Bronze-level articleTexas Board of Education

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The divine comedy


Icon creationism.svg
Running gags
Jokes aside
Blooper reel
Somebody's gotta stand up to experts.
—Don McLeroy, chairman of the Board, 2007-09

The Texas Board of Education (TBoE) is a branch of the Texas Education Agency. The board approves textbooks for public schools across Texas, and is known for, shall we say, trying to give public textbooks a more conservative oriented slant, including a heightened focus on religion and academic freedom. As such, TBoE is a major player in the culture war.


[edit] Why it matters

Not only does the Board of Education determine (in practice: micromanage) the content of textbooks used in public schools throughout Texas; since the Texas public school system is such an important customer for publishers of textbooks, standards adopted in Texas are likely to affect the contents of textbooks used throughout the US. Texas is the nation's second-largest textbook market, and as opposed to the situation in most states, where textbook selections are left to the whims of local districts, the Texas textbook selection is determined centrally. It has been said that "publishers will do whatever it takes to get on the Texas list."[1]

[edit] The Texas Education Agency and the Board of Education

The Texas Education Agency is the branch of the state government of Texas responsible for public education. Or whatever you call what they do in Texas.

In 2007, Christine Comer resigned as the director of the science curriculum after pressure from officials, who claimed that she had given the appearance of criticizing the teaching of intelligent design and for promoting evolution.[2] Which she in fact had, as she should. The move came shortly after Comer had forwarded an e-mail message announcing a presentation by Barbara Forrest, author of “Creationism’s Trojan Horse”, which argues that creationist politics are behind the movement to get intelligent design taught in public schools

[edit] The Board of Education

The State Board of Education oversees the TEA, and consists of 15 members elected from single-member districts for four years. The board devises policies and sets academic standards for Texas public schools as well as oversees the $17.5 billion Permanent School Fund and selects textbooks for Texas' 4.7 million schoolchildren. The Board has a long story of being riddled with wingnuts, creationists, and worse, and the curriculum decision processes have frequently been dominated by rabid, loud, wingnut lunacy.

Perhaps the most famous and bizarre series of events took place in 2009-10, when the TBoE received criticism from more than fifty scientific organizations over an attempt to weaken science standards on evolution.[3] At the time the board also decided to purge Thomas Jefferson from the History Standards, focusing instead on “Enlightenment thinkers” with a more obvious religious point of view. In addition they removed anything that could be construed as a negative portrayal of Joseph McCarthy.[4] The Board of Education were aptly described as “drafting its own version of American history”,[5] including altering school textbooks to remove what the wingnuts conceived of as “left leaning bias” and making changes that assumed a less liberal view of religion and race. Other examples of wingnuttery include downplaying Abraham Lincoln's role in the American Civil War and putting a more heroic light on Confederate leader Jefferson Davis; questioning the African American Civil Rights Movement and downplaying Martin Luther King Jr.'s legacy, downplaying slavery in American history, and putting more emphasis on the states rights cause during the Civil War.

Central wingnut members of the last decade include:

  • Rick Agosto, Democrat for District 3 and notable loose cannon who often voted with the wingnuts. Served 2006-2010.
  • Barbara Cargill, District 8, 2005-d.d., Chairman 2011-d.d.
  • Cynthia Dunbar, served 2007-2011
  • Terri Leo,[6] District 6, 2002-d.d., Chairman of the Instruction Committee, 2011-d.d. (will not seek reelection in 2012[7])
  • Gail Lowe, served 2002-2011, Chairman 2009-2011
  • Don McLeroy, served 1998-2011, Chairman 2007-2009
  • Ken Mercer,[8] 2006-d.d. Vice-chair of the Instruction Committee

[edit] War on facts

I think what we're doing is destroying America's soul in science.
—Don McLeroy, chairman of the board, on his desire to challenge the teaching of evolution in science classes[9]

Efforts to censor and control Texas textbooks have been made for a long time, and by a variety of wingnut organizations and individuals (often members of the board). Although many of the efforts have been effectively combated by organizations such as the Texas Freedom Network, the success rate of the wingnut fractions (what Brian Leiter called the "Texas Taliban") is non-negligible.

