Backstory: The Fight over Texas Textbooks

Thursday, April 26, 2012

In 2009, religious conservatives launched a campaign in Texas to change how evolution was described in the state’s science textbooks. Director Scott Thurman talks about his documentary, “The Revisionaries,” which chronicles the fight over what would go into the state’s textbooks and its impact beyond the state’s borders. We’re also joined by Kathy Miller, the president of the Texas Freedom Network, which has worked to defeat initiatives backed by religious conservatives. “The Revisionaries” is being screened at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival.


Kathy Miller and Scott Thurman

Comments [15]

Henry from Manhattan

Did anyone see Don McLeroy—the gentlemen who was supposed to show up for this interview—recently on Stephen Colbert?


Apr. 26 2012 05:27 PM
Henry from Manhattan


It’s not that the scientific model is perfect, it’s that it’s the best we can do. Really. If you have a better process, please feel free to share but it has to be accessible to everyone through some sort of standards of evidence. It can’t be a process based on private divine conversations or metaphysical contemplation.

Think of science as a court of law. Evidence is collected, examined, wieghted and a verdict is given. At no point can metaphysical evidence be used to convict a person, and that’s how everyone would want it to be. You don’t want to be on trial and have someone in communication with God or pulling information through clairvoyance, be used to testify against you. No one, Christian or otherwise wants that system of law.

Buddhism really has nothing to do with the conversation. If people want to study Buddhism, that's up to them. Schools are about obtaining a common, evidence-based, practical education. Christianity really shouldn’t have anything to do with this conversation either. And that’s the problem.

The rest of the 1st world is not denying science, in fact they embrace it especially when it comes to educating their children. Europeans laugh at the United States when this sort of Christian fundamentalism creeps into out politics.

Want to worship Jesus or whoever? Go ahead. Send your child to Sunday school, free country. But school education should not be determined by religious scripture. If conservative Christians aren’t confident enough that their religion can hold up against uncontroversial science (and yes, evolutionary modern synthesis is uncontroversial) that they need to keep attempting to suppress it, then perhaps they should reconsider whether their faith is all it’s cracked up to be.

Apr. 26 2012 05:26 PM
TravellerThruKalpas from NYC

Unsurprisingly, I find the slant in this conversation rather suspect in its typical presumption upon the veracities of the scientific model. A necessary reminder arises: just because you can readily do away with God, doesn't mean you can do away with metaphysics, does it? To wit, Buddhism is the only "religion" that is non-theistic, and yet they have a very clear metaphysics. My question: what do they understand that both theistically and scientifically-aligned types do not?

Apr. 26 2012 01:44 PM
Joel from Westchester

My daughter once worked for a large textbook publisher in Boston. A French textbook company wanted to buy it out. Upon learning of how many textbook variations there were in the U.S., they backed out of the negotiations.

Apr. 26 2012 01:42 PM

...was LBJ the last intelligent person to come from Texas???

Apr. 26 2012 01:40 PM
Jim B

Do standards of other large states such as New York and California have any mitigating effect on Texas's influence?

Apr. 26 2012 01:38 PM

...and Afghanistan thinks they need to worry about the Taliban!!


Apr. 26 2012 01:37 PM
Brian from Hoboken

I will go back to the oldie but goodie: "Everyone is entitled to their own opinions but not their own facts."

You can not teach that people walked the earth with dinosaurs 6000 years ago. This is not debatable. There are scientific facts. Considering that half of average Americans probably couldn't identify more than 10 states on a map, or a picture of the vice president, etc, democracy should have nothing to do with this process. I am amazed that people think it is appropriate to twist facts like this.

Apr. 26 2012 01:33 PM
Judy from Manhattan

It's just amazing and appalling that teachers and their unions are blamed for education's ills and the people who determine content get a complete pass.

Apr. 26 2012 01:33 PM
Taher from Croton on Hudson

No surprise here that American student are so badly educated. An ignorant post industrial surf seems to be the goal. The Texas notion of education is of the Dark Ages, pre-Medieval.

Apr. 26 2012 01:31 PM
paul from new jersey

might the impending adoption of national standards affect the ongoing influence of texas on the adoption of textbooks?

Apr. 26 2012 01:28 PM
Will Miles from Morris Plains, NJ

Great reading on this topic is Beverlee Jobrack's new book: "Tyranny of the Textbook," just published this year. Despite the provocative title, Ms. Jobrack's writing is balanced and well-supported.

Apr. 26 2012 01:27 PM

people of texas voted for the board, give the people what they want.
that's democracy

Apr. 26 2012 01:26 PM
Elle from Brooklyn

When I worked for a major college textbook publisher in the early 90's, we would publish a special "Texas" edition of certain books - for example, American history required a special edition that included six additional chapters on Texas history alone. Not getting the adoption in Texas would have been devastating to sales.

Apr. 26 2012 01:22 PM

Twenty years ago, I worked as an editor of K-12 textbooks. The terror of Texas was palpable even in _mathematics_. In history and social studies, the stranglehold that Texas had over states' adoptions process was overwhelming.

Apr. 26 2012 01:00 PM

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