Megapublisher Pearson's high-school textbook Biology ran into trouble this fall with State Board of Education-appointed reviewers. Citing supposed errors in passages focusing on evolution, Ide Trotter, a chemical engineer by training and a creationist, recommended rejection one of the most widely used texts in the country.
In response, Pearson stood its ground, challenging Trotter's critiques point by point. They were characterized, by turns, as "out of context," "without merit" and "absolutely incorrect." If you'd like to see Trotter schooled, Pearson's rebuttal is here.
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These developments were worrisome because the SBOE has a history of being a bit tyrannical, and has not generally responded well to dissent. As other science texts sailed through the SBOE to approval, Biology, of course, was held back, pending review by a panel of experts. Given the SBOE's track record for appointing ideologues without subject-matter expertise, this was a troubling development. But the SBOE this time selected honest-to-God, actual experts.
As expected, their work was finished quickly. They dispensed with each of the reviewer's alleged errors and Biology is now approved.
In a recent cover story on the subject, this textbook adoption was seen as a litmus test. Would Texas leave the culture war in its dark age and join the rest of the world in the light? If this adoption is any indication, the answer is yes. Next up: Social studies textbooks, so don't open the Champagne just yet. SBOE members may realize how silly they look challenging science Ph.D.s on the finer points of evolutionary theory. But when it comes to the history of this country, everybody's got their own version of it, and everybody's an expert. Stay tuned.