The State Board of Education voted Friday morning to makes changes to how evolution will be presented in high school biology classes. But if you blink, you may miss them.
The new curriculum, first discussed in February, moves away from language that openly questions the theory of evolution — while still leaving plenty of room for interpretation.
The previous standard written in the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) for science implied that experts were uncertain about the theory of evolution. It asked students to "evaluate" scientific explanations for cell complexity. Many educators advocated for this change because science on evolution is clear, and creationism, a religious theory that explains how life came to exist, is not. In an earlier vote on the topic, one UT Biology professor said, "Our education goals should not be based on opinion polls, but on the expertise of our teachers and experts."
With Friday's subtle change, students will now need to, instead, "compare and contrast" scientific explanation for cellular complexity.
Oddly enough the word at the center of discussion —"evolution" — was not mentioned once in Friday's discussion. Instead of questioning evolution, doubt was cast on whether amendments were "teachable" and whether or not "compare and contrast" should come before "explanations for cellular complexity."
Despite bickering over word choice, the vote was still seen as a win for the science education community. Texas Freedom Network President Kathy Miller spoke optimistically about the changes. “This is an important victory for science, for science education, and most importantly, for Texas students," she said in a press release. "The culture wars have no place in our classroom, and today’s decision is one important step toward this board recognizing that.”
Reflecting on the Texas Board of Education's ban of the controversial and straight up racist textbook Mexican American Heritage, the changes made today are another win against non-factual textbook standards.
This decision might cause ripples on a national scale as publishers usually cater to Texas School Board, one of the most influential in the country. California aside, Texas buys the most textbook of any state— about 48 million textbooks every year.