Last month, I wrote about the Texas State Board of Education debating the adoption of textbook supplements, some of which had creationist material. As I wrote then, those materials, after much argument, were rejected. Yay!
However, the story wasn’t quite done. One of the pro-science supplements was still being held up by a creationist on the Texas BoE, who obviously didn’t care for the way evolution was being portrayed… that is, accurately.
The good news is that as of last week, that final supplement has been approved! The creationist’s complaints about the supplement have been determined to have been "sufficiently addressed" by the publisher. In fact, the supplement now supports evolution even more strongly. I took a look at the complaints made and the publisher’s response (PDF): it’s actually a thing of beauty. Where the complaints were minor wording issues, the changes were made. When the creationists made more substantive complaints, talking about the fossil record or genetic differences between humans and chimps, the publisher either did not make changes to weaken the science, or did change the wording to make an even stronger case for evolution!
Fantastic! And this is an important distinction: it’s not just a win for science, it’s a defeat for those who would try to undermine it.
So, once again, I get to use a graphic I hope I can continue to use in the future:
Still… a gentle reminder of why this battle took so long and had to be fought so hard by scientists, educators, and parents who supported science: the head of the BoE for many years was Don McLeroy, a staunch creationist whose disdain for actual science and evidence-based reality was palpable (read through the links in the Related Posts section below, especially this one). And who appointed him to this position? Texas Governor and now Presidential candidate Rick Perry.
Note that in 2010, when McLeroy’s tenure was up, Perry considered another creationist for the position, eventually appointed a third creationist, and when her appointment was up he appointed a fourth creationist, Barbara Cargill. To head the State Board of Education.
Some great news out of the Lone Star State: the Texas State Board of Education unanimously rejected creationist supplements to textbooks, instead voting to endorse science-based ones.
These supplements are for students to use in classrooms in addition to their textbooks. A passel of creationist ones had been submitted for approval by the BoE back in April by a creationist special interest group, as well as materials based on science submitted by mainstream publishers. Last week, the BoE voted on which to use, and science won.
The links above go to the National Center for Science Education. They are a group that fought valiantly for the science-based materials, which is clearly why they won the day; they greatly outnumbered witnesses for creationism. Clearly, showing up is half the battle. At least. My congratulations to everyone at the NCSE for this victory.
Josh Rosenau, who writes the Thoughts from Kansas blog and was one of the people at the Texas hearings, has written about this debate in detail (including earlier posts here, and here) if you’re looking for more info from an insider’s viewpoint.
So, because of this, I am happy to create this new graphic:
I hope I have many, many more chances to use it in the future.
Over the past few years a majority of members of the Texas State Board of Education have done pretty much everything they can to destroy accurate standards of learning for Texas school children. They’ve been sabotaging science, history, and social studies, and doing a pretty thorough job of it.
At the helm for most of that time was Don McLeroy, an avowed young-Earth creationist who has been tireless in trying to insert his own narrow view of the world into the Texas textbooks. And this is no local problem; the books Texas chooses can affect other states as well.
I was contacted by Vijay Dewan, who is working on a documentary about this. He and his team have 200 hours of footage, and they’re looking for funding to get a good editor for it. To do this, they’ve got a Kick Starter campaign set up to raise the money to complete the documentary. They’ve put together a trailer video which you can see on the Kick Starter site, and you can watch here:
I for one would very much like to see it completed. They don’t need a whole lot of money to get to their goal, either; they’re already 75% of the way to their target of $10,000. So please help spread the word, and maybe the educational disaster that McLeroy and the Texas BoE created can have a light shone on it so that it can be seen by people all across this country.
Let’s get this straight right off the bat: young-Earth creationism is wrong. It’s the wrongiest wrongness in the history of wrongitude. We know for rock-solid fact the Earth and the Universe are billions of years old, not thousands. Also, it’s illegal — unconstitutional, even — to teach creationism as anything other than myth in public schools, since it’s religion.
