UPDATE: Texas revisionist McLeroy on ABC

By Phil Plait | March 14, 2010 5:09 pm

[This is an update to my previous post, Texas conservatives screw history, so you should read that first to get your blood to a rapid boil before reading this.]

The Texas State Board of Education member Don McLeroy — creationist, antireality promoter, and stander-upper to experts — was interviewed on ABC TV’s Nightline program. Give this a listen, just in case you were thinking of cutting him a break… for whatever reasons I cannot fathom.

Yes, how magnanimous of the rich white men to allow women the vote, or to give the blacks equal rights!

[If the video doesn't load for you, go to the Nightline web page and click on Thursday's listing of Texas Textbook controversy, which should be up for a few more days.]

I have been active on Twitter today mocking the new textbook standards, and a handful of people have taken me to task thinking I was mocking all Texans. That’s ridiculous; I am clearly ridiculing the ten people on the Board who rammed this revisionist nonsense through… though you may feel free to expand that to the people who support them.

And to the commenters on my original post and elsewhere defending McCarthy because there were in fact communists in America: shame on you. Seriously, shame on you. What McCarthy did — and yes, it was a witch hunt — was directly opposed to all the ideals of this nation: free speech, liberty, presumed innocence until proven guilty, and many more. He was only able to ferret out a handful of so-called communists, but even if he had been 100% successful in his efforts what he did was an abomination for anyone in this country, let alone a seated Senator in the United States Congress. He engendered fear and suspicion, a paranoia and chilling climate from which it took years to recover. He betrayed precisely what he claimed to be trying to protect, and will stand as an object lesson for future generations on what happens when our system fails so utterly.

That is, he’ll stand as that lesson for those who will listen. Clearly, some people didn’t. It’s a crying shame that this includes a majority of the Texas State Board of Education, because now it’s entirely likely the lesson will be missed by a decade’s worth of schoolchildren, too.

Tip o’ the ten gallon hat to Robert Luhn of the wonderful National Center for Science Education for the link to the ABC interview.

Comments (118)

  1. And again, if you want to contact these slackjawed loonies:

    David Bradley (R)
    2165 North Street
    Beaumont, TX 77701
    (409) 835-3808
    sboesupport@tea.state.tx.us

    With a nice pre-prepared letter for them: http://demagoguesanddictators.blogspot.com/2010/03/open-letter-to-texas-board-of-education.html

    And apologies for the ad hominem, although if it’s actually a statement of fact, is it an ad hom? Seriously, I am restraining myself in calling out the blatantly obvious assessment of these people’s (total lack of) character and intellect!

  2. Pareidolius

    Slackjawed loonies was a generous estimation of their intellect. If there were an afterlife, Thomas Jefferson would never stop throwing up.

  3. Bahdum (aka Richard)

    Someone other than a right-winger actually defended McCarthy? McCarthy, a senator, took to being judge, jury, and executioner. This was the very thing that our Forefathers vilified. The lesson they took from the witch-hunts in Europe and America was that liberty was too precious to be squandered on rumor and suspicion: the state needs credible evidence for actual crimes.

    Not to mention that Senators, being of the legislative branch, make the laws. The executive branch enforces those laws while the judicial branch tries those accused of breaking the law. By undertaking the Red Scare witch-hunt, McCarthy further breached the Constitution. He is not to be commended for breaking his oath to the Constitution.

    I’m coming to understand the Constitution as not a document that defines what the people are allowed to do, but rather a document that restricts what the government can do. In that respect, what McCarthy did was reprehensible. There was no excuse for it. There’ll be no excuse for such witch-hunts in the future.

  4. Lerroy Jenkins

    Well I, on the other hand, have no problem stating that I would relish beating that man over the head with one of his own textbooks. I’m a Canadian, and a high school student, and if our textbooks so much as said that the French we at fault, let alone a religion or political party, there would be hell to pay. I fully agree that Texas, and quite possibly the rest of the States, is screwed.

  5. Dan

    The embedded video wouldn’t load for me in any browser I tried.

    Here’s a link to the original ABC video page:
    http://blogs.abcnews.com/nightlinedailyline/2010/03/are-americas-textbooks-too-liberal.html

    And for those who would prefer to watch it on YouTube (free of Ads!)
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_7qckl3W6W4

  6. Miko

    McCarthy wasn’t on the HUAC committee, so he didn’t actually find any communists. He just whipped up the flurry that got the government looking for them. And “innocent until proven guilty” doesn’t apply here since being a communist isn’t a crime.

  7. Elidor

    Mockery is all they deserve. I wonder, do they still see commies under their beds, after all these years?

  8. gg

    Miko wrote: “…so he didn’t actually find any communists.”

    Thank you! I cannot recall any legitimate case of treason being prosecuted due to the efforts of McCarthy himself. As I understand it, he was talking out of his ass for the most part with his “list”. Last time I checked, good intentions alone do not vindicate someone in the eyes of history — especially when those intentions produced no measurable positive results and a whole slew of negatives.

    And, as you noted, being communist isn’t a crime.

  9. bwhancock

    Sigh. “Shame on you” – really. This is what you article has devolved to? Shaming people. I didn’t know you were an expert in history and politics.

    White people did fight for black and women’s rights to vote. If not, they would not be able to vote today.

    There were communists and spies in our government. How would you have gotten rid of them? Not have Senate hearings? Not have investigations?

  10. bwhancock

    Sigh. “Shame on you” – really. This is what you article has devolved to? Shaming people.

    White people did fight for black and women’s rights to vote. If not, they would not be able to vote today.

    There were communists and spies in our government. How would you have gotten rid of them? Not have Senate hearings? Not have investigations?

  11. Zucchi

    Bwhancock, I wouldn’t have tried to get rid of Communists, since Americans have every right to be Commies if they want to. As for actual spies — you use counterintelligence to find them. Senate investigations are not good instruments for that purpose. HUAC was indeed a witch hunt.

  12. Carter

    Spies are one thing (that should be left to the CIA, or FBI, but not to the Senate), but there’s nothing wrong at all with holding your own views on economics that some call “communism” or equate with what dictators have done in Russia, China, Cuba, wherever.

  13. Argus

    Bwhancock: Try “NOT persecute the innocent.” (And others have pointed out the overlap between “innocent” and “communist”.)