[edit] Early stages

From the 1960s onwards groups such as the Gablers’ Educational Research Analysts, who “review public school textbooks from a conservative, Christian perspective,” have targeted “areas of concern”, including evolution,[10] the free-enterprise system, what the Founding Fathers intended, and abstinence-only sex education. For instance, in 2007 the Gablers objected to the new math textbooks by claiming that “[r]eplacing standard algorithms with haphazard searches for personal meaning unconstitutionally establishes New Age religious behavior in public school Math instruction.”

The 1990s saw renewed efforts to combat evolution, but the war was in particular waged over health textbooks and the coverage of issues such as contraception, sexually transmitted diseases, and gender roles. The 1990s also saw the TBoE starting to make demands of textbook publishers that they conform to more obviously Biblical values. In 1996 censors attempted to get social studies textbooks that featured pictures of minorities and discussed slavery thrown out, and demanded that the age of the Earth be determined by Biblical standards rather than by geologists. In 1995 the Texas Legislature passed a law (Senate Bill 1) limiting the school board’s powers to reject textbooks on ideological grounds, a law wingnut board members have since attempted to circumvent or overturn in all possible ways.

In 2001 The Texas Public Policy Foundation succeeded in banning an environmental science textbook they deemed to be “anti-free enterprise” and “anti-Christian”, and in 2002 they succeeded in removing positive references to Islam in social studies textbooks, as well as to get said books to conform to a Biblical timeline, meaning that references to human civilization or existence predating the time of the creation of the Earth according to "literal" interpretations of the Bible be made vague and ambiguous.

In 2003 the Discovery Institute launched its Teach the controversy campaign in Texas, though their revisionary pseudo-science and denialism failed this time around, largely due to the efforts of the Texas Freedom Network. The battle continued in subsequent years, with the wingnut side particularly loudly represented by board members Don McLeroy, who has been explicit about his wish to have creationism replace evolution in public schools,[11] and Terri Leo.[12] Meanwhile, the battle over health textbooks continued as well, with the board pushing abstinence-only sex education (or negligible information on contraception), a situation that continues to this day. They also got publishers to define marriage as “lifelong union between a man and a woman.”

[edit] The McLeroy years, 2006-2010

In the 2006 elections, the wingnuts gained two more seats and thus effective control over the board. The addition included Cynthia Dunbar, a staunch promoter of homeschooling who has called public education "tyrannical" and a "tool of perversion" for liberal elites, and has said that sending kids to public school is like “throwing them into the enemy’s flames.” The war escalated.

In 2007 Rick Perry appointed self-proclaimed Christian fundamentalist and creationist Don McLeroy, a dentist, as the board’s chairman. McLeroy served on the board since 1998 (and would serve until 2011), and the years under his chairmanship are usually counted as the darkest in the history of education in Texas.

Though McLeroy and fellow board members Dunbar, Cargill, Leo, Mercer, and others claimed they did not favor intelligent design, they at least attempted to force publishers to include “weaknesses” of evolution. McLeroy also has history of advocating Bible-based Young earth creationism.[note 1]

In 2008 the wingnuts on the board rejected efforts by teachers and specialists regarding the language arts curriculum, apparently because teachers allegedly sometimes make decisions about reading material based on the ethnicity of writers. The wingnut fraction failed to win approval for their reading list, and responded by rewriting other parts of the proposed standards before the final vote on approval, distributing it to the other members of the board an hour before the sessions commenced to ensure that the board would not have read the proposal beforehand.[13] Their proposal passed.

In 2009 the evolution debate flared up again (see below for details). The creationist members of the board had warmed up by placing young earth creationists (Roger Sigler and Tom Henderson) also on the committee writing the standards for a new Earth and Space Sciences course in Texas public schools.[14] The wingnut fraction didn’t succeed in their efforts to incorporate “weaknesses of evolution” language[15] into the standards, but did manage to include language that opens up for creationist attacks in classrooms.[16] One amendment that did pass calls for students to "analyze and evaluate scientific explanations concerning any data on sudden appearance and stasis and the sequential groups in the fossil record." The phrases to take notice of are "sudden appearance" and "stasis". According to McLeroy the "sudden appearance" of forms under the Cambrian explosion, and the rapid multiplication and diversification of species, was followed by a long period of stasis, something MeLeroy viewed as evidence against evolution and in favor of creationism. Importantly, the language gives the creationist members of the board a way to reject books that don’t sufficiently "evaluate scientific explanations" concerning stasis and sudden appearance when textbooks are selected. Another amendment requires that teachers and textbooks include language to “analyze and evaluate scientific explanation concerning the complexity of the cell,” which is another well-known buzzword for creationist talking points, and which again would bias the selection of textbooks in Texas in favor of the more creationist-friendly ones.[17]

In 2010 the infamous revisions of social studies standards were passed (see below).

