It seems as though creationists could have a sizable influence in the decision over what biology textbooks students in Texas will use in the coming years.
The Texas Freedom Network, a nonprofit civil liberties group, posted on its website last week that it had discovered that six people chosen to review biology textbooks for the state had ties to creationism. Of the 28 invited to review textbooks, around a dozen went to Austin recently to make final textbook recommendations, the Texas Freedom Network wrote.
The Texas Freedom Network charged in a subsequent blog post that of that group of about 12, which approves the biology books used for at least the next eight years, four people had creationist backgrounds -- a sizable proportion of the review team.
According to the Texas Freedom Network, some of the textbook panelists with a history of creationist beliefs include Raymond Bohlin, who is a research fellow at an institute that promotes intelligent design, and Walter Bradley, a retired professor who co-wrote a book about creationism. Bohlin and Bradley did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
Texas A&M chemistry professor Daniel Romo –- who is listed as a “Darwin Skeptic” on the Creation Science Hall of Fame website -- confirmed to The Huffington Post via email that he is a member of the panel, although he did not attend the final review in Austin. Romo, who said he served on a previous panel regarding science textbooks, noted that he got involved with the textbook review after being “initially invited to submit an application by someone who partnered with Liberty Legal Institute.” The Liberty Legal Institute is a right-wing, nonprofit organization with the mission of “[restoring] religious liberty across America -- in our schools, for our churches and throughout the public arena,” according to its website.
According to the Texas Education Agency, the Lone Star State is one of 22 states with formal procedures for textbook adoption. The process requires publishing companies to submit sample textbooks to the Texas Education Agency, textbook review panels and regional education service centers. The textbook review panels consider submissions and make recommendations to the state's commissioner of education about which books to adopt.
The Texas State Board of Education solicits nominations for textbook review panelists before it selects a final group, according to the Texas Education Agency website.
Josh Rosenau, the programs and policy director for the National Center for Science Education, charged that creationists have disproportionate representation on the Texas panel because of board member influence.
“I know a lot of people who are professors and teachers [who were nominated], but somehow there was more room for creationists because [state education] board members have been able to say ‘I want these people,’” Rosenau told HuffPost by phone.
The political leanings of review panelists are especially noteworthy because Texas textbooks have the power to influence students not only in the state, but also across the country.
A 2012 New York Review Of Books article noted that Texas textbooks have disproportionate power throughout the nation. Because Texas serves such a large group of students, “national publishers tended to gear their books toward whatever [the state] wanted,” according to the article.
The biology textbooks currently under review are set to enter Texas classrooms at the beginning of the 2014 – 2015 school year, according to the Texas Education Agency.