  14. kirk

    I’m a Texan who totally appreciates ANYONE who focuses attention on these lunatics.

    McElroy is the worst but my SBOE rep. Ken Mercer is another crazy Christianist.

    These fools exist because the general public pays little attention to SBOE “down ballot” candidates EXCEPT the Christianist Taliban with instructions from their madrasas to vote in blocks for them. MOAR PUBLICITY and shame on the voters is the only tactic that will work.

  15. Geek Goddess

    At least McLeroy lost the primary and will be gone soon.

  16. bwhancock – are you actually defending McCarthy? The man had his opinions, and he was welcome to them. However, what he used his power to do is typically reserved for despots, tyrants, and dictators, and certainly not in the USA.

    Thank goodness for people like Edward R. Murrow and Hank Greenspun who took that demagogue down.

    I worry that, even today, something like his idiocy could occur, although I’d like to think we’ve gotten smarter as a nation, as long as you exclude Texas.

    And yeah, you can take that as a condemnation of the entire state if you want, or at least 66.7% of it. Those are the people represented by the the ten on the BOE, lead by the loon McLeroy, who voted as they did – against everything this country stands for.

    I know I’m supposed to be civil, but sometimes it just isn’t possible. In addition, when it’s not possible to be civil, it’s not always a good idea to keep my mouth shut, because I can’t allow the idiots to win.

    I sure am glad my little brother feels the same way and has the bully pulpit to speak his mind from!

  17. when he speaks all I can think of is Seth Galifianakis

  18. Katharine

    When will someone bring out the lions?

  19. I grew up in California. We had revisionist history there too. It was sectarian, but revisionist. We learned very little real history. The worst was English though. We mostly read what English Phd’s wrote, rather than literature – which was controversial and seemed off limits.

    I only began to get a real education in University. I finally learned we killed millions of American Indians. I finally learned about how dropping the bomb on the Japanese was only to stop Russia from continuing their Asian front. In fact, Nagasaki was destroyed because they did not surrender fast enough. I learned about Watergate… Watergate!

    You don’t need the religious right to ruin education. It can be destroyed by tax laws that turn education into a dumbed down system trying to graduate as many as possible at the lowest cost.

    I did learn to fear any teaching material produced by someone with a Doctorate of Education. As the great Robert Heinlein was famous for saying, it is the easiest doctorate to get.

  20. McCarthy was a political lowlife, but too often he’s directly associated with the House Unamerican Activities Committee, which of course makes no sense, because he was a Senator.

    I just want to point out there were plenty of other political lowlifes in Congress at the time.

  21. Kate

    I don’t disagree with the basic point about the BOE, but your tweets today were a little much. And you should probably stick to science if you think the Battle of the Alamo was against the Indians.

  22. This guy thinks that rich white men deserve the credit for granting women the right to vote and for equal rights? Yes, they “voted on” those items and approved them, but only after pushed for decades by woman/minorities.

    To use a comparison from the bible (which seems to be all he would understand), I guess Pharaoh is to be credited with freeing the Israelite slaves and the ten plagues were just incidental.

  23. Andrew

    Honest question, aside from Jefferson’s role in the enlightenment, did the school board actually *remove* anything from the curriculum?

    I was taught history in liberal as liberal gets Massachusetts and best the social studies classes were ones that were taught as a series of juxtapositions. Those juxtapositions aren’t just tokenism, or bias, but a means of understanding the context of the times. It’s hard to understand the fear and paranoia caused by McCarthy without understanding the theft of the atomic bomb secrets and the “loss” of China. You can argue (and you’d be right) that Lincoln transcended politics while Jeff Davis was merely an apologist for slavery, but to put them on the same page together would merely amount to doing what contemporary newspapers would have done. I don’t think Jefferson’s views on religion in government are in any way undermined by the inclusion of John Adam’s views on religion in government (The Massachusetts state constitution authored by Adams mentions God more than any other state constitution, and Mass had an established religion until 1833).

    My opinion is that the greatness of a lot of these figures speaks for themselves, what’s wrong with adding the opposing contemporary views? Even if those views are “wrong” (and believe me, some of them are *wrong,* John C. Calhoun comes to mind) we ought to be careful we’re not just pushing out myth or hagiography.

    I understand that there are a lot of scientifically minded people on this blog (I consider myself to be one of them) and science is a realm where “teaching the controversy” is rightly shunned. But social studies is essentially the study of conflict, if you didn’t teach the controversy you’d have nothing to teach.

  24. @bwhancock
    The minority and some of the majority rise up to demand equal rights – by marching, protesting, and dying to make their cause known – and you want to congratulate the same majority that were responsible for the oppression they were fighting against? It’s like thanking a bully after he decides that punching you is making his arm tired.

  25. Astrofiend

    I wonder how long it will be before Don McLeroy gets caught soliciting underage homeless boys for sex while injecting crack into his eyeball.

    All these far-right zealots turn out to be sexually repressed power junkies.

  26. Today’s equivalent of communists in the 1950s US would be embedded Al Qaeda.

    Looking at the gyrations TSA puts Americans through today, McCarthy’s accusations resulted in nothing of consequence.

    I gather our trying to ferret out suicide bombers doesn’t pass the litmus test of a sophisticated American today.

  27. Brian

    And shame on us if we fail to learn from our own history, less than a lifetime ago.

  28. McCarthy died as he deserved: Drunk and disgraced. He put this country through a nightmare of insane and unfounded paranoia. To see people try to establish a rebirth of this fool’s ideology of ignorance is to see people who are the very definition of UnAmerican.

  29. tacitus

    He engendered fear and suspicion, a paranoia and chilling climate from which it took years to recover.

    Sad to say, given the amount of fear, suspicion, and paranoia the Tea Party-goers and other far right organizations have expended on Barack Obama and his secret Marxist/socialist/fascist revolution/jihad, I would be tempted to say that there is sizable portion of America yet to recover from the damage McCarthy inflicted on this country.

    The most ironic thing about this is that it’s always the “wishy-washy liberals” who are always being accused of being cowardly, weak and unpatriotic, but I have never seen a bigger bunch of yellow-bellied cry-babies who jump at the sight of their own shadow than the supposedly macho gun-toting right-wingers in this country. And if there is a group of Americans who has less confidence in the future of their country and their fellow citizens, I have yet to find them.

