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Texas Overhauls Textbook Approval To Ease Tensions Over Evolution

The Texas Board of Education, which has long been an ideological battleground for the teaching of evolution, says it will limit the use of citizen review panels and instead give priority to teachers in determining science and history curricula.

Because Texas public schools represent such a large market for textbook publishers, the state has an outsized influence on what is taught in the rest of the country.

Science curricula in particular have become a source of tension over the past 30 years amid moves to downplay the teaching of evolution or to include biblically inspired creationism or "intelligent design."

Critics have been concerned that a small number of religious or political activists can dominate the process of approving texts, and the Board of Education's move appears to try to tamp that down.

Conflicts have also seeped into the approval of history textbooks in recent years, where some have sought to change the characterization of religion's role in the development of the early republic.

Among the changes approved by the state on Friday was "a mandate for teachers and professors to be given priority for serving on textbook review panels for subjects in their areas of expertise. They also enable the board to appoint outside experts to check objections that review panels raise," The Associated Press says.

Meanwhile, South Dakota became the fourth state so far this year to take up legislation that would allow public schools to teach intelligent design. Similar bills have been introduced in Virginia, Missouri and Oklahoma.

Proponents of intelligent design, which teaches that humans and animals were specially created by an unnamed entity, say it should be taught as an alternative to the scientific theory of evolution by natural selection. However, most scientists say intelligent design doesn't qualify as a theory because it cannot be falsified and has not demonstrated any predictive value.

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NPR

For Penn & Teller's Magical Partnership, The Trick Is Telling The Truth

The duo Penn Jillette and Raymond Teller are back on Broadway. They both talk — yes, even Teller — with NPR's Scott Simon about magic, danger and the remarkable endurance of their 40-year partnership.
NPR

At The Purple Pie Place, Where The Crusts Are Just Sweet Enough

Bobkat's Purple Pie Place is a fixture in Custer, S.D. From chicken pot pie to strawberry rhubarb, Trevor Yehlie and his family have been baking and serving pies at the local favorite since 2009.
NPR

Empire Strikes PAC And Other Punny SuperPAC Names

My Cat Xavier For a Better Tomorrow, Tomorrow superPAC backed Hank the Cat in the 2012 Virginia Senate election. Xavier also cared about naps, treats, and prison reform.
NPR

Despite Host Controversy, Amazon Takes A Chance On 'Top Gear'

The trio that made Top Gear the world's biggest car show will return to the small screen in a new show for Amazon Prime. The BBC canned one of its hosts last year after a fight with a producer.

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