The story behind the changes is an appalling tale of dishonesty and subversive tactics. In advance of the sessions the Texas Education Agency had assembled a team to tackle the history standards for each grade; for eleventh-grade U.S. history the team originally consisted of classroom teachers and history professors. McLeroy, however, was not completely satisfied with the situation, and decided to add Bill Ames to the group. Ames is a Minuteman militia member, volunteer for the Eagle Forum and well-known critic of illegal immigration (accusing illegal aliens of infesting America with diseases) and the “environmentalist agenda to destroy America,” and he required that the standards include materials on conservative icons such as Newt Gingrich, Phyllis Schlafly, and the Moral Majority. The team refused, of course, so Ames complained to McLeroy. McLeroy responded by demanding to see draft standards for every grade, which he handed over to the ultraconservative think tank the Texas Public Policy Foundation (founded by his benefactor James Leininger) for vetting. The Texas Public Policy Foundation of course found all sorts of “faults” (particularly since McLeroy sent them incomplete drafts and working materials rather than completed recommendations). As a result, the board voted to stop the writing teams’ work and instead bring in a panel of experts. An “expert” in this case would be anyone the group considered to be an expert. In keeping with the makeup of the board, three of the six people appointed were right-wing ideologues, among them self-styled historians (with no formal qualifications) Peter Marshall[18], known for his argument that California wildfires and Hurricane Katrina were God’s punishment for tolerating gays, and dominionist pseudo-historian David Barton.

When Marshall and Barton testified before the board, Barton brought forth all his well-known revisionist pseudo-history that supposedly proves that The United States is a Christian nation, that the US constitution really calls for the institution of Biblical law, and that there is no separation of church and state. Through quote-mining and misrepresentations, Barton argued that Texas textbooks should promote these falsehoods and misrepresentations. Barton also sought to redeem McCarthy, a project that several members of the Board endorsed (Cynthia Dunbar, in particular, suggested that the anti-communist witch-hunts may have been justified), and wanted textbooks to describe the history of the Western World as a continuous battle with Islam, where Muslims have – without exception – been the aggressors. Moreover, Barton claimed that African Americans owe their civil rights to the Republicans, even to the extent that “it might be much more appropriate that … demands for reparations were made to the Democrat Party rather than to the federal government.” While generally successful in getting the board to follow their recommendations, Barton and Marshall’s attempt to purge the standards of César Chávez and Thurgood Marshall did admittedly fail. The pair did, however, succeed in getting the board to downplay the influence of people such as Martin Luther King jr., by arguing that one couldn’t credit single people with advancing the rights of minorities; such credit must rather go to the majorities that carry out the changes, which according to Barton and Marshall's reality-challenged representations of history, means the white males of the Republican party.

Although the final standards were somewhat more moderate than Barton and Marshall wanted them to be, they still included several of their talking points.[note 2]

A minor 2010 event that also illustrates the motivations and work of the TBoE's wingnut fraction was Pat Hardy's move to get the children’s book “Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?” by Bill Martin expunged from the elementary school curriculum. The move was made after Hardy was informed by Terri Leo that a Google search had revealed Bill Martin as the author of a book on Marxism – never mind that this was a completely different Bill Martin.[19]

[edit] Changes to the history and social sciences curriculum

In the curriculum debates the wingnuts succeeded in downplaying the role of slavery in causing the Civil War, misrepresenting the role of religion in US history, as well as suggesting that the separation of church and state is not a key principle in the Constitution.