  30. @ Larian #1

    Common misconception: An insult is not an argument- it’s an insult. Enjoy it, there’s no adhominem. if you say that someone is wrong because they’re a slack-jawed loon- it would be ad hominem. You’re saying they’re wrong and are therefore slack-jawed loonies- so no fallacy there.

  31. NelC

    To quote Skarka’s Law: On the internet, there is no subject so vile or indefensible that someone won’t post positively or in defense of it.

  32. Anita

    Opposing the willfully ignorant could turn into a full time job, even if you limit your involvement to the arena of science. I want to thank you for your activities in this fight and say that I hope you can persuade many more people to jump in and help. It is chilling to think of the millions of children who will be subjected to ten years of these books because of this handful of wrongheaded fanatics.

  33. Charles Schmidt

    If other states accept the changes in the books they are as bad as he is. Just my two cents.

  34. The mockery of the Texas Board of “Education” is well deserved, but why isn’t anyone giving any grief to the text book publishers? Why are we giving them a free pass for simply expanding Texas’ idiocy to the rest of the country? If Texas has such a divergant view of education, maybe the text book publishers should start charging them extra? That will make them their money and spare everyone else.

  35. cgray

    Wow, it looks like all the compassionate, sophisticated, baby killing Democrats are out in force on this one. Have fun with your little circle jerk, and I’ll sleep comfortably knowing that Texas school children won’t be force fed a bunch of socialist propaganda.

  36. …It’s easier to sleep when it’s your own propaganda the kids are being force fed, I guess?

  37. Wow! Right on! Revisionism goes on all the time. I once received an email attributing comments made about a certain spacecraft and Mars made originally by VP Dan Quayle, but falsely attributed to Al Gore. I sent off a reply correcting the misconception with several references for the group to look up. I got kicked off the distribution list for that group. Hmm…oh well.

    On a side note: Here was a good post regarding autism-vaccination issue: Latest Ruling Against Autism-Vaccine Link

  38. Kate (#21): Um, you understood those tweets were supposed to be factually incorrect, right? Right?

  39. TMB

    The good news (if there is any) is that they’ve gone so far off the deep end on this, that the media is noticing. They might have been able to sneak it by if it weren’t for getting rid of Thomas Jefferson.

    [TMB]

  40. enlightenism

    Right on Phil. It is simply insane to attempt justifing McCarthy’s tactics in a democratic society.

  41. REALITY ISN’T “BALANCED”.

    Learn this or get the hell off my planet.

  42. John Sandlin

    @9 bwhancock:

    Sigh. “Shame on you” – really. This is what you article has devolved to? Shaming people.

    If they deserve shaming, they deserve it and someone ought to call them out for it. It isn’t devolving, it’s taking the next logical step. This is the same school board that is attempting to write Creationism, I mean Intelligent Design, into the curriculum. Shame on them.

    White people did fight for black and women’s rights to vote. If not, they would not be able to vote today.

    It took far too long to get enough white people to recognize the injustice being done – shame on the white people for not getting on the ball sooner and fixing the problem right away. There can be no pride of accomplishment, such as for enabling the rights of women and other minorities, if it was done by dragging the white men kicking and screaming into passing the appropriate amendments. So yeah, you can say that white people voted to enable those rights, but they are rights that should have been there from the beginning and they are rights that shouldn’t be begrudgingly approved. Today, still, there are white men that think giving minorities any rights was wrong and given the chance, they’d take them away. Just ask Fred Phelps.

    There were communists and spies in our government. How would you have gotten rid of them? Not have Senate hearings? Not have investigations?

    There were communists in the government? So? The US Constitution doesn’t make that illegal. How do you get rid of them? The same way we’re going to get rid of the Religious Right – by voting them out. The Senate hearings were a farce. The investigation was a farce. What’s next? Investigating Atheists for not believing in the Creator ? Perhaps you wish to investigate Muslims for not worshiping Christ?

  43. Tom

    To Everyone

    I have seen this battle of the right taking back history since at least 2000 (it has been around forever, but it is only in the last few years that they have started to make a splash in the media). The far right has been trying to rehabilitate Joe McCarthy, change Hitler into a leftist, down play the enlightenment, especially its influence on the founding of our country. They vilify FDR, and praise the conservative supreme court that found Roosevelt’s programs unconstitutional. They insist that the civil war was fought as a battle of economic dominance of the north and had nothing to do with slavery, and of course when dealing with Western Civilization history begins 6,000 years ago.

    I could go on, and on, but it is a lot of this BS that I have to deal with when teaching history and needless to say history professors have been asleep at the wheel, much like Scientist were in the early 80s when the creationists restarted their propaganda warfare. Only a handful of historians have taken on these issues. Most just ignore the problem thinking that it is just a few cranks, well, unfortunately enough of those cranks have gotten together and voted in a school board, that buys enough text books to screw not only Texas but the rest of us. Especially since California, is no longer buying books to balance things out.

  44. cmelin

    i am not defending mccarthy, but you can make an argument for a committee to investigate the state dept. under truman/eisenhower, what with lingering resentment from decades of commie hatred and a handful of state operatives with real soviet connections. yes, as soon as it started it was a moral train wreck and mccarthy was the last person that should have been put in charge of the committee, but the idea of the committee is not as objectionable as it is being made out here. again, mccarthy deserves every horrible thing said here and everywhere about him, but the committee can be justified seperate from mccarthy if it had been kept in the realm of the state dept.

    that said, texas is not trying to have a conversation about the relative merits of mccarthyism, so i in no way approve of their actions. i just want everyone to calm down and understand that discussion of mccarthyism rationally would be helpful to understand where one of history’s monsters gained his foothold.

  45. Hi,
    I’m Brazilian and crazy about science.
    I’d like to congratulate you for the very interesting contents of this blog.
    I have a science blog, written in Portuguese (soon it’ll have posts in English as well). Take a look at this link:

    http://imperativocientifico.blogspot.com/

    I hope we can change information, or develop a good “blogger” relationship. My e-mail address is: rtmatosribeiro@yahoo.com.br.
    How can I keep contact with you?
    Embraces,
    Rafael Tadeu de Matos Ribeiro – Brazil

  46. DaveS

    I think it would be most accurate to say that the minority convinces the majority to grant them rights. Usually after much pain and anguish by the minority. It’s almost never to the credit of the majority.

