Major Texas win!

By Phil Plait | May 28, 2009 4:25 pm

Texas isn’t so doomed after all: the state Senate rejected creationist Don McLeroy to head up the Board of Education!

Can I hear a W00t from the choir?


McLeroy is a far-right ideologue who has done nothing but obstruct real education efforts in the Texas BoE for years now. He’s the goofball who said "Someone has to stand up to experts!" — because heaven forbid someone with actual knowledge be used to advise the board — and has done all sorts of dodgy things to ram his agenda through.

Now I can hope he’ll go pick up his dentistry practice again, where he’ll no doubt wind up causing less pain to kids.

But don’t think everything is rainbows and unicorns in the Lone Star State now. Governor Rick Perry is the one who picked McLeroy in the first place, and now has to replace him… and the vote to confirm McLeroy was 19 to 11 (it needed a 2/3 majority to pass, so the rejection barely squeaked by), meaning Texas could still see another BoE chair in the "know-nothing creationist hell-bent on shredding the Constitution" category. As we’ve seen, there are plenty to choose from.

So Texans beware! You’ve earned some breathing room. Catch your breath, but be ready to start this fight all over again.

Texas: not quite doomed this time


Comments (44)

  1. Dan I

    Score 1 for the good guys.

  2. Sadly McLeroy is still on the board and can still do damage. And there is a slight possibility that Gov. Perry will pick someone worse to replace him. Texas still might be doomed.

  3. scotth

    How does that work? The other board members are elected to their seats. Chairman is appointed. What seat on the board would he be eligible for? What do I have wrong here?

  4. I feel a tiny bit better about my state for once… finally. Well, at least for however long it may last. *crosses fingers* Please don’t get worse… please don’t get worse…

  5. “There is speculation in the Capitol and within the Texas Education Agency that Gov. Rick Perry might elevate Cynthia Dunbar, R-Richmond, to lead the board. Like McLeroy, Dunbar also holds strong Christian beliefs and recently authored a book that advocates more religion in the public square.”

    Is this the person Texas needs to lead the School Board? Or will they simply experience another McLeroy?


  6. Actually, according to the Texas Freedom Network, McLeroy will still be on the board until he either loses an election or decides to step down, but he will not be chairman and his power will be diminished. I asked their communication director for some details and he’s very cautiously optimistic…

    I do wonder why McLeroy kept insisting that he wasn’t actually pushing his religious views on students when he was doing it in the most blatant and obvious way possible…

  7. Gavin Polhemus

    Scotth, The governor appoints one of the elected board members to be chair. McLeroy still has his elected seat, but someone else on the board will have to be appointed as chair.

  8. Tom.m

    Cautious, Woot.

  9. Elliott Robert

    “Texas isn’t so doomed ” Why does every one who’s lived out west talk like a Valley Girl? Does living in California require a dumbed down vocabulary? Mr. Plait is obviously a smart, educated scientist which makes me wonder why he talks like the narrator of the oxygen channel.

  10. breathing a sigh of relief (for now)….but not exactly “pumped” to see who Perry is going to push forward for the next chairman (ahem, -woman). Imho, the 2010 gov elections can NOT come soon enough!! KBH in ’10!!

  11. Ross

    Elliot Robert. One word: colloquialism.

  12. Adel, did you read Ted’s post? :( It certainly didn’t get better!

  13. Meet the new boss, same as the old boss?

  14. MadScientist

    I disagree:

    1. the daffy delusional dentist is still on the educational board pushing his nonsense
    2. the creatard governor still gets to appoint the replacement loon

    It ain’t over yet; this is a very minor win. If you look at the votes there were barely too few votes in favor to obtain the necessary majority, it was not a case of the majority saying “I don’t think it’s good to have a jackass have such influence over our educational system”.

    Please please please BA, take a little time to look into some of the details.

  15. MadScientist

    @Elliot #9: The BA lives in the state of Colorado, which in turn is not in the state of California. The BA is also entitled to be as silly as he wishes (and we’re free to slap him down).

  16. HoosierHoops

    Phil..You have done such a wonderful job during this fight…Thank you for your efforts..
    I have started steering traffic your way from other blogs…
    Again..Thank you and kind regards..
    -The Hoopster

  17. Davidlpf
  18. Rich


    One small step forward.

  19. C H

    If the government would stay out of education in the first place, this wouldn’t even be an issue.