The changes, at the request of Cynthia Dunbar, also included the removal of Thomas Jefferson and mention of the Age of Enlightenment (i.e. any implication that reason should be the foundation for authority). More precisely, the previous formulation:

“explain the impact of Enlightenment ideas from John Locke, Thomas Hobbes, Voltaire, Charles de Montesquieu,Wikipedia's W.svg Jean-Jacques Rousseau, and Thomas Jefferson on political revolutions from 1750 to the present.”

was changed to

“explain the impact of the writings of John Locke, Thomas Hobbes, Voltaire, Charles de Montesquieu, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Thomas Aquinas, John Calvin and Sir William BlackstoneWikipedia's W.svg on political revolutions from 1750 to the present.”

A formulation that anachronistically places Aquinas and John Calvin among the prominent "Age of Enlightenment" thinkers, in other words. But at least they were very religious. The addition of Blackstone is less odd, since he is revered among U.S. lawyers, but does appear rather superfluous given the inclusion of Montesquieu. However, Blackstone has apparently been adopted as a patron saint of dominionists who have (re)cast him as one of their own, which would explain why he gets drafted alongside such out and out religious figures as Aquinas and Calvin.[note 3]

So Thomas Jefferson, who favored separation of church and state, had to go. On the other hand, a new focus on the "significant contributions" of pro-slavery Confederate leaders during the Civil War was added. In general, historical figures whose religious views didn't match the board's conception of orthodoxy, in practice conservative, more or less dominionist Christianity, such as heterodox and/or deist founders Jefferson, Paine, Franklin, or subsequent figures whose political bend ran contrary to the board's ideal "free-enterprise" economics (such as union organizer Dolores HuertaWikipedia's W.svg) were relegated to the fringe or removed completely from the study program. In their place the board in its wisdom decided that it was crucial for pupils to focus on, for instance, such revolutionary era titans as Charles CarrollWikipedia's W.svg and Jonathan TrumbullWikipedia's W.svg and these new figures were all safely orthodox in the aforementioned sense of being staunch and vocal supporters of conservative versions Christianity.[note 4]

Furthermore, the study of Sir Isaac Newton was dropped in favor of examining scientific advances through military technology.Wikipedia's W.svg Just like the separation of church and state, the Founding Fathers' (incl. Washington's[20]) wariness of the pernicious influence of militarism on republican[note 5] virtues and liberties were ditched in favor of gung-ho jingoism throughout the curriculum. Axing Newton was particularly odd, though, considering how creationists love to brag about Newton's Christianity, but perhaps his personal brand of mystic and heterodox Christianity was judged too far off the beaten path, or perhaps he was just a casualty of the general anti-Enlightenment sentiment. Another curriculum amendment described the civil rights movement as creating "unrealistic expectations of equal outcomes" among minorities, and at the same time dropped references to the slave trade in favor of the more innocuous "Atlantic triangular trade".

Dunbar herself called the amendments important steps to overturning what she believes is the myth of a separation between church and state, which — of course — is also the expressed goal of David Barton, whose work the board relied upon rather heavily.

Governor Perry subsequently proudly declared that "Texas is a national example of how to best prepare our children for higher education and the workplace,"[21] though in the same interview he also declared that "I am a firm believer in intelligent design as a matter of faith and intellect, and I believe it should be presented in schools alongside the theories of evolution," so his opinions on matters of education aren't exactly trustworthy. The previous year he had reappointed Don McLeroy as the chairman of the Board of education,[22] but that appointment had been rejected by the Texas Senate.[23]

[edit] The aftermath, 2010 to present

On May 28, 2009, McLeroy's nomination as Chair of the Board of Education failed to gain Senate approval; only 19 of 31 Senators voted for him, one vote short of the 2/3 majority needed. Gail Lowe became the new Chair, though McLeroy (and the perhaps even more brutally insane, incompetent and loud Cynthia Dunbar) remained dominant forces during the board meetings, in what Russell Shorto described as "a single-handed display of arch-conservative political strong-arming,"[24], at least until 2011 when both McLeroy and Dunbar ended their terms.

The battle continued, however. Gail Lowe, the Chairwoman who succeeded McLeroy, is a young earth creationist as well.[25] The dominionist fraction of the board lost their majority in the 2011 elections (District 10, for instance, did not endorse Dunbar's handpicked successor, the equally crazy Brian Russell).

