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Texas: Republican-controlled school board votes against climate textbooks | Texas


Republican board member condemns photos in some textbooks because they unfairly criticize the oil and gas industry

Fri November 17, 2023 5:49 p.m. EST

The Republican-controlled Texas school board voted Friday not to include several climate textbooks in the state’s science curriculum.

The 15-member board rejected seven out of 12 for eighth graders. Approved textbooks are published by Savvas Learning Company, McGraw Hill, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Accelerate Learning, and Summit K-12.

The rejected textbooks included policy solutions to the climate crisis, and conservative board members criticized them for being too negative toward fossil fuels — a major industry in the state. Texas leads the nation in crude oil and natural gas production.

Although Texas adopted standards in 2021 requiring eighth graders to learn the basics of climate change, some argue the measure doesn’t go far enough.

Aaron Kinsey, a Republican board member and director of an oilfield services company in West Texas, criticized photos in some textbooks as unduly smearing the oil and gas industry during a discussion on these documents this week.

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

“Want to see kids smiling in the oil fields? said Democratic board member Aicha Davis. “I don’t know what you want.”

Texas’ more than 1,000 school districts are not required to use school board-approved textbooks. But the decision of the board of directors has some influence.

Some in powerful positions tried to convince the board to reject the textbooks. On November 1, Texas Railroad Commissioner Wayne Christian – who oversees the state’s oil and gas industry – sent a letter to Board of Education Chairman Kevin Ellis relaying “his concerns regarding possible school textbooks likely to promote a radical environmentalist program.”

The inclusion of lessons on evolution – the theory dealing with the origins of human existence that the scientific community supports and religious groups reject – was also contested.

The move comes despite calls from the National Science Teaching Association not to “allow misguided objections to evolution and climate change” to affect the adoption of new textbooks.

Deputy Director of the National Center for Science Education Glenn Branch said: “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. »

Texas is one of six states that has not adopted Next Generation Science Standards in its K-12 science curriculum. The standards emphasize that climate change is a real, human-caused threat that can be mitigated by reducing greenhouse gases.

Texas has seen some of the most extreme effects of the worsening climate crisis in recent years. The summer of 2023 was the second hottest on record, after 2011, according to Texas state climatologist John Nielsen-Gammon.

In 2021, Texas experienced an unprecedented winter storm that covered much of the state in snow, leaving millions without power after a power grid outage and leading to deaths. Houston also suffered the wrath of Hurricane Harvey in 2017, a devastating Category 4 hurricane that destroyed homes and buildings while resulting in the deaths of more than 100 people in Texas.

This state ranks 41st out of 50 in the United States.

The Associated Press contributed to this report

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