As I noted in my previous post (“Dick and Jane Visit the Homeless Shelter”), Texas is one of the largest purchasers of textbooks in the country, owing to its sheer size. And as a result, it can carry enormous weight when it comes to determining what content will go into a textbook. A recent—and sobering—example of this has emerged in the media recently. Texas is set to adopt new social studies textbooks for the first time since 2002, but they are coming under fire from the science community because of content concerning climate change.
According to a report published this month by the National Center for Science Education (NCSE), there are many areas of deep concern in these textbooks. One is that a particular textbook presents two very different sources of information—the Heartland Institute, and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)—as being equally reliable, when in fact the Heartland Institute is a group that actively promotes climate change skepticism and is funded in part by tobacco companies and other major contributors to pollution. The IPCC is a scientific body that has been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Yet students are led to believe in this textbook that both sources are of equal value and carry equal weight.
Several of the books being evaluated by NCSE also claim that scientist do not agree on the causes of climate change, with the text claiming that some scientists say it is a natural cycle and others saying that it is due to human activity. In point of fact, the NCSE points out that 97% of climatologists and published papers on the topic agree that climate change is overwhelmingly due to human activity. One textbook in question actually states that some scientists predict that “we’ll have some cooler years and things will even out.” The NCSE states that it is not aware of any climatologist currently predicting a cooling trend.
Is a blatant disregard for scientific truth something we want our kids to learn in their textbooks, simply because Texas has dictated this stance to educational publishers, based on the conservative perspectives and beliefs of the majority of people there? The Texas State Board of Education will hold a public hearing this month, where the public can give their opinions before the board votes on adoption of these textbooks in November. Publishers may—or may not—choose to revise the textbooks based on these meetings.
So perhaps it’s time to take a close look at what our kids are being taught through their science textbooks, and whether we want Texas—or any other state– determining that. Do you want your kids to learn the truth, and grow up to be informed and responsible voters who can make serious decisions about the environment…or not?