Lowe's stint ended in 2011, when she passed the reins to Barbara Cargill, another ardent creationist,[26] famous for deciding that the question of the age of the universe and whether it is expanding should be matters to be decided by a Board vote. Given that this was the TBoE, it was decided that there is no scientific consensus on those issues, and the education standards should reflect this. However, the creationists appear to have lost some votes, so at least the creationism part may have to be toned down for now;[27] at least during the 2011 sessions the creationist attempts were for the most part rather successfully blocked and evolution survived well[28][29][30] despite stalwart efforts to the contrary from Ken Mercer, though other topics fared less well.

The science review panels that will evaluate instructional materials submitted for approval by the TBoE appointed in 2011 contained some creationists,[31] though they are definitely in the minority. Recognized creationists include:

  • Ide Trotter of Texans for Better Science Education (appointed by Terri Leo), who has testified before the board on several previous occasions and who claims that the major scientific discoveries of the 20th century makes evolution harder and harder to defend. Trotter is a signatory to A Scientific Dissent From Darwinism.
  • David Shormann (appointed by Barbara Cargill), who holds a Ph.D. in Marine Chemistry,[32] is a young Earth creationist who has claimed that “Treating Earth history as just that, history, I can find physical and written testimony that the Earth is only 6,000 years old. And just as most of us have no problem believing Jesus Christ was a real person who lived 2,000 years ago, we should have no problem believing there were about 4,000 years from the Beginning to Christ’s birth. Studying natural history can be an interesting, fun, and adventure-filled pursuit, but it is not real science, and shouldn’t be treated like it is.” Shormann has already displayed his belligerent incompetence on several occasions,[33] while the screaming bald eagle cover and title of Shormann's book The Exchange of Truth: Liberating the World from the Lie of Evolution nicely sums up his brand of jingoistic science denial.[34] Shormann is also a signatory to A Scientific Dissent From Darwinism.
  • Richard White (appointed by Gail Lowe), who has previously defended the "strength and weaknesses" language in the science standards, claiming that there "are all well-known scientific problems with modern evolutionary theory."

Although it is a different entity at least the 2012 Texas GOP convention adopted a platform[35] that does not invite much confidence that the education wars are in any way over. For instance, the GOP is opposed to the teaching of critical thinking since it involves "undermining parental authority" (p.12):

Knowledge-Based Education – We oppose the teaching of Higher Order Thinking Skills (HOTS) (values clarification), critical thinking skills and similar programs that are simply a relabeling of Outcome-Based Education (OBE) (mastery learning) which focus on behavior modification and have the purpose of challenging the student’s fixed beliefs and undermining parental authority

Their platform also includes a commitment to "teaching the controversy" regarding evolution and climate change:

Controversial Theories – We support objective teaching and equal treatment of all sides of scientific theories. We believe theories such as life origins and environmental change should be taught as challengeable scientific theories subject to change as new data is produced. Teachers and students should be able to discuss the strengths and weaknesses of these theories openly and without fear of retribution or discrimination of any kind.

The insanity continues in 2013, with McLeroy's successor pushing a creationish agenda. [36] By July 2013 it also looks like the creationists are gaining traction, with several well-known and hardcore creationists having been appointed to the textbook review panels[37]

[edit] Breakdown of the 2009 science standard debates

In 2009 the Board of Education resumed their attacks on the teaching of evolution in public schools; indeed, the creationists had in advance orchestrated an attack on the New Texas Earth and Space Science Course science standard.[38] The hearings were live-blogged by Josh Rosenau, and gives some insight into how the board actually works:

[edit] Part One: January 2009

January 21

There are audiofiles of the rounds here, courtesy of the Texas Freedom Network

Part I: The discussion is supposed to concern the “strengths and weaknesses of evolution” language in the science standards.

Part II: Various “defenses” of “strengths and weaknesses” are presented, especially from Cynthia Dunbar and Barbara Cargill. Ken Mercer is concerned about persecution of students who defend creationism; he’s heard rumors that some think their views are silly. There are references to Ben Stein (Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed was a relatively recent phenomenon at this time).

Part III: Various attacks on evolution are given, especially from Terri Leo. Gold quote, from Paul Lively, veteran (not all people testifying qualify as “experts” by anyone but those with a wingnut axe to grind): “Accurate science is just one view”.

Part IV: Various pro-creationist talking points and befuddled attacks on evolution; parent and former TBoE candidate Peter Johnston tries to invoke Thomas Kuhn and worldviews talk in favor of teaching strengths and weaknesses (it deteriorates from there).

