Tuesday, March 31, 2009

CIRM Enters Battle Over Textbook Guidelines

Deciding what goes into the millions of textbooks used by California school children is a tedious and arcane task. But it is also one that is, at times, fought bitterly and intensely, albeit well away from the public gaze.

The California stem cell agency now seems ready to join that fray.

Reporter Ron Leuty of the San Francisco Business Times wrote this week:
"Backed by the state Board of Education — as well as powerful lawmakers — the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine is ready to reshape the state’s science curriculum and direct a rewrite of textbooks to include sections on stem cells."
Leuty said that the board, which deals with matters in grades kindergarten through 12, voted on March 11 to include stem cell science in the science curriculum.

(One might wonder whether it ever was excluded. But no matter.)

What the action does is set the stage for the state's Curriculum Commission to set guidelines for textbook publishers who peddle their wares for California pupils. Leuty also wrote that that the commission, with the help of CIRM, is charged with setting up a pilot stem cell program in high schools in 2011.

CIRM says it is all about jobs, tying education to training for work in the stem cell industry or related fields. But for others, it is about ideology and "truth." At least that's the way Katie Short of the Life Legal Defense Foundation of Napa, Ca., put it. She told Leuty,
"We would be for the truth being told."
Speaking as one who covered education for a couple of years (including the state Board of Education), we can testify that Short and like-minded folks (the intelligent design crowd) are likely to muster a strong presence as stem cell textbook guidelines are promulgated. It is not a battle for the faint of heart and may require that CIRM hire an outside consultant to be effective. Sphere: Related Content

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