Strengthening Public Schools
Who's Who in the Censorship Movement
The Discovery Institute is the leading proponent of teaching “intelligent design”/creationism in public schools. According to the group’s Web site:
“The point of view Discovery brings to its work includes a belief in God-given reason and the permanency of human nature; the principles of representative democracy and public service expounded by the American Founders; free market economics domestically and internationally; the social requirement to balance personal liberty with responsibility; the spirit of voluntarism crucial to civil society; the continuing validity of American international leadership; and the potential of science and technology to promote an improved future for individuals, families and communities.”
The Institute has been heavily involved in state and local debates over teaching evolution and creationism, including during the adoption of new biology textbooks in Texas in 2003. In fact, far-right members of the Texas State Board of Education relied heavily on talking points supplied by the Discovery Institute throughout the debate.
Some of the nation’s most prominent proponents of “intelligent design”/creationism populate the Discovery Institute’s list of associates. Among them are senior fellows Michael J. Behe, a professor of biological sciences at Lehigh University in Pennsylvania, and William A. Dembski, a research professor in philosophy at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Tex. Another Institute fellow is Raymond Bohlin, president of Texas-based Probe Ministries. From Probe’s Web site: “Probe's mission is to present the Gospel to communities, nationally and internationally, by providing life-long opportunities to integrate faith and learning through balanced, biblically based scholarship, training people to love God by renewing their minds and equipping the Church to engage the world for Christ.”
The Discovery Institute has suffered several setbacks in recent years, however. In 2005, for example, a Republican federal judge ruled (Kitzmiller v Dover Area School District, Case No. 04cv2688) that the teaching of “intelligent design”/creationism in the public schools of Dover, Penn., was unconstitutional. The judge said that evidence presented at trial made it overwhelmingly clear that “(intelligent design) is a religious view, a mere re-labeling of creationism, and not a scientific theory.” The next year, in 2006, proponents of teaching “intelligent design” also suffered major electoral defeats in races for the Kansas and Ohio state boards of education.
Evolution opponents created Texans for Better Science Education in the summer of 2003, during that year’s heated debate over proposed new biology textbooks for the state’s public schools. The group’s founder, Mark Ramsey of Spring near Houston, and other spokespersons demanded that publishers cast doubt on the science behind evolution in their textbooks. The group criticized the textbooks for failing to include discussions of creationist-fabricated “weaknesses” of the theory evolution.
Ramsey is also Web site administrator for the Greater Houston Creation Association (GHCA). The GHCA advocates for “young Earth creationism.” According to its Web site, the group is:
“an organization of Christians who take the Bible in its original manuscripts to be the actual inspired Word of God preserved by Him over time for our use as an unchanging source of truth. We find that the internal scriptural evidence overwhelmingly presents a young supernatural creation followed later by several world changing events of supernatural judgment including expulsion from the original paradise and “curse” of the ground, a cataclysmic global flood that radically altered much of Earth’s geology, and a “confusion” of language that forced the dispersion of people groups around the world. These events are as much a key to the past as observation of the present and they preclude the uniformitarian approach to understanding the distant past. We highly value the scientific method and the body of scientific knowledge based on observation and experimental testing of hypotheses (which is necessarily done in the present) but we reject the uniformitarian assumption in making inferences about the past.”
According to the Texans for Better Science Education Web site: “Texans for Better Science Education is a group of concerned Texas citizens who support the right of all students and teachers to learn about both the strengths and weaknesses of evolutionary theories free from censorship and intimidation, and as required by existing Texas law.” (In fact, the requirement about teaching “strengths and weaknesses” is part of the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills curriculum standards for science, not state statute.)