Part V: Some back and forth. Parent Steve Lyons claims that evolution is just a theory, and that scientists are trying to confuse good folks by trying to get “theory” to mean something else, as if a theory could be a fact.

Part VI: “Expert” witness Stephen Meyer attacks evolution primarily by quote-mining Darwin and claiming that evolution is a religion since it doesn’t have explanatory or predictive power. More on Meyer’s testimony here and here.

Interlude: Creationist celebrity Ralph Seelke attacks evolution partly because it is supported by scientific consensus and scientific consensus may be wrong.

Part VII: Professor Ron Wetherington attacks the strengths and weaknesses language; Dunbar objects with gibberish.

Part VIII: Local creationist Charles Garner, signatory to A Scientific Dissent From Darwinism, gives his testimony, mostly nonsense, including the claim that evolution does not and cannot have observable support. More of the debate following Garner’s statements here.

Throughout the sessions it was unclear what "weaknesses" of evolution the wingnuts were claiming existed. Few clear answers were given, but at least Dunbar, at two points, claimed that Nobel laureate Werner Arber's work on evolution and genetics showed that "the genetic code, and genetic mutations are actually built in to a limitation that they can only go so far, which is contrary to the ultimate result of natural selection and all of that," or in other words, that genetics disproves evolution. Of course, Dunbar seems to have got that information from Jerry Bergman. According to Arber himself[39] the idea that his findings are problematic for evolution is nonsense, and he points out that Bergman's article, which presented Arber as a "Darwin skeptic", "completely misinterprets my general conclusions that I base on several decades of studies in microbial genetics. A number of citations are taken out of their original context and surrounded by comments and misinterpretations by the author of the article."

January 22


Part II: Dunbar moves to restore strength & weaknesses language; Cargill quotes Discovery Institute blogs.

Part III: Mercer goes batshit with creationist canards. Evolution is religion; Piltdown man disproves evolution; Haeckel was a racist. Leo and Lowe support him.

Part IV: Board member Rick Agosto, Democrat who often votes with the wingnuts, wavers but will vote against the wingnut amendments, which are hence likely to crash.

Part V: Vote on evolution gets postponed. Mercer complains about students allegedly not being admitted to college because of their religious beliefs.

Part McLeroy: Don McLeroy succeeds in emphasizing the “weaknesses” of common descent; since the “strengths and weaknesses” language seems to fail elsewhere, McLeroy is trying to insert as much creationist bullshit as possible.

Part VI: Dunbar makes her final attacks.

Part VII: Discussion about the age of the universe. Cargill claims there are various viable theories out there and that observations cannot reveal the age of the Universe. New standards pass with revisions that reflect “uncertainty”; Dunbar succeeds in including “is thought to” in virtually all formulations, calling for students to “evaluate the evidence”. Science and truth take hard blows in the new standards.

January 23

Final stage: In the final vote the science standards survive without reinserting the “strengths and weaknesses” language; it’s a close call, however.

[edit] Part Two: March 2009

The second round of the debate. Audiofiles of the sessions can be found here, courtesy of the Texas Freedom Network (TFN). A full list of speakers is here. The following is Josh Rosenau's liveblogging:

Intro, March 24: Discovery Institute’s Rob Crowther is upset that people criticize the previous amendments.

March 25

Part I: The Board asks the expert witness nothing, instead asking creationist Lee Wagstaff all the questions that should have been directed to the expert.

Part II: Terri Leo lies.

Part III: Textbook author Juli Berwald defends evolution. The wingnuts on the board are confused.

Part IV: Terri Leo claims that exploring weaknesses of science is uniformly how new discoveries are made. Remember that the discussion concerns high school introductory textbooks.

Part V and Part VI.

Part VII: Discovery Institute fellow Ray Bohlin speaks. Leo wonders if evolution matters to his research. Bohlin denies that it does, but does not mention that his “research” mainly concerns topics such as “Is Masturbation a Sin?” and “Is pole-dancing OK for believers?”

Part VIII and Part IX: Sharon Mosher, Deborah Koeck and Martha Griffin argue against the “strengths and weaknesses” language. Richard White defends it, arguing that mutations cannot add information. In 2011 Gail Lowe would appoint White to the science review panels that will evaluate instructional materials submitted for approval by the TBoE (see above).