  47. jcm

    Yes, how magnanimous of the rich white men to allow women the vote, or to give the blacks equal rights!

    I couldn’t agree more. Also, I think, this pretty much sums up what it means to be a Compasionate ConservativeTM, a True ChristianTM and a True BelieverTM

    When one accepts Jusus ChristTM as one’s Lord and SaviorTM there is no need for caring about other people except Whites.

  48. Gonzo

    Talkin’ John Birch Paranoid Blues

    By Bob Dylan

    Well, I was feelin’ sad and feelin’ blue
    I didn’t know what in the world I wus gonna do
    Them Communists they wus comin’ around
    They wus in the air
    They wus on the ground
    They wouldn’t gimme no peace . . .

    So I run down most hurriedly
    And joined up with the John Birch Society
    I got me a secret membership card
    And started off a-walkin’ down the road
    Yee-hoo, I’m a real John Bircher now!
    Look out you Commies!

    Now we all agree with Hitler’s views
    Although he killed six million Jews
    It don’t matter too much that he was a Fascist
    At least you can’t say he was a Communist!
    That’s to say like if you got a cold you take a shot of malaria

    Well, I wus lookin’ everywhere for them gol-darned Reds
    I got up in the mornin’ ’n’ looked under my bed
    Looked in the sink, behind the door
    Looked in the glove compartment of my car
    Couldn’t find ’em . . .

    I wus lookin’ high an’ low for them Reds everywhere
    I wus lookin’ in the sink an’ underneath the chair
    I looked way up my chimney hole
    I even looked deep down inside my toilet bowl
    They got away . . .

    Well, I wus sittin’ home alone an’ started to sweat
    Figured they wus in my T.V. set
    Peeked behind the picture frame
    Got a shock from my feet, hittin’ right up in the brain
    Them Reds caused it!
    I know they did . . . them hard-core ones

    Well, I quit my job so I could work all alone
    Then I changed my name to Sherlock Holmes
    Followed some clues from my detective bag
    And discovered they wus red stripes on the American flag!
    That ol’ Betsy Ross . . .

    Well, I investigated all the books in the library
    Ninety percent of ’em gotta be burned away
    I investigated all the people that I knowed
    Ninety-eight percent of them gotta go
    The other two percent are fellow Birchers . . . just like me

    Now Eisenhower, he’s a Russian spy
    Lincoln, Jefferson and that Roosevelt guy
    To my knowledge there’s just one man
    That’s really a true American: George Lincoln Rockwell
    I know for a fact he hates Commies cus he picketed the movie Exodus

    Well, I fin’ly started thinkin’ straight
    When I run outa things to investigate
    Couldn’t imagine doin’ anything else
    So now I’m sittin’ home investigatin’ myself!
    Hope I don’t find out anything . . . hmm, great God!

  49. JCM, I totally disagree…they only care about middle class and above whites.

  50. He might be known for lowering the standards in Texas education.
    He thinks dinosaurs and people existed at the same time.
    His theory of relativity only applies to history.
    We know him as Don McLeroy.
    (sorry watching to much Top Gear lately.)

  51. Travis D

    I’d hate to break it to people but McCarthy actually accomplished very little. He was all impotent rage, sound and fury. Great at getting his soundbytes disseminated but not good at actually accomplishing anything. For all his rancor we never had concentration camps, execution pits or the mass slavery that epitomize what happens when true despots take power. That’s not to say he might not have had he had the opportunity but, as it happened, he didn’t. Thankfully the system corrected itself before things got too nutty.

    “I grew up in California. We had revisionist history there too. It was sectarian, but revisionist. We learned very little real history. The worst was English though. We mostly read what English Phd’s wrote, rather than literature – which was controversial and seemed off limits.

    I only began to get a real education in University. I finally learned we killed millions of American Indians.”

    You only learned of this in university? I went to school in California too and all we learned about the natives was that they were awesome and innocent and got slaughtered for no good reason. Turns out that too was a biased take on the matter.

    “I finally learned about how dropping the bomb on the Japanese was only to stop Russia from continuing their Asian front. In fact, Nagasaki was destroyed because they did not surrender fast enough.”

    What you learned was wrong. The bombs were dropped so that two worse options: 1)invasion or 2) prolonged embargo could be avoided. Read up on Operation Downfall.

    “I learned about Watergate… Watergate!”

    What school did you go to?

  52. Gonzo

    I understand that there are a lot of scientifically minded people on this blog (I consider myself to be one of them) and science is a realm where “teaching the controversy” is rightly shunned. But social studies is essentially the study of conflict, if you didn’t teach the controversy you’d have nothing to teach.

    I call BS on this BS. Do you advocate teaching that the Holocaust never happened? Because some would call that a controversial fact. More often than not there is an accepted historical consensus and that is generally what should be taught. Much revisionist history is highly damaging and incorrect. Not that it all is, but this teach the controversy BS is just that. I also have to take aim at the fact that you equate the teaching of history controversy, your word not mine, with how newspapers behave today. The press in America is in dire straits particularly because they report the “controversy”, not a good model to use in order to support your argument.

  53. cmelin

    gonzo, i think the point is that there is more inherent subjectivity to social studies, so a closer peak at how the sausage is made is called for. you still teach the most correct interpretation, but you put it in context. to use you example, you can state that some think the holocaust was faked, then show the mountain of evidence that disproves that position. instead of teaching the controversy its acknowledging the controversy then dismissing it on the merits. this isn’t what texas is doing, but that is why teaching conflicting viewpoints is a solid approach.

  54. Gonzo

    The comment I was addressing did not seem to be making that point, going so far as to declare that it was merely what newspapers do, the American media decidedly fails to put these “controversies” into any context at all, the commenter seemed to be advocating that this was a good way to go about things. Despite inherent subjectivity, there are still knowable facts and professional historians are better arbiters of those facts and the subjective unknowables of history than politicians, blog commenters, or assembly line textbook publishers will ever be. Teaching controversial facts is fine, in context, but as you said, this is not what Texas is doing, or going to do and it is not what most hard-right Christo-fascists want to see. I stand by my statement that most revisionist history is incorrect and damaging.

  55. Lawrence

    The problem with “teaching the controversy” is that the proponents don’t really want that – because they’d be laughed out of the classroom (and they don’t ever want to accept the fact that they are wrong, when shown the mountains of evidence against them & all they have is the Bible.)

