It's is not exactly breaking news that the United States is a hotbed of debate for evolution (except among scientists who unequivocally agree with the theory), but now the debate has invaded the science classroom. Instead of teaching students science-based theories and principles, it has become a forum for nonscientists to interject their personal belief systems - however inaccurate. Science advocate Zack Kopplin has just uncovered a major taxpayer-funded assault on scientific integrity in the classroom, to the tune of $82 million every single year. Kopplin’s full report on this unconstitutional practice was published in Slate.
Responsive Education Solutions is a Texas-based charter school company that is responsible for the education of over 17,000 students. Though they are a public, taxpayer-funded company, their charter status gives them certain freedoms when developing curriculum. Unfortunately, this has resulted in textbooks with an blatant Creationist bias, which not only affects the accuracy of the information, but is a violation of the U.S. Constitution. In 1987, a court ruling confirmed that teaching Creationism in publicly-funded classrooms is unconstitutional. A later ruling would define Intelligent Design (a watered down version of evolution that relies on supernatural activity) as being Creationism, not science, and is also unconstitutional to teach at public schools.
Kopplin reports that the textbook chapter on the origin of life contains an outright Creationist slant, by quoting Genesis as a scientific explanation for how life came to be. The textbooks are riddled with Creationist talking points like this and try to confuse the students and attempt to poke holes in the theory. Straw man arguments abound, such as claiming evolution can’t be observed (it can), it is just a theory, not a fact (scientific theories are made of facts), and some scientists don’t believe the Earth is billions of years old (all of the respectable ones do).
Evolution isn’t the only area under attack; there were egregious errors on climate change, the scientific method, and even gravity. The errors in the book vary from common misconceptions to blatant lies, by telling children that most scientists debate about these topics. The truth is that the scientific community is very much in consensus about these issues, and these textbooks are inventing controversies for the sake of confusing children.
Last year, Kopplin joined up with pro-science to successfully argue before the Texas Board of Education to adopt science textbooks that teach topics like evolution and climate change in the way that they are viewed by the scientific community, not by those with no scientific training and are merely pushing a personal agenda.
The students who are taught that evolution is debatable will not only grow up to be uninformed voters, but those who choose to pursue a degree in science will be at a distinct disadvantage compared to other students. The good news is, all is not lost. Though it is absolutely horrendous that Responsive Educational Solutions is violating the Constitution, they can be made to change their curriculum to one that is actually science-based and put that $82 million per year toward actually educating students instead of confusing and indoctrinating them.
Update: Kopplin has received word that Responsive Education Solutions is conducting an internal investigation regarding their textbooks. The Texas Education Agency will be reviewing the material to ensure that state standards are being met, but are not currently taking any steps to reverse the unconstitutional practice of teaching Creationism in publicly-funded schools. If the school does not choose to fix this on their own, it can and will be forced through a lawsuit.