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Texas Republicans take aim at climate change — in textbooks

The scorching summer in Texas this year was the second hottest on record — but students in the southwestern US state might have a hard time understanding why.

That’s because a slew of science textbooks submitted to the state Board of Education (BOE) were rejected last week, as the Republican-dominated body moves to curtail education materials deemed too “one-sided” on climate change.

Many of the rejected books taught that “humans are negatively impacting the environment. And the scare tactics that come with that, that is my main issue,” Evelyn Brooks, a Republican board member, told AFP.

She claimed, counter to scientists and the federal government, that “the science is not settled on global warming.”

America’s decentralized education system leaves curriculum management mostly up to individual states, with local school districts also having a degree of autonomy.

That has led to fraught battles across the country as each jurisdiction debates how to teach climate change and other politically charged issues, such as racism and sexuality.

It also leaves room for officials like Brooks in Texas, which produces 42 percent of the nation’s crude oil, to push back against the “political ideology” of climate change — a concept she considers “a blatant lie.”

Science textbooks from publisher Green Ninja were among those voted down by the Texas BOE.

“It was because of our inclusion of climate change,” director Eugene Cordero told AFP in an email, adding that one board member took particular issue with a prompt asking students to “create a story warning friends and family about possible future weather and climate extremes.”

Textbooks from eight of 22 publishers that submitted materials to the board were rejected last week, according to a count from Glenn Branch, deputy director of the National Center for Science Education (NCSE), a nonprofit which promotes the teaching of climate change.

Some were eventually accepted, after revisions to sections on climate change and evolution — another controversial subject in the largely Christian Texas.

The rejected books are not necessarily banned from classrooms, but using approved books is typically tied to getting government funding.

As broiling summers are supercharged by climate change, some fear that students won’t see the bigger picture.

“If kids don’t understand what all of that means, and they’re just going to continue to perpetuate the problem,” said Marisa Perez-Dias, one of five Democratic members of the board.

Staci Childs, another Democratic board member, charged that some of her colleagues “felt like some of the materials negatively reflected how oil and gas impacts our society.”

In a show of just how powerful the industry is in Texas — even as the state becomes a growing hub for renewables — two of the 10 Republican members work directly for the sector.

Though the state has long been conservative, debate seems to have gotten more polarized recently, Perez-Diaz told AFP.

Where previously a consensus “could be met across party lines before, we don’t see that as much anymore.”

In neighboring Oklahoma, the state’s Energy Resources Board — which is entirely funded by the oil and gas industry — has distributed free education materials aligned with the sector’s interests, often to underfunded schools.

Moises Avila with Ulysse Bellier, "Texas Republicans take aim at climate change — in textbooks," Business recorder. 2023-11-26.
Keywords: Environmental sciences , Science textbooks , Climate change , Global warming , Controversial subject , Energy resources , Education materials , limate change , NCSE

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