    In the case of general education, correcting misrepresentations & adding new insights to our understanding of history (based on uncovered sources, research, etc) is a good thing.

    Ramming a certain political ideology down people’s throats is something else entirely. Have we gone so far, that common discourse is extinct & everything must be viewed in “black and white? – for us or against us?”

  56. Note that Arthur Miller’s The Crucible was written in direct response to McCarthyism. The original title was These Familiar Spirits. I don’t know why he changed the title. In any case, most Texans wouldn’t have noticed the pun.

  57. Erwin

    This is a big win for not-the-USA. Other countries now have an extra edge in the future. As long as they don’t screw up harder. Even in that case, the damage is less.

    I think anyone with a college education or higher, who learned a foreign language (i.e. not English), travelled outside the country or wears glasses might want to leave the country. Any reference to Pol Pot’s anti-intellectual revolutionary massacre is entirely coincidental. I recommend The Netherlands: we are crazy but we aren’t nuts.

  58. Len

    “Who am I, a dentist,
    To question the authority,
    of all the giant concensus.”

    I see hes a dab hand at the ol’ poetry too.

  59. Shame on them indeed. McCarthy was the one who was un-American.

    Thanks, good Dr. Plait!

  60. bwhancock

    Please don’t go all d hominem on me, where did I defend the actions of Joe McCarthy?

    I’m just asking questions and not the one “shaming” people. I would go back to a church to hear that kind of speak.

  61. bwhancock

    Actually, I think my problem is with the Bad Astronomer himself. . .

    He tweeted in favor of “mockery” here:

    “Sometimes, @ashpags, mockery is all anti-intellectual bleating deserves. It raises awareness while still putting it in its place.”

    And now he is shaming people.

    I guess that’s the “bad” part of Bad Astronomer. So it goes. I enjoyed his two books, but I want to read him for his science related stuff and not his political. I can find the rest of the internet for political opinion, but good science writing is hard to find.

    Hope everyone still enjoys it.

  62. Adam_Y

    “Please don’t go all d hominem on me, where did I defend the actions of Joe McCarthy?”

    Your very first post. As others have pointed out why did it matter if there were communists in our government?

  63. bwhancock

    I’ve only ever seen a George Clooney on Joe McCarthy and a few articles here and there, so I’m not in a liberty to defend or not defend Joe McCarthy, because I don’t know.

    I made the mistake of believing this is a science blog and didn’t expect to read articles about an alcoholic Senator from the 1950s.

    I personally do not think mockery and shaming raises the level of any type of discussion, be it politics or science.

  64. Art

    History is a pretty tough subject to teach comprehensively. History happens every day, and every day another story becomes expendable. I don’t think we should be made to forget about Thomas Jefferson because he was intellectual. I think we should celebrate characters with foresight and knowledge of reality and maybe go as far as to contrast them with figures of less savory character. The curriculum should be restructured from time to time, but I don’t support politicians of any affiliation deciding what should be taught in our schools.

  65. I’m not in a liberty to defend or not defend Joe McCarthy, because I don’t know.

    Then don’t speak! You have that option!You have the right to remain silent. This is the cause of too many problems in this country- people who don’t know anything feeling it’s sufficient qualification to involve themselves in the discussion.

    Exhibit A: Sarah Palin
    Exhibit B: Jenny McCarthy
    Exhibit C: George Will (have you seen some of the bald-face ignorance that flies out of his mouth on global warming?
    Exhibits D-Σ234: Virtually every dadgum* pundit and political commentator in this country.

    *Sometimes following Phil’s commenting policy is hard

  66. MarcusBailius

    Thankfuly, over here in the UK we didn’t have Joe McCarthy and we don’t have Don McLeroy…

    Phil is right; when a politician starts to apply dogma to the teaching of science (as in, which parts of science to approve the teaching of) or history (ditto), then really it’s time for scientists to jump up and down and shout. And mockery and sarcasm, have their place here: “One horse-laugh is worth ten thousand syllogisms”, or however the quote goes.

    …One might point out, that an object lesson in the effects of allowing political dogma to overrule good science teaching and research, is available from the mid-twentieth Century Soviet Union: Just look up Lysenko. He effectively destroyed genetics as a science there. As a result of his ignorance and political manoeuvrings, (a) many scientists were forced out of work or worse, and (b) tens of millions of people died from famine in the Soviet Union and in China.

    It has to be possible that allowing McLeroy and his type to get their way, might lead to similar problems in science in the USA… Which might be (in the short term) highly beneficial for science elsewhere, but you guys really don’t want that!

  67. bwhancock

    @The Chemist

    I was just responding to a blog post on an open forum on the Internet. Forgive me for not reading his “commenting policy”, not going to spend time reading it at this point.

    Fair enough, my voice shall never be heard again on this board, because you have to be fullyt qualified to take part in any discussion I guess.

    Good night and Good Luck.

  68. bwhancock

    @The Chemist

    I was just responding to a blog post on an open forum on the Internet. Forgive me for not reading his “commenting policy”, not going to spend time reading it at this point.

    Fair enough, my voice shall never be heard again on this board, because you have to be fullyt qualified to take part in any discussion I guess.

    Good night and Good Luck.

  69. @cmelin

    The problem with “acknowledging the controversy then dismissing it on the merits” is that classes have limited time. They can’t go about bringing up every crackpot theory around only to show all the evidence proving it wrong. You could probably take up an entire semester with just the various Moon Landing Hoax stories alone.

    What would happen instead of “dismissing it” is that the crackpot theory would be brought up as “some people believe X” and then the class would move on to the next topic. This is the wedge that folks like Creationists (oops, Intelligent Design-ists) want to push into our schools.

    First, you teach that “some people believe in Crackpot Theory X instead of Scientific Theory or Historical Fact Y.” Next, with X’s foot in the door, you insist on more time for X. (Easier now that it is actually part of the curriculum. ) Eventually, you get equal time. As time goes on, it becomes easier and easier to water down the teaching of the scientific theory or historical fact. Eventually, long-term, you can have the scientific theory or historical fact tossed out as the “crackpot theory that nobody believes in.” (That’s the long term goal, though they won’t publicly admit it.)

