Climate change in Texas science textbooks is causing division in the state’s board of education

Austin, Texas — How science textbooks in Texas address climate change is at the center of a key vote expected Friday, after some Republican education officials criticized books for being too negative toward fossil fuels in America’s largest oil and gas state.

The issue of which textbooks to approve has created new divisions within the Texas State Board of Education, which has faced other heated curriculum battles over the years over how to teach evolution and American history to its more than 5 million students. taught.

Scientific standards adopted by the board’s conservative majority in 2021 do not mention creationism as an alternative to evolution. These standards also describe human factors as contributors to climate change.

But some Republicans on the 15-member board this week dismissed the current textbook options as too negative toward fossil fuels and for failing to include alternatives to evolution. One of Texas’ oil and gas industry regulators, Republican Wayne Christian, has urged the board to “choose books that promote the importance of fossil fuels in advancing energy.”

Texas has more than 1,000 school districts, and none are required to use board-approved textbooks. Yet the expressions of support carry a lot of weight.

“Board members are clearly motivated to remove some of these textbooks from the approved list because of their personal and ideological beliefs regarding evolution and climate change,” said Glenn Branch, deputy director of the National Center on Science Education .

Friday’s vote will decide whether the proposed textbooks meet the standards set in 2021. Branch said several books adhere to regulations set by the board at the time and follow the consensus of the scientific community.

Scientists overwhelmingly agree that the heat-trapping gases released when burning fossil fuels are raising global temperatures, disrupting weather patterns and endangering species.

Aaron Kinsey, a Republican board member and director of a West Texas oilfield services company, criticized photos in some textbooks for portraying the oil and gas industry negatively during a discussion of the materials this week.

“The selection of certain images can make things seem worse than they are, and I think there was bias,” Kinsey said, according to Hearst Newspapers.

“Do you want to see kids laughing in oil fields?” said Democrat Aicha Davis, another board member. “I do not know what you want.”

In a letter Thursday, the National Science Teaching Association, which is made up of 35,000 science teachers in the U.S., urged the board not to let “misguided objections to evolution and climate change hinder the adoption of science textbooks in Texas.”

How many textbooks the board can reject depends on the grade level and the publisher, said Emily Witt, spokeswoman for the Texas Freedom Network, a left-leaning watchdog group for the board. She said their organization had identified only two textbooks that would not meet the standards set in 2021.