Thursday, October 30, 2014

Worrying About Our SBOE

Burning oil to run cars also releases carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Some scientists believe that this carbon dioxide could lead to a slow heating of Earth's overall climate. This temperature change is known as global warming or climate change. Scientists disagree about what is causing climate change. Many people, however, worry that climate change might cause environmental problems, such as increased storm activity and rising sea levels.
That's a passage from a proposed social studies textbook for use in Texas. Publishers want their books bought in Texas, so they do their best to meet the demands of the Texas State Board of Education (SBOE), which oversees textbook adoption. (Tincy Miller represents Richardson on the SBOE and is up for re-election November 4.)

In an October 20 work session, the SBOE reviewed public comments on the proposed textbooks. After the jump, my own unsubmitted comment:

Publishers did their best to placate conservatives like Tincy Miller without going so far as to say global warming is a hoax, which is probably what Miller and her vocal advisers think. The result is passages like the one quoted above. Saying what's right with that passage would take less space than listing the errors. What's wrong with that passage?

  • "Some scientists believe": No, virtually all scientists believe that heat-trapping gases lead to heating of the atmosphere. D'oh.
  • "could lead to": No, this should be present tense: "is leading to." We're not talking future conjecture here. The atmosphere is already warmer. "Of the top 10 warmest years on record, 1998 is the only year that didn't occur in the 21st century." (NOAA).
  • "slow heating": No, compared to previous cycles of global warming and cooling, the anthropogenic heating we are currently experiencing is frighteningly quick -- decades instead of thousands or millions of years.
  • "Scientists disagree": No, virtually all scientists believe that a significant cause of global warming is the burning of fossil fuels.
  • "might cause":" No, climate change will cause, is causing, environmental problems. Sea level rise is a fact today, not a future conjecture.

Five sentences. Five false statements. I don't blame the textbook publishers. They are only trying to appease non-scientists like Tincy Miller. I blame the SBOE. Texans can do something about that on election day. So, ultimately, Texas voters have only themselves to blame for the sorry state of science education in Texas.


Mark Steger said...

Tincy Miller won re-election to the SBOE. This is what having her on the SBOE gives us. "After First Round of Corrections, New Texas Textbooks Still Deny Climate Change":

"Students in school today will graduate into a world shaped by climate change, and they deserve textbooks that tell students what scientists have known for decades: Humans are causing climate change," Josh Rosenau, policy director of the NCSE said.

"It's time for publishers to focus on the needs of students in every state, not the political squabbles of the Texas board of education."

Mark Steger said...

Pearson does the right thing. McGraw-Hill still panders to anti-science conservatives. Which will Texas SBOE choose? Grist has the story.

Mark Steger said...

And now, McGraw-Hill does the right thing, too.