  70. Timmy

    One of the worst things the “Moral Majority” has done has been to drag religion all the way over to the right. They have forced religion into a political issue and in the process have caused so much hatred and distrust that a lot of liberals won’t discuss it or go anywhere near a church.
    Please remember that there are historians, physicists, and archaeologists out there that go to church and find ways to reconcile their religious beliefs with their critical analysis of the world.

    You can believe in dinosaurs and God.

  71. Mike Mullen

    What we have in the UK is the National Curriculum set down by government ministers, with schools being monitored on performance and potentially taken out of the hands of the local authorities if they consistently fail. But I’m guessing the kind of people supporting the Texas BOE wouldn’t be thrilled by the Obama administration setting down national school standards…

  72. JohnW

    I don’t really want to defend McCarthy, because I don’t like what he did, but there is context and nuance to be taken into account. Which I thought liberals prided themselves on.

    While being a communist isn’t a crime, it’s not a crime to be a Nazi or a member of the Ku Klux Klan, either, but that doesn’t mean you want them in the government, or holding prominent positions in society. There are cases of this, like Sen Robert Byrd (D-WV), who was an Exalted Cyclops in the Klan, yet was selected as Senate Majority Leader in the late 80′s. Which is pretty outrageous. If you’re twisted enough in the brain to subscribe to any of these political philosophies, you pretty much deserve to be shunned from public life.

    And the two big problems with the US communists were 1, they advocated the violent overthrow of the US Government, and 2, they spied for Moscow. You can consider someone unreliable and not fit to work in the State Department without necessarily trying them for treason.

    Just saying, “McCarthyism bad! Fire bad!” feels good, but doesn’t really tell the whole story. I happen to really admire (General) Jimmy Stewart and Elia Kazan for taking a stand against the commie bastards in Hollywood.

    I wonder if the new educational standards will talk about how the Democrats started the Ku Klux Klan and implemented segregation? Zing!

  73. csrster

    What you have in Britain is Michael Gove promising that under the Tories history will consist of learning a list of Kings and Queens of England, and mathematics will be whatever Carol Vordermann says it is. Still, not as bad as Texas mind you.

  74. JohnW

    Oh, and McCarty doesn’t even hold a candle to Wilson and the Palmer raids! That was some scary s%$t!

  75. Dan I.

    On the McCarthy issue, I remember that when “Good Night and Good Luck” came out there were actually complaints about the portrayal of McCarthy.

    People were completely turned off by the “outlandish” and “totally non-realistic” portrayal of the Senator and complained.

    Then they found out that there was NO “portrayal” of McCarthy. It was all file footage of the ACTUAL GUY.

    So yes, he really was that kooky.

  76. Tinaa

    I’m quite horrified. I voted against another crazy, Ken Mercer. My candidate lost.

  77. This is a big win for not-the-USA.

    No, it isn’t. The zeroth order description of life on Earth is not ‘Competition’. An inward-looking, backward, ill-educated and nuclear-armed USA is not in the interest of the rest of us.

    Like it or not, the future prosperity of the world depends on the global implementation of cap-and-trade, proper restraint of the financial industry, and the recognition that economic growth is optimised in the long term by low inequality. The attitude of the USA makes a big difference to all of those, and what the Texas SBOE is doing isn’t helping.

  78. MartinM

    While being a communist isn’t a crime, it’s not a crime to be a Nazi or a member of the Ku Klux Klan, either, but that doesn’t mean you want them in the government…

    Then don’t vote for them. Like it or not, people with despicable ideologies have the same rights you do. That means no witch hunts.

  79. JohnW

    MartinM – How can I not vote for a guy in the State Department? When do they hold those elections?

  80. QuietDesperation

    You can believe in dinosaurs and God.

    Can I believe in awesome dinosaur gods? :-)

    Did McCarthy call his critics “deniers” by any chance? Just wondering.

    Hey! I’m teasing! Calm down! Just tossin’ a little firebomb out there for funsies.

    Can’t we all just get along… and pile on Sean Penn?

  81. @bwhancock

    Actually, I was referring to Phil’s policy against swearing (hence my rather clumsy use of the word “dadgum”.)

    Though if you think I’m going to beg you to come back to the discussion, you’re sorely mistaken. Good-bye and good riddance.

  82. Chris

    I’m starting to feel we should just let the kids read Wikipedia. There are more checks and balances on that than there is in deciding the textbooks.

  83. T_U_T

    There are more checks and balances on that than there is in deciding the textbooks.

    Only as long, as the wikipedia is not used as a text book. Then it would be infiltrated and subverted or destroyed like just everything that stands in their way to theocracy.

  84. JohnW

    Can I believe in awesome dinosaur gods?

    Did McCarthy call his critics “deniers” by any chance? Just wondering.

    Hey! I’m teasing! Calm down! Just tossin’ a little firebomb out there for funsies.

    Can’t we all just get along… and pile on Sean Penn?

    Deniosaurs?

  85. James

    Sorry if this is a little off topic but I just went to that ABC link looking for the story… and I just had to say something. Is that a ‘real’ news site? I’m shocked at how unbelivably c**p the stories are. I feel truly sorry for Americans, I really do. In the UK we have unbiast news reporting from the likes of channel 4 and to some extent the BBC.

  86. Big Fat Earl

    . Like it or not, people with despicable ideologies have the same rights you do.

    “Have” does not equal “should have”. The biggest flaw is that our so-called freedom does not instill people with the responsibility to act wisely with that freedom. Those with destructive ideologies, whether it be communism, religious fundamentalism, or racism, should not have the freedom to destroy our society by expressing their so-called “beliefs”.

  87. Pieter Kok

    Big Fat Earl, education should take care of that. Oh wait…

  88. Matt C.

    @ Big Fat Earl #90

    Remember though that those groups are minorities. They only have the power to influence our society when the majority of rational people do nothing. This sounds like it was the case in Texas: most people don’t pay attention to who is on the SBOE, so the fundamentalist Christians turn up in disproportionate numbers to vote and end up getting over-representation of their opinion in policy making.

    They absolutely should have equal rights, and I don’t think it is right to suggest otherwise. The rest of us just have to remain Eternally Vigilant (as Phil likes to say) to prevent them from influencing society to such a degree with their blind fundamentalism.

  89. QuietDesperation

    JohnW Says: Deniosaurs?

    Ha! Well played, sir!

    Big Fat Earl said: Those with destructive ideologies, whether it be communism, religious fundamentalism, or racism, should not have the freedom to destroy our society by expressing their so-called “beliefs”.

