Josh Rosenau's picture

My Testimony before the Texas Board of Education

Don't Mess With TextbooksI'm here in Austin, Texas, waiting for the Texas State Board of Education to finish their morning agenda (at 5:00 p.m.) and move on to science textbooks.

While we wait for the fun to begin, here's the statement I plan to deliver.


Madam Chair, members of the board:

My name is Joshua Rosenau, and I am a Programs and Policy Director at the National Center for Science Education. We and our thousands of members—parents, teachers, scientists, clergy, students, and business leaders—watch this adoption with special interest because of the vast influence Texas textbook adoptions have on the national textbook market. It's been my privilege to attend all of the public hearings on the current science TEKS, the textbook supplement adoption, and now the textbook adoption. I have examined the biology books and I urge you to adopt them as they stand.

I also stand here on behalf of over fifty professional societies of scientists and educators. Attached to my written testimony you'll find a message signed by 51 such societies, including the National Academy of Sciences (the nation's premier scientific society), the National Science Teachers Association, the publisher of Science magazine, and the publisher of Ranger Rick magazine. These societies represent evolutionary biologists, developmental biologists, geneticists, and scientists studying fossils, plants, mammals, reptiles and amphibians, algae, and microbes. They study the human mind, human anatomy and physiology, human genetics, human culture, and human evolution. They study the earth and the stars. The societies include the Society of Economic Geologists, Council on Undergraduate Research, and the American Society for Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics. Their members teach our children about life, our world, and our universe.

These societies agree that "Evolution is the foundation of modern biology, an explanation for the diversity of life on earth which has opened up tremendous scientific and technological opportunities. It is central to fields as diverse as agriculture, computer science, engineering, geology, and medicine. The teaching of evolution and—for similar reasons—climate change should not be undermined in textbooks, whether by minimizing, misrepresenting, or misleadingly singling them out as controversial or in need of greater scrutiny than other topics are given."

They ask you to set aside claims by "reviewers unqualified in the relevant science," and say, "By adopting textbooks recommended by the top scientists and teachers in Texas, you will give students and teachers the foundation for an exemplary science education, the sort of education that they will need to succeed in the 21st century." I hope that you will consider their message carefully, and adopt these excellent textbooks.


The packet I'll give the board will include the statement itself


A Message to the Texas State Board of Education:

The textbooks adopted for use in Texas schools have a profound influence on science education in Texas and across the United States. As societies of educators and scientists, we are concerned by reports that textbook reviewers unqualified in the relevant science are seeking to undermine the teaching of evolution and climate change, and that good textbooks may be revised or rejected based on these reviewers’ comments. The undersigned scientific and educational societies call on the Texas State Board of Education to adopt textbooks based on the guidance of Texas’s many excellent scholars and master teachers, not based on ideology, ensuring that Texas students learn the best science, especially evolution and the scientific basis of climate change.

Evolution is the foundation of modern biology, an explanation for the diversity of life on earth which has opened up tremendous scientific and technological opportunities. It is central to fields as diverse as agriculture, computer science, engineering, geology, and medicine. The teaching of evolution and—for similar reasons—climate change should not be undermined in textbooks, whether by minimizing, misrepresenting, or misleadingly singling them out as controversial or in need of greater scrutiny than other topics are given.

Some textbook reviewers openly called for creationism to be included in textbooks, which would be scientifically and legally improper. But we are equally concerned by some reviewers insisting that evolutionary mechanisms cannot produce biological novelties, or explain the fossil record. These claims are false and misleading, and would undermine student understanding of both the natural world and what constitutes the formation of adequate, evidence-based explanations. If textbooks incorporate those criticisms, students will be denied a full understanding of the tremendous explanatory power that evolution has offered to scientists for over a century, and which doctors, oilfield geologists, farmers, ranchers, and NASA engineers all rely upon for their vital work.

By adopting textbooks recommended by the top scientists and teachers in Texas, you will give students and teachers the foundation for an exemplary science education, the sort of education that they will need to succeed in the 21st century.

Signed:

American Anthropological Association

American Association of Physical Anthropologists

American Association of Anatomists

American Association for the Advancement of Science

American Association of Physics Teachers

American Astronomical Society

Association of College & University Biology Educators

Association of Environmental and Engineering Geologists

American Genetics Association

American Geophysical Union

American Institute for Biological Sciences

American Phytopathological Society

American Psychological Association

American Society for Cell Biology

American Society for Human Genetics

American Society for Investigative Pathology

American Society of Ichthyologists and Herpetologists

American Society of Mammalogy

American Society for Microbiology

American Society for Naturalists

American Society for Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics

Association of Southeastern Biologists

Biological Sciences Curriculum Study

The Biophysical Society

Botanical Society of America

Climate Central

Council on Undergraduate Research

Ecological Society of America

Charles D. Ferguson, President, Federation of American Scientists

Geological Society of America

The Herpetologists’ League

Human Anatomy and Physiology Society

National Academy of Sciences

National Association of Biology Teachers

National Association for Geoscience Teachers

National Science Teachers Association

National Wildlife Federation

Elizabeth Losos, President, Organization for Tropical Studies

The Paleontological Society

Phycological Society of America

Society for American Archaeology 

Society for Developmental Biology

Society of Economic Geologists

Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology

Society for Organic Petrology

SEPM Society for Sedimentary Geology

Society for the Study of Amphibians & Reptiles

Society for the Study of Evolution

Society for Systematic Biology

Society for Vertebrate Paleontology

Southwestern Association of Naturalists


The Geological Society of America and American Society for Microbiology both signed but each group asked me to deliver an additional letter (GSA's, ASM's), while the American Geological Institute asked me to deliver a letter separate from the joint statement.