  20. Mariner

    My most optimistic scenario goes something like this:
    – Perry (pandering to the radical religious right) nominates Dunbar as SBOE Chair
    – Everyone in Texas except the radical religous right realizes what a nutcase Dunbar is (and by association, Perry and other RRR nutcases currently on the board)
    – In the 2010 primaries, both Perry and Dunbar (and maybe even a couple of other sitting SBOE members) fail to get the nomination of the dominant party in Texas
    – Failing that, charismatic Democratic party candidates emerge
    – More reasonable people get elected to the SBOE and the Governor’s office.

    Many thanks to Phil, PZ, Kathy Miller /TFN, and Steven Schafersman / TCS for keeping this whole embarrassing circus in the public spotlight. — W00T!

  21. It is, sadly, only temporary.

    We are talking Texas here. Until we vote out the woo woo believers, Texas will continue to reap the religious rewards.


  22. matteus

    To my utter chagrin, not one Republican voted against this clown.

  23. YES! I live in Texas and I am happy.

    I’m graduating high school in a week, so it wouldn’t have effected me, but thank God for all those kids coming after me! woo hoo!

  24. and, as a resident of Texas, I disagree with the notion that religous “woo woos” are capable of changing the educational system to their agenda. We’re majorly republican, but I know plenty of teachers, for one, that would have a heart attack if they had their curriculum revamped in such a way. Not all republicans are crazies, either.

    It won’t happen, at least not until a critical tipping point is reached- which won’t happen. The liberals among us keep it balanced :-)

  25. why, why, why must i share this wonderful state with these clowns.

    @Liz D unfortunately teachers’ votes dont count more. face it, we are hanging by a devolved string.

  26. Meagan

    As a Texas educator, I am doing a silent victory dance! As for Liz D: if the liberals were “keep[ing] it balanced”, the vote wouldn’t have made it out of committee. Let’s hope that enough teachers contact the governor and plead for a quality candidate this time.

  27. Geek Goddess

    All of the School Board is elected, and each one represents a particular district. The governor is the one who chooses who will be the chairman, so although McLeroy will not serve as chair, he will continue to represent his district.

    The real issue here is that few people run for school board positions, and few people vote in the elections. How many people here regularly vote in anything but the annual presidential elections? Sadly, I admit that I don’t usually go vote for bond issues. The churches do a good job of reminding their members to get out and vote for every election, whereas the general public might not even know a particular (non presidential) election is coming up unless they keep up with a local newspaper.

  28. QUASAR

    Keeps varying from saved to doomed!

  29. jh

    @Liz D:

    The fact is, a large number of “teachers” out there believe this too. I know for a fact that my mother, a science teacher of sixth grade in a red state, was drummed out of a job and called a witch for daring to teach evolution. (Or, as it was called to her: “eviloution”) She was repeatedly told to NOT use that word and to not teach abiogenesis or age of earth in ANY matter.

    She was picked up by a larger district right next door, one that treated science with the respect and honor it deserves, but don’t expect the “plenty of teachers” to matter much. They can be replaced with plenty of football coaches willing to do whatever the administration tells them to do.

  30. Fausnator

    Woot! Science curriculum should not be up to popular vote. It should be determined by the scientific community. Do they put books and poetry up for vote for English Lit? We’d all be reading Dan Brown in high school.

  31. @ madscientist:

    “creatards” – nyuk nyuk!

    @ quasar:

    “keeps varying from saved to doomed”

    Perhaps someone with mathematical skills could determine the periodicity of this variability and thus determine a long term outlook? I suspect other variables might include the distance to the right of all the bodies involved, their respective masses (measured against diameters at the equator), and the temperature of the hot gas they expel.

  32. In the Houston Chronicle article that Ted linked to above, I was disappointed to see this comment, from a teacher, apparently:

    When I teach human origins, I always preface my classes by telling my students that they don’t have to believe in evolution; they just have to learn about the science.

    Now that’s some good educatin’! Look at the facts, but y’all don’t have to believe in ’em!

  33. Flying sardines

    McLeroy is a far-right ideologue who …’s the goofball who said “Someone has to stand up to experts!”

    I wonder who McLeroy gets to repair his car – an “Expert” mechanic or a priest?

    I wonder who he takes his kids to see when they’re ill – an “expert” doctor or a bible scholar?*

    I wonder who McLeroy gets to do his banking accounts and legal paperwork and so forth – one of those durn arrogant “experts” who, y’know actually know what their talking about, or some non-expert average Joe … ?

