of glory, exactly, more like a flurry of memos. Still, the occasion deserves to be marked. What happened was this: three experts, selected by the State Board of Education, struck down an attempt to insert doubt about evolution into a high school biology textbook, thereby preventing creationists from having any voice in how the origin of life is presented in its pages.

Science didn’t just win. It crushed. 

Texas, because it buys so many books, has had inordinate influence on content of textbooks nationwide, so this is a big deal. But as the article says, the creationists haven't given up the battle. And the Texas religionists have reached firmly into Arkansas. The article notes:

Yet while the Great Texas Textbook War may be over, there are signs of new battles over evolution on other fronts. Slate recently reported that one of the state’s largest charter-school companies, Responsive Education Solutions, which has more than sixty campuses in Texas, bypasses the board of education’s approval process and uses textbooks that include classic creationist rhetoric. This shouldn’t be a huge surprise considering that charter schools often have strong religious ties and, in some cases, are even housed in churches. 

We've reported recently on Responsive Education, which has won licenses to own and operate four charter schools in Arkansas — Pine Bluff, Little Rock (2) and Bentonville — and to get paid to manage three more for public school districts in Fountain Lake, Pea Ridge and West Memphis. They were faulted in Slate not only for lack in biology, but also in history. And I reported recently that they won approval for  the Quest Little Rock charter middle school represented to be located on Rahling Road in Chenal Valley while they were working on moving the site seven miles east without notice to the state Board of Education hearing their application.

Responsive Ed has taken steps after the Slate article to change its biology material  and that new material has arrived, I was told by one of its teachers last week. Perhaps the new rules in Texas, where Responsive Ed gets public money to operate 60 schools, had more influence than the Slate article. Responsive Ed has defended its past teaching of creationism by saying it complied with Texas law.

Responsive Ed, with deep religious advocates among its leaders, is by no means alone in pushing a religious view of the origins of life. It crops up periodically in other public schools in Arkansas and many schools don't teach the subject at all, lest they rile people with talk of evolution.

The Texas Monthly article doesn't mention it, directly but the textbook author, Kenneth Miller, who teaches at Brown, is one of the country's leading evolution defenders. I encountered him while my son was a student there in this alumni magazine article about him. Recommended.


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