On Textbooks and Tests
The textbook publication industry is like most other book publishing industries. The only difference is who the buyer is. In one case it’s an individual and in another case, it’s a school, school district, or state.
I believe that most states allow districts to purchase their own textbooks. Some states, California for example (at least it was in the past), develop a list of ‘approved’ books and the schools or districts can purchase those books without question. Other books can be purchased, given a waiver from the state department of education.
Just like any other book, textbooks have an author. Here’s a list. Take a look at the authors: Amazon.com: List of Biology Texts
The two best Biology texts (in my opinion) are Miller and Levine’s and the Campbell/Reece books. My copy of the Miller/Levine book (the Dragonfly edition) has, starting on page iii, a list of authors, consultants (5, with two being Texas-based), activity writers and testers (11 with 1 being Texas-based), Content Reviewers (42 with 16 being Texas-based and all but two* are university professors), and 53 high-school reviewers and contributing writers only one of which is Texas-based.
I’m sure that the review process is thorough. Indeed, I would think it almost impossible to “sneak in” creationist material or even controversy material.
Unlike what people might have you believe. The publisher doesn’t create or even heavily edit the text… and all of those edits are approved by the authors. It’s just like any other book, except this one is a text book. You couldn’t get a couple of paragraphs added to a chapter in Harry Potter without Rowling’s permission, no matter who wanted it done.
The publisher will include developed curriculum materials, a guide to how the text meets the curriculum, formative tests, chapter reviews, workbooks, lab guides, and other supplementary material, but (speaking for the Miller/Levine and the Campbell/Reece books, these are directly related to the text. There’s no “extra” material in them.
There’s lot of concern about school boards “inserting” creationism into Texas textbooks. That’s just not going to happen. The textbook isn’t the state’s, it’s not even the publisher’s book. It is owned by the authors. They allow copy editing and style guide corrections. I’m sure they discuss revisions and changes suggested by the publisher, but Ken Miller isn’t going to put creationism in his textbook. It’s just not going to happen.
And if the publisher inserted it without his permission… well, that’s just a big expensive lawsuit waiting on the trial.
Standardized tests are the same way. Even if it was in the standards (and I know of no state or local standards that include creationism), where’s the peer-reviewed science? Any creationist test questions would never get past the fact checkers and the various committees and science experts.
These tests go through a teacher committee. They are science teachers, with a good understanding of their subject. These aren’t random people off the street.
It would be extremely difficult to get creationist material into textbooks. I’m not saying it can’t be done… after all Meyer’s review paper was published (and retracted). But it would not be the end of the fight if it were… only the beginning. And the first people in line for the court would be the authors, whose name is on the cover of that book.
And, here’s the important part. I’m not asking you to take my word for it. Take a look at your state department of education website. They should explain the process of curriculum development, and text procurement, and test development. If the website doesn’t explain it, call them and ask about the process. Get informed.
If you are a teacher (even if it’s not in science), then ask to be put on committees that review tests, review textbooks, and other activities that get you directly involved in the process. If you are a professional scientist, then do the same thing. Some states have a professional committee of some kind that’s made up of teachers, industry professionals, and university level scientists. This is especially important for historians as well.
Yes, we can stand in the streets or give a 2 minute talk to a panel. Or (and), we can actually get involved in the processes that produce these materials for our students. Bypass the school board that is made up of elected officials with nothing better to do than destroy our children’s education. Get involved with the people actually deciding on the textbooks. Talk to the teachers (nicely!!!!!) and the district school boards (when text book purchasing comes up) and get involved in the committees that make these processes run.
I hope that helps.
Oh, and I’m not saying to not fight this. We have to fight, but we have to fight creationism and historical revisionism every way possible. Not just at the state level, but even down to the teacher level. Talk to the local high school teachers (if you have a student or will have a student). Ask them what they teach and how they teach it. If there are concerns, talk with them (nicely!!!!!) about it.
The National Center for Science Education has some resources that can help. And (I’ve said this before), be nice. Don’t be an ass about it and don’t be confrontational. But don’t back down either.
* The two are medical writer and the curator of paleontology at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science.