Battle May Loom in SBOE Science Vote
The State Board of Education will take a final vote Friday on adopting instructional materials for science class. And the debate over evolution is set to figure prominently.
Everything appeared to go smoothly at Thursday’s preliminary adoption of the instructional materials. Liberals and conservatives initially supported the list of materials recommended by Education Commissioner Robert Scott.
When it was all over, socially conservative board member David Bradley even quipped, “Well, I guess someone might want a refund of their ticket because there wasn’t a fight.”
But a fight may be on the way Friday. It all has to do with biology lessons from the publishing company Holt McDougal, a division of the publishing giant Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
A panel of experts appointed by the board said it found errors in the material. That’s not unusual. What is unusual is that Holt McDougal refused to change the errors, saying they were not mistakes at all.
Holt McDougal submitted its response to TEA two weeks ago, but board members didn’t see it until right before they took their preliminary vote Thursday. The purported mistakes dealt with issues surrounding evolution.
“They really would water down evolution if these changes were made. And, of course, that’s the intent,” said Dr. Steven Schaefersman, an evolutionary paleontologist active in State Board politics.
“None of this directly supports intelligent design creationism. But it does weaken evolution, so it makes students question the word of science,” he said.
But religious conservatives on the State Board of Education have long held that students should be required to question the theory of evolution and consider alternative theories. However, the power of that voting bloc was reduced after the last election.
It’s worth noting that the overwhelming majority of science materials, almost 100 products, were approved unanimously and still retain the support of liberals and conservatives alike.