Texas Board of Education Honors Mel and Norma Gabler

Reports of the National Center for Science Education
Texas Board of Education Honors Mel and Norma Gabler
Molleen Matsumura
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On May 7, the Texas Board of Education passed a resolution to "honor and commend Mel and Norma Gabler of Longview, Texas for 38 years of sacrificial service, both in textbook review and in the textbook adoption process...."

Long time members of NCSE are familiar with the Gablers, whose Texas-based organization Educational Research Analysts (ERA) has for nearly 40 years been a major influence on textbook adoptions in Texas (see for example RNCSE 11[3]:1,5). They have regularly appeared before the State Board of Education, offering the "conservative, Christian perspective" on content standards and textbook selections for every subject in the K-12 curriculum. Their lobbying activities have influenced other states as well: first, because other organizations - such as the Eagle Forum - rely on their textbook analyses; and second, because Texas is one of the nation's largest textbook purchasers, so Texas standards affect the content of textbooks that will be used in other states.

The Gablers have consistently opposed evolution. For example, in 1991, when Texas Proclamation 66 required evolution as a major theme in biology texts, pressure from the Gablers and other anti-evolutionists led to a lastminute revision calling for inclusion of "scientific evidence of evolution and other reliable scientific theories, if any" (RNCSE 10[6]:10). In 1998, ERA rated textbooks according to how much they "harp on" evolution (RNCSE 19[1]:10). In a section of their website titled "God-given victories", they claim credit for a drop in sales of the book which had received their lowest rating. To see this web page, go to , click on "God-given Victories!", see subhead "credibility with classroom teachers". The same document claims credit for "detection of subtle subversion" in social studies texts.

Given the Gablers' long history of activism and their notoriety in their home state, a public comment about them by even one member of the board of education is a significant statement about the political climate and future educational policy. The May 7 resolution honoring the Gablers is not a good sign. Though the resolution does not refer directly to science education, it notes that "textbook decisions made in Texas greatly affect textbook selections elsewhere..." and praises the Gablers for "critiqu[ing] textbooks and ... alert[ing] parents... concerning textbook errors, omissions, contradictions, and detours...". Since the Gablers have frequently claimed that evolution is erroneous, there is a real question whether the hard-fought battle to include evolution in Texas standards and textbooks, won in 1997, would have ended differently if it had taken place after the 1998 elections. Certainly we will need to be alert for attempts to introduce new antievolution policies.