We reported on Monday that anti-evolution activists nominated by SBOE members to serve as official reviewers are pressuring publishers to weaken instruction on evolution in their new biology textbooks. Texas Education Agency staff appointed reviewers from the list of SBOE nominations and individuals who nominated themselves. State board members will use their reviews to help them decide whether to adopt the textbooks for use in Texas schools. The board has scheduled a public hearing on the textbooks for Tuesday (Sept. 17) and a final vote on adoption in November.
Late Wednesday, an SBOE member forwarded to the Texas Freedom Network a letter from Jimmy Gollihar, a doctoral student and scientist working at UT-Austin. Gollihar nominated himself as a reviewer.
Gollihar’s letter describes a “review process that is either broken or corrupt.” He explains, for example, that many reviewers on the biology panels were clearly unqualified to evaluate the textbooks:
“The net result of having a huge raft of non-scientists on the panels was that rather than checking for factual errors in the texts I was put into the position of having to painstakingly educate other panel members on past and current literature. Somewhat unsurprisingly, a reviewer from another table, who is also a well-known creationist without any training in biology, was quite proud that he was the one reviewing the sections on evolution for his table … with no scientific counterpoint to be had. As a result, even beyond the obviously ideologically-derived comments on the materials many of the comments found littered throughout those reviews make no sense whatsoever from a scientific viewpoint and are absolutely not germane to the content prescribed in the [Texas curriculum standards].”