Part X: President-elect of Austin Geological Society Ann Molineux supports science. Donald Ewert insists that his work on bacteria proves that evolution is wrong. Leo agrees and claims that people who do research are dogmatic and those who question evolution in danger of being ostracized.

Part XI and Part XII: Discovery Institute’s John West claims that NCSE’s Eugenie Scott and Josh Rosenau supports the “strengths and weaknesses” language, which Rosenau – who does the liveblogging – finds hard to believe. More support of evolution follows.

Part XIII: Student defends strengths and weaknesses; back and forth on philosophy of science. Randy Guliuzza of ICR claims that the Texas Freedom Network’s survey of scientists, which predictably showed that they virtually uniformly support evolution, is bogus since it only surveyed scientists who work on topics related to evolution. Creationists should be given a voice too; Guliuzza draws hearty support from Dunbar and Cargill. Dunbar and Guliuzza agree that experts actually don’t know anything.

Part XIV: Random creationist complains that she was taught evolution “dogmatically”, only learning about creationism later.

Part XV and Part XVI: Discovery Institute’s Casey Luskin fancies himself an expert. David Daniel, member of TAMEST, praises science instead. McLeroy responds with “I appreciate what you guys say, I just disagree.”

Part XVII: Rosenau’s testimony.

Part XIX and Part XVIII: Various back and forths. A former Texas student opposes “strengths and weaknesses” (does a fine job), whereas Kelly Coghlan, of and professional ambulance chaser for bogus claims of religious persecution, confuses the Board of Education with a legislative body.

Part XX and Part XXI: Back and forth. Walter Bradley, signatory to A Scientific Dissent From Darwinism, attacks Dawkins. Some creationist claims that everyone who defends evolution is an evil atheists; also includes a Paluxy River tracks apologist.

Part XXII: Creationist Don Patton is absolutely insane, and even other creationists have to reject his claims. Cargill is interested, however. Hiram Sasser, of Focus on the Family isn’t much better.

Part XXIII: Eugenie Scott speaks (live video).

March 26

Part I: After some debate, Mercer’s motion to reinstate the old strengths and weaknesses language fails. This is a big day of voting.

Part II: Terri Leo wants to have the complexity of the cell into the standards. McLeroy wishes, specifically, that students “analyze and evaluate the sufficiency or insufficiency of natural selection to explain the complexity of the cell” (even suggesting, but withdrawing, evaluating whether “unguided natural processes” could explain it). Bob Craig suggests a more reasonable amendment. Craig’s amendment fails. McLeroy’s passes.

Part III: Cargill wants alternative explanations for the origin of the Universe into the standards. Most proposed amendments concerning the age and formation of the universe and the solar system fails. Then there are the evolution amendments. The improved standards fail. Cargill goes off the rails, claiming that no transitional fossils exist and that students should learn “universal common design” in addition to (instead of?) “common descent”. Then she wants to review the Big Bang theory and all the alleged uncertainty concerning that one. Proposes inserting uncertainty language into the amendments; it passes. Finally, she manages to get a small creationist talking point into discussions of the origin of life.

March 27

Part I: Dunbar tries to reinsert “strengths and weaknesses” language. The creationists make some initial headway, but the situation is unclear and the victories are minor.

Part II: The major biology amendments are discussed and voted upon. McLeroy claims that evolution cannot explain “stasis” or “sudden appearance”, and that he disagrees with the experts on that issue. Cargill denies that the fossil record provides evidence for common ancestry, claiming that all fossils of snails look the same and show no sign of having evolved. More sane board members claim that one should listen to the experts. McLeroy thinks that is an appeal to authority (apparently thinking that makes it a fallacy), and continues to claim that it’s false that science relies on evolution. There is “reasonable doubt,” and genetics, rather than evolution, is the foundation of modern biology. Genetics goes back to “a Christian monk;” evolution “goes back to a man who [something] philosophical speculation,” and “the data does not support evolution.” The “evaluate and assess” language concerning common descent is retained.

Part III: Dunbar suggests a modification; the “stasis” and “sudden appearance” talk gets included in the standards. The “analyze and evaluate scientific explanations for the complexity of the cell” language remains too, as does the language concerning the “evidence regarding formation of simple organic molecules and their organization into long complex molecules having information such as the DNA molecule for self-replicating life.”