    Hmmm … I venture to suggest McLeroy is a rank hypocrite as well as utterly stupid! 😉

    If you use and trust an expert to fix your car, do your paperwork, etc .. then why turn so vehemently against expert scientists who have also spent years of study and practice to get to the point where they know what they’re talking about?

    * Sadly I read about a recent case where a woo-luvvin’ fundamentalist Christian family decided to pray for their sick daughter rather than take her for proper medical care. The girl died and the parents were charged with negligant homicide. :-( This was an American case reported in the Aussie papers. I think it says a lot about whether its better to rely on science or religion. :roll:

  34. Flying sardines

    @ # 29. QUASAR :

    [Texas I presume..] Keeps varying from saved to doomed.

    Ultimately we’re *all* doomed.

    Our Sun will burn out scorching the Earth to a cinder or less before it goes, our Milky Way will be destroyed in a galactic collision with Andromeda, even the very universe will perish. Long, long, lo-ooo-oong before that you and I and all of us will have died. *

    Texas might just be doomed a bit earlier like, say, the ancient Aztec empire was. 😉

    Cheery thought … Think I read all about it in some book somewhere ..Now then, who was the author again, a Phil somebody? Pl.. something? 😉


    * Well, almost certainly so. I suppose there’s the exceedingly remote possibility some of us could use relativistic effects, cryogenic freezing or an artificial black hole or something equally SF to survive or travel up to this universal end but then, really, who’d *want* to? 😉

  35. Colby
  36. Steve

    If TX ever becomes it’s own country, do you think Austin will do the same? A little lone star Vatican of sorts?

  37. Jan in CT

    One of the really sad facts in all of this is: the Texas school population is so large that the buying power of the Texas State Board of Education determines, to a large extent, the content of text books used by the rest of us. Text book publishers can’t afford to publish different versions of science text books so the demands of nutcases such as these, arguably their largest single customer, influences what children here in Connecticut read in their text books.

    Another argument for some other system of determining curriculums.

  38. Torbjörn Larsson, OM

    But his supporters said there was an anti-religious tinge to the opposition because McLeroy is a conservative Christian who does not believe in evolution.

    “There is a certain amount of innuendo in the criticism of Dr. McLeroy,” Sen. Steve Ogden, R-Bryan, said. “To a certain degree it’s a slur.”

    Gaah! Oogh! … Puh! I believe my brain just rotated in my skull, before returning to life again.

    In what way is “not believe in evolution” not a religious slur on science?

    [Careful with those links, Phil. Or you have to write a book about “Death from the web!”]

  39. @ torbjörn:

    “There is a certain amount of innuendo in the criticism of Dr. McLeroy,” Sen. Steve Ogden, R-Bryan, said. “To a certain degree it’s a slur.”

    Yeah, I always find that attitude pretty ironic. It’s okay to deny plainly overwhelming evidence that’s tested, retested, supported over and over again, but dare to suggest that belief in spirits and angels and supermen in the sky might be a little out of sync with reality and suddenly you’re a religious bigot, when in fact that epithet should be reserved exclusively for people who take mythology as literal truth and insist upon foisting their fantasies on others.

  40. Lawyer

    1+ to Dan the Firsts comment…

  41. StevoR

    @ # 25. Liz D :

    Not all republicans are crazies, either.

    Maybe not absolutely all but far too many of them are. Any sane Republican is definitely an ignored minority in that mob. Plus, unfortunately, not only are the Republican ‘crazies’ too numerous they are also the one’s in charge of the party. :-(

    It is hardly either a secret or news that the fundamentalist Religious Wrong and the fanatical pro-Israel neo-con mob hold undue sway over the Republican – or as I term ’em the Retardican party – in your country.

    Generally speaking, the Republican party is the party of religious extremists and anti-science. No doubt about it.

    Want proof? Just look at who they nominated last time – an elderly fool who confused a planetarium with an “overhead projector” and constantly criticised the idea of spending any money on it for science education and, *shudder*, that creationist redneck hickette, Sarah Palin. :-(

  42. Cruising the web (you know, that series of tubes) I wandered over to Americans United for Separation of Church and State, and found another attempt to bring religion (no, not Islam) into schools. This time, it’s forcing the “Christian Nation” myth into Social Studies classes, featuring David Barton, who “argues that separation of church and state is a “myth” and laws should be based on Scripture.”

    For the full article:



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