The State Board of Education gave preliminary approval Friday to biology curriculum for public high school students that challenges the theory of evolution.
The vote gives the Texas Education Agency the OK to post the curriculum changes, which are similar to standards already in place, to the Texas Register so that the public can offer input.
Over the summer, the board tasked a committee to whittle down the high school biology curriculum standards to help teachers lessen the material they must teach. The committee voted to pare down or remove language that challenges the theory of evolution, which had been originally implemented in 2009.
Board member Barbara Cargill, R-The Woodlands, offered to restore most of the language on Wednesday and fellow Republican members, which make up a majority of the board, agreed. The five Democrats on the panel opposed the move.
The biology curriculum would require students to evaluate the complexity of cells, the origin of DNA and life, and examine explanations of abrupt appearance and stasis in the fossil records. Supporters of the standards have said that the theory of evolution can’t readily explain these scientific events.
Cargill defended the move, saying that the curriculum standards spur critical thinking in students and that geophysicists and those who work in the oil and gas industry have told her that they want students to learn about fossils.
Democratic board members said earlier this week that the standards would invite creationism and intelligent design into the classroom.
In April, the board could adopt the curriculum standards, which would then go into effect in the 2017-18 school year.
The curriculum standards dictate what teachers teach in the classroom, what students are tested on in standardized tests and what appears in textbooks.
The Legislature has also taken an interest in science education in public schools.
State Rep. Valoree Swanson, R-Spring, proposed a bill this week that would give “academic freedom for teachers” and require a public school environment that encourages students to “respond appropriately and respectfully to differences of opinion about scientific subjects.”
Glenn Branch with the National Center for Science Education, a California-based organization that supports the teaching of evolution, said House Bill 1485 is unnecessary and would embolden “maverick teachers” to teach junk science.