From the “We Don’t Need Four Ten More Years” Department:
This is serious, and an opportunity for some net-roots experimentation that could be fun.
So let’s talk the problem first, then possible solutions:
1. Creationists at it again
The Houston Chronicle reports that a majority in the Texas Board of Education is likely to vote for state science standards requiring science teachers to teach the (non-existent) “weaknesses or limitations of evolution.”
There’s still time for grass- and net-roots action to oppose these ideologues before a preliminary vote on the standards in January ’09, and the final vote slated for next spring.
2. Why this matters (inter)nationally
The short version: Texas and California standards are the tails that wag the dog of the US textbook industry. As James Loewen writes in the NYTimes best-seller, Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong:
California and Texas . . . directly affect publishers and textbooks because they are large markets with statewide adoption and active lobbying groups. Schools and districts in nonadoption states must choose among books designed for the larger markets (308). . . . Usually adopters find the details they seek. Most textbook editors . . . know their market. They make sure their books include whatever is likely to be of concern (311).
So, because the Texas vote will set science standards for the next decade, textbook publishers will likely be aiming to please the creationists until 2018. And other states, to repeat Loewen, will have to choose amongst science textbooks designed for these Creationists in charge of Texas schools.
That’s why it matters. By 2018, Obama will have left his (knock wood) second term in office for a two full years – but most students during his presidency will have studied anti-science textbooks because of the actions of the Texas Board of Education.
Call it an Obama presidency with a Palin education policy.
Is it possible to influence the Texas BOE to vote down the provision in January or the following spring? It seems unlikely. Most of the members belong to the extreme religious right, with open ties to the creationist Discovery Institute that supported similar anti-science campaigns in Kansas and Pennsylvania.
But unlikely is not impossible. So here are some ideas:
1. Call on Obama to use the bully pulpit.
Click image to see Climate Change message on YouTube.
Last month, Obama declared an end to climate change science deniers. Earlier in the campaign, he openly voiced his opposition to creationism in all its guises during the campaign. If he appealed not to the ideological BOE, but to the nation – and the textbook industry – to shout down Texas, that might limit the damage to textbook content nationwide.
2. Use Smart Mob and/or Tipping Point campaigns
Pressure the Texas BOE and, again, the textbook publishers, with opposition. Get schools nationwide to declare their support for evolution-friendly textbooks, and their refusal to buy anything else. (If I were to do that, show of hands: who would support it by spreading the word?)
3. Longer term, organize to defeat the creationists in school board elections.
It’s amazing that Board of Education officials need no scientific or educational expertise to be elected, yet they control the curriculum, standards, and funds of the public school system in Texas.
Worse, as U. of Arkansas Prof. Jay Greene argues,
Local school board elections on off-election days have very low turnout, often in the single digits. Given the obscurity of local school politics, it’s easier for the employees and their organized interests to dominate school politics. They’re just about the only ones following what is going on and voting in those elections.
What’s good for the creationist goose can be good for the scientific gander too – if only the gander played the politics smarter.
4. [Your ideas here]