So you just know that reading an op-ed from Don McLeroy — an evangelistic creationist who was (was, thank heavens) the head of the Texas State Board of Education — trying to defend and spin the BoE’s insertion of religion and far-right rhetoric into the state standards is going to be head-explodey.
And it is.
Mind you, this is the one and the same Texas BoE that has been fighting teaching kids about evolution tooth and nail, which downplayed the Big Bang theory, which took Thomas Jefferson out of the standards, which praised Joseph McCarthy, which screwed up the state standards so massively California issued a warning that it would be looking at what Texas is doing to textbooks very carefully. The very same BoE that had the gall to pass a resolution condemning textbooks they perceived as pro-Muslim while ramming fundamentalist religion into those same textbooks.
Ah, memories. I wrote a synopsis on all the damage this BoE has done, if your brain can stand it.
So anyway, reading McLeroy’s apologetics in the op-ed is astounding. Before he even starts, the nonsense and spin begins; the headline is "McLeroy: The State Board of Education’s standards should make Texans proud". Yeah.
OK, here’s a fun sample of what McLeroy says:
After the unpleasantness with the Texas State Board of Education, I think we could all use a Caturday palate cleanser. So here is my cat playing with the drawstring from my hoodie:
Adorable. And it’s good to know she hasn’t let her fame go to her head.
As I wrote a couple of days ago, the Texas State Board of Education was considering a resolution condemning textbooks they perceived as having a pro-Islam, anti-Christian slant. As I also pointed out, this is the very same BoE that has been removing science from the state standards and replacing it with provably wrong ideas: creationism, anti-evolution, downplaying the Big Bang model of the Universe, and so on.
Friday, they voted to pass the resolution. So this fervently fundamentalist majority on the BoE has said they don’t like it when a religion tries to wedge itself into a textbook. As long as it isn’t their religion, of course.
So congratulations, Texas Board of Education, you have once again managed to make yourselves, and, sadly, the rest of America, look foolish in the eyes of the entire world.
In case you think I’m being unfair, here is what a moderate Board member said:
"This resolution just seems senseless," said board member Rick Agosto, of San Antonio. "It makes this board look like we’re cuckoo, which we are."
By the way, Board member Lawrence Allen, Jr., of Houston, is Muslim.
I will point out once again that two women are running for seats on the Board who are actually qualified in the field of education and understand what is actually needed when it comes to BoE business. The conservative majority on the Texas BoE are hell-bent on destroying the education of the children in that state. Hopefully it’s not too late to stop them. I’ll note this ridiculous resolution passed by a 7-6 vote. If one member — one member — of the Board of Education’s majority had been replaced by someone more moderate, the vote would’ve gone down a far more reality-based path.
Tip o’ the ten gallon hat to Ian Young.
I cannot fathom how the members of the Texas State Board of Education can continue to surprise me with their complete and utter disregard for reality, yet here we are: they’re complaining about a pro-Islam bias in textbooks.
Yes, the same people who try to wedge the Bible into science textbooks, want to teach creationism, want to downplay evolution, want to eradicate the Big Bang, and want to downplay the Constitutional clause establishing separation of Church and State, are worried about someone trying to force their religion into the textbooks.
Sorry. That was my irony gland turning into antimatter and exploding outward at the speed of light.
Without any apparent sense of self-awareness, Randy Rives, who wrote a resolution to the BoE condemning the textbooks, said,
"If you can control or influence our education system, you can start taking over the minds of the young people," Mr. Rives said. "And so I think we are real passionate that you need to make a bold statement to the publishers that pushing this agenda will not be tolerated in Texas."
Taking over the minds of young people? Heaven forbid.
I suppose I should point out that even if this is true, and pro-Islam statements are being put into textbooks, the answer is not to replace them with pro-Christianity statements. I would think this would be obvious, but when it comes to human behavior I think lots of stuff that turns out not to be correct.
[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.