SBOE Debates Over Climate Change Textbooks

climate change
Classroom | Image by GUNDAM_Ai

Beginning with the 2024-2025 school year, Texas 8th-graders will learn about climate change as part of their science curriculum, but just what should be included in the textbooks is up for debate.

The required inclusion of climate change education was part of bulk changes to middle school science curriculum requirements approved by the State Board of Education (SBOE) in November 2021. The new standards will require 8th-grade students to “understand that climate can be impacted by natural events and human activities.”

However, the particular textbooks that will be used to teach students about climate change have yet to be determined.

During an SBOE meeting on Tuesday, Democrat officials said the state should adopt texts that promote the alleged scientific consensus on climate change, while Republicans said students should have a balanced perspective and learn about the benefits of fossil fuels as well.

Samples of textbook proposals submitted to the state can be found here. The SBOE is scheduled to adopt new instructional materials in November, which will be used beginning with the 2024-2025 school year.

School districts are not required to use textbooks approved by the SBOE, but many do so to ensure they are in compliance with state standards.

Republican board member Will Hickman said textbooks discussing alleged climate change solutions should be used in social studies rather than science classes.

At the board meeting, Hickman asked Susan Meredith, an education and energy consultant based in Austin, if textbooks should “also include the benefits we get from burning carbon.” He argued that air conditioning and many other modern instruments are powered by fossil fuels.

Merideth told Hickman he conflated “that electricity has to come from gas and oil, and it doesn’t.”

Some Democrat board members said students should instead learn about the allegedly harmful impact fossil fuels have on the environment.

Marisa Perez-Diaz said, “We absolutely should say humans do impact climate change.”

“It doesn’t have to be political — it is just fact,” she told The Texas Tribune in an interview. “But I think because sometimes we get into these culture-war conversations, it blurs what should and shouldn’t go into the standards.”

Texas produces exponentially more oil than any other state, having produced 1.8 billion barrels in 2022. The state accounted for 42% of the nation’s crude oil and 27% of the nation’s natural gas last year, according to the Energy Information Administration.

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