Part IV: The “Earth in Space and Time” amendments. The expert recommendations fail. A slight (but not good) improvement of the language concerning transitional fossils passes.

Summary: The final amendments are actually an overall improvement over the old ones, but still contain creationist-friendly language, such as the language concerning “sudden appearance” and “stasis”.

Addendum: Discovery Institute’s John West also sums up the Board discussions, but without any trace of a connection to reality.

[edit] 2014: A publisher shows some resolve

In 2014, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt showed a spine, and pulled its textbook from consideration after being requested by the TBoE to "add greater coverage of Judeo-Christian influence — including Moses — on America's founding fathers."[40] Another publisher, WorldView Software, was excluded from consideration by the TBoE because of "political considerations" (the sainthood of Ronnie was not sufficiently acknowledged).[41]

[edit] See also

[edit] External links

[edit] Notes

  1. For instance, he has promoted and glowingly reviewed Robert Bowie Johnson's self-published " Sowing Atheism: The National Academy of Sciences’ Sinister Scheme to Teach Our Children They’re Descended from Reptiles", which is - as the title reveals - a rather deplorable mix of denialism and conspiracy mongering. There is a report on the book from TFN, March 18, 2009, here
  2. The revisions are summed up nicely, though somewhat late, by Katherine Stewart in her review of the 2012 documentary "The Revisionaries", which explored the revisionist wingnuttery that went on at the TBoE during the McLeroy years.
  3. See for instance the depiction of Blackstone at the Blackstone Institute
  4. Curiously, considering the opinions of many Evangelicals, being a staunch Catholic was considered acceptable, hence the inclusion of Carroll
  5. Note: Small "r"

[edit] References

  1. Revisionaries: How a group of Texas conservatives is rewriting your kids’ textbooks
  2. New York Times, Nov. 30, 2007
  3. NCSE article on the Texas education problem, March 2009
  6. Terri Leo in the Encyclopedia of American Loons
  7. TFN December 12, 2012
  8. Ken Mercer in the Encyclopedia of American Loons
  10. Blogpost August 2, 2007 concerning the Gablers' stance on evolution.
  12. Leiterreports, September 2, 2003
  13. Blogpost from May 24, 2008
  14. Steven Schafersman, A Scientific Response
  16. here is a live blogging of parts of the debate
  17. Gordy Slack Texas on Evolution: Needs further study, in Salon, Mar 28, 2009. A pretty solid overview over the 2009 situation.
  18. Peter Marshall in the Encyclopedia of American loons
  19. Dallasnews, January 24, 2012
  20. As Washington put it in his Farewell Adress:Wikipedia's W.svg "Hence, likewise, they will avoid the necessity of those overgrown military establishments, which, under any form of government, are inauspicious to liberty, and which are to be regarded as particularly hostile to Republican Liberty."(Note that the capital in "Republican" was, of course a spelling convention, as no Republican Party existed in Washington's day)
  22. McLeroy's confirmation hearings before the Senate, in which he repeats his attacks on evolution, are available here
  26. Barbara Cargill in the Encyclopedia of American loons
  27. Huffpo, July 20, 2011
  28. Josh Rosenau, post from July 22, 2011
  29. Josh Rosenau, post from July 25, 2011
  30. NCSE, article from July 22, 2011
  31. TFN Insider, May 13, 2011
  32. Who's Who Among the State Board Education Hearing, Texas Monthly, September 18, 2013
  33. TFN report, July 7 2011
  34. The cover "art" (using the word in its vaguest and broadest sense) can be seen in Google Books' entry for The Exchange of Truth: Liberating the World from the Lie of Evolution.
  35. The Platform
  36. Barbara Cargill demanding equal representation for Intelligent Design.
  37. TFN, post from July 30, 2013
  38. Steve Schafersman, Young Earth Creationist Attack on the New Texas Earth and Space Science Course: A Scientific Response, January 2009.
  39. Josh Rosenau's blogpost, including the letter from Arber
  40. Publisher Pulls Textbook From SBOE Consideration
  41. Texas Approves 'Pro-Moses' Social Studies Books Amid Controversy

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