For the past 30 years, the Texas Board of Education has been a growing headache for science education advocates, blocking the teaching of evolution within the state and using its power over the textbook market to discourage textbooks from covering the topic. Because the board's textbook decisions have traditionally been open to citizen review, they were ripe targets for activism. But this Friday, all that changed, with sweeping structural changes to the system putting textbook decisions in the hands of teachers.
It's a simple change, but it takes away a powerful tool in the fight against evolution education. Because of the size of the Texas public school system, which includes more than five million students, textbook publishers are often reluctant to publish a book that might raise objections there. At the same time, intelligent design advocates often flagged textbooks for including chapters on evolution or climate science. Books can still be flagged under the new system, but the process will be led by teachers rather than citizen panels, which advocates hope will lead to a more reasoned debate.