The following ran on the Sept. 25, 2013, edition of the Dallas Observer Unfair Park blog. Anthropologist Ron Wetherington provided expertise for this story.
September 27, 2013
By Brantley Hargrove
Creationists wield outsized influence in the shaping of textbooks in Texas. In the past, they've worked to burnish history's less-than-glowing view of Joseph McCarthy and to bring to the classroom Intelligent Design -- creationism gussied up with the thinnest patina of science.
And because the State Board of Education has boasted in the past a chairman and Bryan dentist who proclaimed evolution "hooey," some unqualified, ideologically driven folks get appointed to review textbooks and suggest recommendations to their publishers. Since Texas is such a huge market, publishers have been known to take heed of the reviewer's complaints, however ill-founded they may be.
In the estimation of a Southern Methodist University anthropology professor, they're gobsmackingly ill-founded at times. Dr. Ron Wetherington took a deep dive into the reviewers' quibbles into Pearson Education's high-school biology text and found, not surprisingly, that the quibbles themselves -- not the text -- were riddled with errors and thinly veiled jabs at evolutionary theory. "Since I teach much of this material in my university classes, and have for almost 50 years, I have felt it my responsibility to reveal the biases and shortcomings in this official review, which resulted in a recommendation for rejection to the Texas Educational Agency," Wetherington writes.
When the panel criticizes the text for noting that some mutations lower the fitness of organisms, while others are lethal and still others conversely improve its ability to survive and reproduce (which is accurate), the reviewers recommended that it be changed to reflect the idea that all mutations are simply bad....