SAN ANTONIO (Reuters) - The Texas Board of Education voted unanimously to approve mainstream middle school curriculum materials on Friday in a move seen as a victory for proponents of teaching evolution in public schools.
Conservatives had complained the materials up for approval did not adequately address “alternatives to evolution” such as creationism or intelligent design as a theory of how life began.
The board also voted to reject any inclusion of materials submitted by a New Mexico company, International Databases, which claimed Darwin’s Theory of Evolution was not proven and that life on earth was the result of ‘intelligent causes.’
“These two votes represent a definitive victory for science and the students of Texas, and a complete defeat of the far-right’s two-year campaign to dumb down instruction on evolution in Texas schools,” said Ryan Valentine, deputy director of the Texas Freedom Network, a liberal group that counters attempts by evangelical conservatives to affect public policy.
In 2009 in a move that grabbed headlines across the country, a more conservative Texas State Board of Education approved standards encouraging debate over the veracity of evolution science.
The board had not voted on science educational materials since the 2009 decision. Supplemental materials were being considered on Friday rather than entirely new textbooks due to budget cuts approved this year by the Texas legislature.
The Texas board, which includes evangelical Christians, had been seen as the best opportunity for supporters of Biblical-based theories of creation to get their point of view represented in public school curriculum.
David Bradley, a leader of the board’s conservatives, was not pleased with the decision to allow Education Commissioner Robert Scott, whose proposals included the teaching only mainstream science, to decide how to resolve several “errors” in educational materials identified by evolution opponents.
“So we’re going to kick the can down the road, and we’re just going to delegate that responsibility and give it to the commissioner,” he said.
The vote followed several hours of emotional testimony on Thursday in which science teachers from around the state pleaded with the board not to require them to teach what they saw as non-scientific theories in their classrooms.
Intelligent design and creationism are theories that life on earth was created essentially the way it is described in the Bible’s Book of Genesis - not by evolution, but by a ‘creative intelligence’ generally considered to be the Christian God.
Editing by Cynthia Johnston