Officials in Texas want to make sure the state’s science textbooks don’t paint oil and gas in a bad light. The Texas State Board of Education shifted its guidance to schools last month, asking that they focus on the supposedly “positive” aspects of fossil fuels in educational material, E&E News reported.
The board, which is dominated by Republicans, adopted changes proposed by board member Patricia Hardy. “If they’re going to tout how wonderful the alternative climate change stuff is, then they need to also say all the things that are not good about it and not just hit on the fossil fuel industry,” Hardy said, according to E&E News. “Our schools are paid for by the fossil fuel industry for the most part, so there’s a little bit of disingenuousness.”
Instead of connecting rising temperatures to human activity and the fossil fuel industry, educational materials should highlight natural fluctuations in global temperatures, according to the new guidance, E&E News reported. This is a common talking point used by climate change deniers, along with claims about how fluctuations in the Sun (and not our ever rising emissions) are to blame for changing temperatures. Hardy claimed that adding this change to textbooks would be “giving both sides” of climate change science and the causes of global warming, according to E&E News. Several on the 15-member board are connected to fossil fuel companies, such as board member Will Hickman, who works as an attorney for Shell.
Though the changes proposed by the board aren’t legally binding, the board’s decision does hold some weight. Books that do not adhere to these new guidelines will receive lower scores from the state board of education and will likely not be used in Texas classrooms, Hardy told E&E News.
Because of the large size of the textbook market in Texas, that state has sway over school books throughout the country. Conservative perspectives there can influence what is taught in other parts of the country, because publishers want to ensure that their books are used in Texas, as the Washington Post has explained. There are a little under 50 million public school students in the U.S.; over 5 million of them are in Texas public schools.
This change for Texas science books comes as Republicans around the country seek to stoke an “anti-woke” culture war that has taken on gas stoves, insurance companies and investment firms, and books that are too environmentally friendly.