The Atheist Experience has a story [via Texas Observer] about the future of students in the state of Texas.
Republican Rick Perry, who replaced George W. Bush as Governor of Texas is a pretty good representation of the religious right. (In 2003, he condemned the United States Supreme Court decision in Lawrence vs. Texas striking down sodomy laws and called Texas’s last such law “appropriate.”) Recently, Perry appointed Crazy Creationist Don McLeroy to be the Head of the Texas State Board of Education. Since then, there have been outcries from citizens calling him on his misinformed and dangerous view of science.
One angry citizen writes:
I received a message from a Texas Citizens for Science supporter about an email message from SBOE member Don McLeroy that he received on October 30:
As an educator, I strongly dislike this trend. Are you doing things to combat this? Here is the email…
I replied as follows:
I share your disdain for McLeroy’s irrationality and contempt for science. I didn’t elect him. I am doing everything I can to prevent him from accomplishing his goals. Many other scientists and science educators are also involved in this effort.
In a perfect world, individuals such as McLeroy would not be elected to the State Board of Education. But we don’t live in a perfect world. We live in Texas.
I can assure you that many people organized months ago to oppose this nonsense. McLeroy is not even the worst one on the board.
If we fail in the vote, a court suit will surely follow.
I reprint McLeroy’s recent letter below. It apparently was sent to his fellow SBOE members. It is mindboggling in its ignorance and contempt for science. McLeroy’s ranting deserves the widest possible exposure and publicity. Citizens should realize what kind of individuals they elect to an important public official position. I won’t bother to comment on his ignorant misrepresentation of scientific methods knowledge, since I have done so elsewhere at great length. Instead, I want to discuss his newest and latest excess.
It is clear that McLeroy’s strategy is to play one publisher against the others, hoping that if the others see that one biology book will be put on the conforming list, they will quickly agree to revise their books to also be adopted to that list. The reason for this is because adoption on the nonconforming list greatly reduces sales. This is the insidious power that the SBOE possesses to compel publishers to censor their books.
His statements that, “This action would approve all the books up for adoption, plus reward the book that most closely follows our standards. It does not negatively single out any book but fulfills our responsibility of standards conformity,” are untrue. It approves all the biology texts–except one–for the nonconforming list, thus negatively singling them out for ultimate rejection. The lucky one (Glencoe) on the conforming list will garner most of the sales due to widespread adoption by the state’s school districts.
Nonconforming books–while often perfectly good and scientifically accurate–will nevertheless be chosen far, far less than conforming books by the school districts. Putting textbooks on the nonconforming list greatly reduces their sales There are two reasons for this:
1. The adoption of nonconforming books by districts requires that every parent must be informed by letter that such books are being used. This obligation is SBOE policy that has been communicated to all Texas school districts. The only reason for this paperwork policy is to make it extra tiresome and difficult for school districts to adopt books that the SBOE decides do not meet its standards (such as scientifically-accurate biology textbooks).
2. Books adopted as conforming by the SBOE are completely free to requesting school districts. Nonconforming books, however, are not totally free. School districts must pay a percentage of their cost (I believe this is 20%, but I will have to research this to confirm).
The difference is certainly worth many tens of millions of dollars to a publisher on the conforming list, especially if you are the only one on the conforming list. Adopting only one textbook as conforming would be extremely unfair to the other texts, especially when they are just as scientifically accurate–perhaps more so–as the lucky book and the reason for their nonconforming adoption is due completely to the personal ideology and politics of the SBOE members. Remember, the TEA textbook review panel found that all the biology books were 100% conforming to the TEKS. If McLeroy’s motions were to pass, all the publishers whose books were adopted on the nonconforming list would have major grounds for litigation.
Don McLeroy’s strategy–to succeed in his aims by using a publisher’s legitimate desire to make the highest profit and attempt to play one off against the others–is cynical and contemptible. Such conduct is completely unsuitable for an elected public official who is supposed to place the education of Texas students above his own personal agenda. Don McLeroy’s conduct should be condemned by all rational and ethical Texas citizens who value the education and welfare of their children.
Read more information here.
According to The Atheist Experience:
The Observer has unearthed (now this is journalism, people!) a recording of McLeroy addressing a sermon to his church, Grace Bible Church in College Station, on the subject of ID and evolution. The real battle, evidently, is against liberalism and naturalism. McLeroy sees ID as this glorious “big tent” that brings together religious pseudoscience of all stripes to unite against evil liberal naturalistic…uh…all that stuff. I can imagine the flacks at the Discovery Institute groaning over this one:
“Why is Intelligent Design the big tent? Because we’re all lined up against the fact that naturalism, that nature is all there is. Whether you’re a progressive creationist, recent creationist, young earth, old earth, it’s all in the tent of Intelligent Design.”
I especially love this passage from the Observer article.
McLeroy counsels fellow travelers to publicly battle evolution on the merits. “We must know our subject — facts and evidence are crucial,” he said in his sermon. But he acknowledges that this strategy has proven an utter failure.
Great work by the Texas Observer here.
To the citizens of Texas. I’m sorry. You’re fucked. If your Governor insists on making decisions like this, the future of your state is in jeopardy. Why would a student in Texas want to grow up to study geology if its a useless endeavor? After all, there’s no sense in studying what we know God made, right? So look forward to a generation of people coming out of Texas with absolutely no ability to grasp scientific reasoning.
And thanks Texas, for your contribution to our ever-growing reputation in the world for being a country who no longer leads in education; a country in which more than half of the population reject the theory of evolution. I was just saying the other day that what this country needs is more fucking lunatics. And it turns out, Texas has proved its ability to provide exactly that.