Monday, December 15, 2014

Texas Textbooks Teach New "Facts" About Moses and Climate Change

The social studies books adopted by the Texas State Board of Education make a national impact on the textbook market, since the state has around 5 million students. In the textbooks approved by the Republican-dominated, 15-member Texas Board of Education, students will soon "learn" that Moses influenced the country's founding documents and that scientists are divided about climate change:

Consider one high school government textbook. It lists four thinkers who influenced the Founding Fathers.

"Three of those on the list make a lot of sense: John Locke, Montesquieu and Blackstone. Those are all either British philosophers or Enlightenment thinkers," says Jennifer Graber, a professor at the University of Texas, Austin.

She says that these three thinkers are all quoted in America's founding documents. But, for Graber, the fourth person on the list raised a red flag: Moses.

"I think for many of us who are academic historians, it's a very ahistorical connection to make. Moses is not someone who is quoted in the founding documents," Graber says.

Moses is, however, mentioned explicitly in Texas learning standards, which is why the publisher included him in its textbook (and this is not the publisher's only textbook to include him).

The standards are called the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills and were created in 2010. They state that high school students in U.S. government are expected to "identify the individuals, whose principles of laws and government institutions informed the American founding documents, including those of Moses, William Blackstone, John Locke, and Charles de Montesquieu."

...Another point of contention: climate change. Josh Rosenau, programs and policy director with the National Center for Science Education, took issue with its characterization in books by megapublishers Pearson and McGraw-Hill.

"They were saying we didn't know what was causing climate change or saying that scientists were divided about whether humans were responsible," Rosenau says. "And that was just not true."

Image: Mikhaela Reid,


Michael J. Mand said...

Scientists are indeed divided about climate change: 98 - 2. Now, on whom would you bet?

Jeff Tone said...

Doesn't seem to be much controversy there.