    Wow!

    OK, so does “Big Fat Earl” decide how many hit points of societal destruction my speech has for me? Are you the Dungeon Master for this little game? Watch out for my +6 mace of abortion opinion! How does any expression “destroy society” exactly? People like you make me want to go Photoshop up some subversive posters and start putting them up in public places.

    Was Chris Savido’s “Bush Monkey’s” painting destructive? How about the anonymous Obama as The Joker image that went viral here in Los Angeles? There are some who’d say those painting were destructive and undermined our society.

    Suppose I consider *your* ideology to restrict the speech of others to be destructive. To quote Psycho from the movies Stripes: “You just made the list, buddy.”

  90. Darth Robo

    (repeated from the other thread)

    Beware teh Commies, teh Commies are coming! OH NOES!!!

    Who ever said that Cold War paranoia isn’t alive and well in 21st century America?

  91. Ssurell

    THe more of this nonsense I read about Texas the more I want them to secede from the U.S.A.

  92. kirk

    Here is an update from the Texas Tribune — More exposure = fewer lunatics!

    http://www.texastribune.org/stories/2010/mar/15/sound-without-fury/

    “”The enemy in large force is in sight… We want men and provisions … Send them to us. We have 150 men & are determined to defend the Alamo to the last.”

  93. Effacement of history continues apace in the United States, and it is our collective responsibility as concerned citizens to prevent this from occurring. As a professor of English and film at Texas State University, I see the deterioration of our educational system firsthand. I am running for the State Board of Education in District 5, Texas, against Ken Mercer, one of the right-wing board members, to restore common sense to the process of educating young people in Texas.

    Extremist members of the elected, non-paid State Board of Education have hijacked textbook selection and curriculum requirements for future generations of Texas school children, censoring the information they receive in both subtle and blatant ways. For example, these extremists do not accept the concept of separation of church and state. Therefore, because the phrase “separation of church and state” appears in an 1802 letter from Thomas Jefferson to the Danbury Baptists, in which Jefferson explained the relationship between the Establishment Clause and the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment, the board excluded him from the discussion of his influence on Enlightenment thought.

    The board also censored any discussion of the 14th amendment and Article 6 of the United States Constitution, which stipulates that “no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.” Public school teachers, entrusted with the education of our children in Texas, are required to follow the curriculum set by the State Board of Education. This board’s requirement to teach that the United States is a Christian nation violates the 14th amendment.

    They eliminated any references to our form of government as a “democracy,” because they want to obliterate the influence of Democrats. The rejected discussion of distinctions between sex and gender, and they eliminated Freud from the history of psychology. The list goes on and on.

    As concerned citizens, we must resist such extreme partisan and ideological efforts to weaken the curriculum and brainwash our children. Such a huge number of sweeping changes and omissions cannot be justified by saying that this is simply a correction of the excessive influence of liberals on the curriculum.

    Let us hear more from the voices of reason, from people all over the nation who respect education, research, teachers, and common sense. I call on you to pay attention to what is happening to education in Texas, because it may happen in your state in the near future. It’s not too late to turn this trend around, but we must act now to marginalize political and ideological extremists and return the Texas State Board of Education to its proper mission of educating students.
    Rebecca Bell-Metereau
    Candidate for Texas State Board of Education District 5

  94. Betsy

    The shame of this is galling for those of us who live in Texas. Frankly it is hard for us to take in. And NO I did NOT elect these people, but the wingnuts around me did.
    There was a scathing editorial in our newspaper today on this. I was glad to see it, but am losing hope that in this cycle of history any kind of common sense can win.
    However, there is one bright side. From what I remember, I don’t think I actually remembered anything of the history I learned ins school, just regurgitated it on the test. (LOL) I learned most of it much later, so we can hope that sensible teachers and insensible students will nullify some of this stupidity.

  95. NewReader

    Phil, that wasn’t a very good video to link to. Honestly after reading your previous post and now this one, the video doesn’t paint McLeroy in as bad a light as it should. ABC went soft on him.

  96. Travis D

    Maybe, and I’m just throwing this out there, the problem is that we have people in charge of the education curriculum that are elected. Isn’t that pretty much just asking for it to become the product of populism?

  97. Gonzo

    While being a communist isn’t a crime, it’s not a crime to be a Nazi or a member of the Ku Klux Klan, either, but that doesn’t mean you want them in the government, or holding prominent positions in society.

    And the two big problems with the US communists were 1, they advocated the violent overthrow of the US Government, and 2, they spied for Moscow.

    This is nonsense to the highest degree. First you compare Communists to Nazis and members of the KKK. So different as to not even be in the same universe, there really is no comparison and then you make a blanket statement about all U.S. Communists based on what seems to be your assumptions about Communists. Yes there was a Cold War on, but no that doesn’t mean all Communists were spies and advocates of violent overthrow of the U.S. government. That never mattered to the McCarthy types though, I’m sure the Senator would have enjoyed having you on his staff. Your comment is so full of fallacious reasoning that I couldn’t help but respond.

  98. Dean

    I think we have a good argument to support the inclusion of Alchemy in textbooks to balance the “biased” presentation on Chemistry.

    What? You object that Chemistry is a Science, and so is invulnerable to this sort of assault?

    Think again. Everything is up for grabs. The Ultra-Conservative Right has known this for years, and has been focusing on it “like a laser beam.” That’s why the “old standards” in education are successfully being effectively recast “in the image of the Lord”… Because We let it happen.

    Texas standards of education… That’s just the wedge… Do not *only* focus on the trees, although the trees definitely need attention… Remember the forest too…

  99. Erwin

    #81 vagueofgodalming

    I agree. I failed to get the sarcasm across, I thought I was over the top enough to have done so. I’ll take it a bit further next time ;-)

    Even if this was an isolated matter with not the slightest effect on the world, it bothers me out of principle. People everywhere have a right to decent education. I don’t think I stretch it very far to say children’s rights (to good education) are being trampled by the egos of a few ingnorant self-righteous bastards trying to score brownie points with their imaginary overlord, whom, if I read their manual correctly, they fear.

