I haven’t been blogging a lot this year, but I’m breaking radio silence now because this one is big. A guy from Texas who you might never have heard of is running for re-election, and unusual as it might seem, it is strongly in your interest that he not win.
Don McLeroy is currently on the Texas State Board of Education. In fact, until very recently he was the Chair of the TSBOE. He is a young earth creationist, and during his time as chair worked with the creationist group The Discovery Institute to rewrite state science curricula to reflect his religious ideology, supported by several other religious conservatives on the Board. This culminated in late 2008 with a series of open hearings about proposed changes to the curriculum that brought people from all over the state — including me — to Austin to spend hours and hours testifying against the adulteration of science education in Texas. The turnout was so unprecedented that the state legislature was forced to take notice, and eventually led to the loss of his chairmanship. (Look through the archives of the Texas Freedom Network for more details.) Our republican governor replaced him as chair with another TSBOE member, Gail Lowe; another creationist, but one of lower profile. The battle rages wearily on.
Why This Matters To You
Assuming that you are a United States citizen, the actions of the TSBOE affect you, whether you live in Texas or not. Back in 2002 the New York Times reported that Texas comprised 10% of the US textbook market, second only to California, and that textbook publishers were already changing the content of their products to meet Texas’s conservative tastes. “Many publishers write their books with the Texas and California markets in mind, but complain of political pressure.” Today California is $20 billion in debt, and has slashed its education budget statewide. Texas is now the biggest game in textbook town. The curriculum guidelines in Texas are going to influence the educational products available throughout the country.
There are seven creationists on the 15-member TSBOE, and three other board members who are politically conservative, but not avowedly creationist. Of the lunatic fringe, McLeroy, following his ouster as Chair, is the most politically vulnerable. There are 21 days left until the votes are cast, and a grassroots movement to oppose his re-election in District 9 has started. It’s currently seeking donations, and as this is a small local election (albeit one with potentially far-reaching consequences), their needs are relatively modest. I’d encourage anyone with an interest in the state of public education in the U.S. to look over the links provided by the District 9 Citizens for a Smart State Board of Education, listen to their proposed radio ad, and consider helping them reach (or hopefully exceed) their financial goal. You will be helping to reduce by one the number of fundamentalist ideologues on the most influential board of education in the country.