Texas Public Policy Foundation (TPPF)
The Texas Public Policy Foundation bills itself as a research organization/think tank “guided by the core principles of limited government, free markets, private property rights, individual liberty and personal responsibility.” (TPPF Web site, 2004). In the textbook arena, TPPF has produced reports often written by hired ‘experts’ that detail textbook errors and call for wholesale content changes or rejection of textbooks they oppose. A Texas Monthly story in 2002 questioned the credibility of TPPF’s reports and overall involvement in the textbook review process, saying the group’s participation “raises questions about its ultimate goals” and about “whether an organization founded by a relentless critic of Texas public schools can consistently produce credible research [regarding public school curricula].” Editorial boards have also criticized TPPF for editing textbooks based on ideology rather than factual content.
Texas Eagle Forum
The Eagle Forum is well known for its criticism of immigration policies, feminism, secular society and civil liberties. Texas Eagle Forum representatives have charged that textbooks encourage students to call homosexual hotlines, look at pornographic pictures and assemble “genitalia puzzles.” (Testimony on file at Texas Education Agency)
Americans for Prosperity/Citizens for a Sound Economy
Americans for Prosperity, formerly Citizens for a Sound Economy, supports “economic freedom and opportunity.” (AFP Web site, 2004) In past legislative sessions, its Texas affiliate has worked on a variety of social issues, such as supporting vouchers and granting more power to the State Board of Education. The group has been a leading supporter of textbook censorship, criticizing textbook content as anti-Christian, part of “a radical environmental activist agenda” and “propaganda that provides positive references to Islam.”
Educational Research Analysts
Mel and Norma Gabler of Longview in East Texas began reviewing textbooks in the 1960s, eventually creating Educational Research Analysts. The Gablers and their successors have criticized textbooks for, as they see it, coverage of evolution, failure to promote phonics-based reading instruction, insufficient support for principles of free enterprise, a failure to promote a strict interpretation of the U.S. Constitution, a lack of respect for Judeo-Christian morals, failure to emphasize abstinence-only-until-marriage instruction in health textbooks, and the "politically correct degradation of academics." The group's "reviews" are often really political documents in which many textbook "errors" are simply ideological objections to content. In 2004 the group attacked proposed new health textbooks in Texas as somehow promoting homosexuality and same-sex marriage. Yet the student textbooks included no discussions of sexual orientation, and the teacher editions barely touched on the topic. But Educational Research Analysts argued that the books promoted same-sex marriage through the use of "asexual stealth phrases," such as "married couples" and "married people," rather than using language making it clear that marriage is a union of a man and a woman. Mel Gabler died in December 2004. Neal Frey, a longtime textbook reviewer for the Gablers, runs the organization today. (Gabler Web site, 2004)
The Seattle-based Discovery Institute “discovers and promotes ideas in the common sense tradition of representative government, the free market and individual liberty.” (Discovery Institute Web site) The Institute is a leading proponent of watering down discussions of evolution in science textbooks by including material on “intelligent design” as an alternative theory of the origins of life.
Texans for Life Coalition
Texans for Life Coalition opposes reproductive choice and was a prominent supporter of the adoption of abstinence-only high school textbooks in 2004. The organization opposed adding to the textbooks state-mandated information on contraception and the prevention of sexually transmitted diseases.
The Justice Foundation
The Justice Foundation (formerly Texas Justice Foundation) “provides free legal representation in landmark cases in protect individual rights, limit government to its appropriate role, and promote a better business climate for job growth in Texas.” (TJF Web site, 2004)
Concerned Women of America
Concerned Women of America describes itself as working to “bring Biblical principles into all levels of public policy.” (CWA Web site, 2004)
Daughters of the American Revolution
The Texas Society of the DAR is an affiliate of the national group, which is “dedicated to promoting patriotism, preserving American history, and securing America’s future through better education for children.” (DAR Web site, 2004) In past textbook reviews, the Texas Society of the DAR has worked to keep textbooks free of “communist indoctrination” and to eliminate discussions of racial discrimination in history textbooks.
The Reason Foundation is a national think tank that advances “a free society by developing, applying, and promoting libertarian principles, including free markets, individual liberty, and the rule of law.” (Reason Foundation Web site)