  100. JohnW

    Gozno said:
    This is nonsense to the highest degree. First you compare Communists to Nazis and members of the KKK. So different as to not even be in the same universe, there really is no comparison and then you make a blanket statement about all U.S. Communists based on what seems to be your assumptions about Communists. Yes there was a Cold War on, but no that doesn’t mean all Communists were spies and advocates of violent overthrow of the U.S. government. That never mattered to the McCarthy types though, I’m sure the Senator would have enjoyed having you on his staff. Your comment is so full of fallacious reasoning that I couldn’t help but respond.

    You’re right, it is different – the communists were/are orders of magnitude worse! 100 million dead and counting!

    I grouped them together because they are all pretty good signs that the believer is demented and has no place being in a position of authority in any government.

  101. Talk of the Nation is doing a segment on the Texas Board of Education today (March 16th). They will post the audio on their web site later today.

    http://www.npr.org/templates/rundowns/rundown.php?prgId=5

  102. Daniel J. Andrews

    The Chemist said in response to the italicized portion

    I’m not in a liberty to defend or not defend Joe McCarthy, because I don’t know.

    Then don’t speak! You have that option!You have the right to remain silent. This is the cause of too many problems in this country- people who don’t know anything feeling it’s sufficient qualification to involve themselves in the discussion.

    Insert a whole array of applauding hands here. In some areas, everyone’s opinion is mostly valid to some degree or other. However, many people think their opinion is equally valid in more science or evidence-based fields even when they do not know anything about the subject matter.

    Even worse are those suffering from Dunning-Kruger Syndrome. They think they`re competent as they say, “I’ve done a lot of research….”, which usually means, “I’ve only consulted sources that agree with what I already believe…”, and by `research`, they mean, “Read a newspaper article”, or “Watched Faux News”. They now have the delusion they’re qualified to speak. This means they`ll try and impose their views politically, suppress opposing views through litigation or harassment, and push for `balance` in the classrooms.

  103. Jeff

    Moron!!! stick to pulling teeth.

    The problem with introducing creationism, creation science, and intelligent design into the science curriculum is simply this: they are not scientific: they have no lawlike statements, they are untestable, and to the extent that they make statements like the earth is 10,000 years old, they are false!!

  104. Kim

    {Quote “JohnW Says:
    March 16th, 2010 at 11:46 am
    Gozno said:
    This is nonsense to the highest degree. First you compare Communists to Nazis and members of the KKK. So different as to not even be in the same universe, there really is no comparison and then you make a blanket statement about all U.S. Communists based on what seems to be your assumptions about Communists. Yes there was a Cold War on, but no that doesn’t mean all Communists were spies and advocates of violent overthrow of the U.S. government. That never mattered to the McCarthy types though, I’m sure the Senator would have enjoyed having you on his staff. Your comment is so full of fallacious reasoning that I couldn’t help but respond.

    You’re right, it is different – the communists were/are orders of magnitude worse! 100 million dead and counting!

    I grouped them together because they are all pretty good signs that the believer is demented and has no place being in a position of authority in any government.}
    ****
    You are confusing the political ideal/viewpoint that is communism with the Soviet Union’s actions. Very different. There have been all sorts of leaders with all sorts of ideals that have had purges and massacres. Communism isn’t even what Stalin and the high leaders of the USSR were following anyways. They had luxuries, privileges and power that the normal citizen never had. Would you say that since the Tzars of the Russian Empire perpetrated attrocities that all monarchies are evil and therefore the king of Sweden ought to be driven from power?

  105. Sean H

    @Erwin:

    If I leave my country because of some loony-bins then I’m a coward and don’t deserve to be called an American. I’ll stay and fight the craziness thank you very much.

  106. Darth Robo

    >>>”Communism isn’t even what Stalin and the high leaders of the USSR were following anyways. They had luxuries, privileges and power that the normal citizen never had. Would you say that since the Tzars of the Russian Empire perpetrated attrocities that all monarchies are evil and therefore the king of Sweden ought to be driven from power?”

    Or that all Christians are evil because Hitler was evil? Yuppers, that one’s often referred to Godwin’s law. Which I think should be expanded to include the “evil Commies!” too.

  107. Izaya

    Gee Phil, maybe you should look into actual changes before piling on with the rest of the liberal press. Most of what I see in the media is alarmist BS, either interpreting the changes in the least favorable possible light, or getting it completely wrong.

    Let’s take McCarthy. I agree McCarthy deserves all the condemnation, but looking at the ACTUAL TEXT of the SBoE curriculum:

    “describe how McCarthyism, the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC), the arms race, and the space race increased Cold War tensions *and how the later release of the Venona Papers confirmed suspicions of communist infiltration in U.S. government*”

    The part between *’s was added by the board. So, tell me, how is that added text “defending” McCarthyism? Sure you could interpret it that way in a stretch, or guess what, it can also be interpreted as being just one more topic as part of this section. Defending McCarthy? Please.

    Let’s see. It’s been reported that country music was added and hip-hop was dropped in the cultural section. Wrong. Country was added, but the proposal to drop hip-hop was voted down. Just more alarmist BS reporting in the media.

    Finally, everyone keeps saying that history has been revised. OK, show me one instance where historical facts have been changed to something false (actual text please, not some media or liberal website’s rantings of what they think is meant). Reading your blog and all the media reports (where apparently you are getting your information second hand), you would think the far right contingent is completely in charge of the entire text of the standards. This is utter garbage. Please read the text for yourself. We can argue about interpretations and who to mention or not mention, but that’s all it is, not some right wing conspiracy to completely re-write history.

  108. Billy Bob

    With all respect, I don’t think Senator McCarthy’s influence has left the States. I think the distrust and paranoia he engendered has been fermenting ever since.

  109. Darth Robo

    Hey Izaya, perhaps you missed the part where it was mentioned that McElroy has been attempting to force Creationism into public schools and has been for years? Perhaps you missed the part where the Creationists have attempted to do this for years in numerous states across the country? Perhaps you missed the part when it cost one school board a court bill for a mere million bucks? Perhaps you missed the part where what goes into the Texas textbooks affects the country for the next ten years?

    Or we could just forget about that and turn it into a “lefty” vs “righty” argument instead.

  110. Markle

    I forgot to watch this when it was on Nightline’s front page. Since it was somewhat difficult to find and for the benefit of others in the same situation, here’s the direct link as it exists now 2 weeks out. http://abcnews.go.com/Nightline/video/texas-textbook-controversy-10080731

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