Texas school textbooks must pass scientific test, FFRF contends

A stack of books on a table top

The Texas State Board of Education needs to adopt textbooks that teach the truth about evolution and the human impact on climate change, the Freedom From Religion Foundation is urging.

The board voted on Nov. 14 to withhold preliminary approval for science textbooks from more than half of the submissions it received this year. The reason apparently is that these textbooks accurately discuss evolution and climate change. The board reportedly refused to approve a high school biology textbook because it does not teach biblical creationism alongside evolution. It also refused to approve a textbook because a lesson asked students to talk to their parents about “future weather and climate extremes” in the context of climate change. Board member Evelyn Brooks actually objected to one book’s presentation of evolution, which, she said, is one among many theories about life on Earth, asserting that “children should be able to make up their own opinion, form their own opinion on both theories.”

Texas students deserve textbooks that accurately teach the truth about evolution and other science topics, FFRF stresses. Teaching creationism alongside evolution and letting students “make up their own mind” would be no different than teaching both that the Earth is flat and round and letting students decide which is true. As the overseers of public schools in Texas, the Texas State Board of Education has a duty to ensure that instructional materials are accurate and do not promote a particular religious viewpoint.

“Teaching creationism or any of its offshoots, such as intelligent design, in Texas’ public schools is unlawful, because creationism is not based in fact,” FFRF attorney Chris Line writes to Texas State Board of Education Chair Keven Ellis. “Courts have routinely found that such teachings are religious, despite many new and imaginative labels given to the alternatives. Federal courts consistently reject creationism and its ilk, as well as attempts to suppress the teaching of evolution, in the public schools” in a number of rulings.

Every attempt to smuggle religion into science classrooms by means of “alternative theories” has failed, FFRF points out. Creationism, intelligent design and other claims of supernatural intervention in the origin of life or of species subordinate observed data to statements based on authority, revelation or religious belief.

On the other hand, evolution, like gravity, is a scientific fact. Teaching that there is a scientific controversy about the validity of evolution is akin to teaching astrology with astronomy or alchemy beside chemistry. There is similarly no longer any reasonable controversy regarding the reality of climate change. Representing unconstitutional discarded misconceptions as scientific facts does a great disservice to the scientific literacy of Texas students and students around the country who may be affected by Texas’ textbook choices.

Putting religious beliefs over reality particularly alienates nonreligious students. At least a third of U.S. teens (32 percent) say they are religiously unaffiliated, including 6 percent who describe themselves as atheists, 4 percent who are agnostics and 23 percent who say their religion is “nothing in particular.” A recent study even found that 49 percent of Generation Z are religiously unaffiliated.

FFRF urges the board to do what is best for Texas students and adopt textbooks that meet the Texas state science standards and teach the truth about evolution and the human impact on climate change.

“Public education exists to cultivate the minds of young students and promote independent thinking — in short, to educate, not to indoctrinate in religion,” says FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor. “What an embarrassment to our national reputation to see such antics. America cannot possibly compete in a global market by withholding basic scientific facts from students.”

You can read the entire FFRF letter here.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is a national nonprofit organization with over 40,000 members and several chapters across the country, including more than 1,700 members and a chapter in Texas. Our purposes are to protect the constitutional principle of separation between state and church, and to educate the public on matters relating to nontheism. 

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Freedom From Religion Foundation

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