NY Times Magazine covers the Texas SBOE

The New York Times Magazine published a very good piece this weekend on the Texas State Board of Education, it’s Christian exceptionalist members and their motivations. The piece is called “How Christian were the Founders?“. It’s long, but thourough and fair. I recommend it.

One of the last points Russell Shorto makes at the end of the article is that a few of the SBOE members are vulnerable or not seeking reelection (Cynthia Dunbar). We Texans have a chance to correct some of these problems in the upcoming March primaries and in the general election in November. If you live in Texas, we urge you to pick candidates who will truly improve education in Texas.

Propagandists to the Rescue!

The Texas State Board of Education has been a constant source of annoyance and frustration for people like me, who value church-state separation. The current board is packed with creationists and religious ideologues who have lost touch with reality, not to mention their mission as educators. Here’s a sampling: Board member Cynthia Dunbar has called public education a “subtly deceptive tool of perversion” and unconstitutional. Not surprisingly, she’s a graduate of Pat Robertson’s would-be law school. Another board member, Don McLeroy, has consistently promoted Christianity in his previous role as chair of the board. He is quite convinced his training as a dentist makes him better suited to judge scientific material than the true experts whom he holds in contempt. He has called evolution “hooey” (as it conflicts with his Christian belief). Board member Terri Leo has argued for all language in textbooks to refer to opposite-sex couples exclusively (with no neutral language) when referring to marriage. She advocated that middle school textbooks emphasize that gay teens commit suicides at a higher rate. (It couldn’t have anything to do with Christian persecution, propaganda, and suggestion, could it, Terri?) If this is our best and brightest on the SBOE, Texas is pretty screwed up on the education front. Unfortunately, Texas’ textbook decision impact broad swaths of the United States. Many states simply buy the textbooks that have gone through the Texas review process.

The latest episode in this freak show is the current review of the history textbooks. Various dubiously qualified “experts” have been brought in to spin the textbooks with ideological agendas. Of particular interest is pseudo-historian David Barton and minister Peter Marshall who were both called by board members to lend a hand in reviewing history textbooks. Neither have credentials to be called experts. Barton is a well-known propagandist. He makes his living promoting a pro-Christian version of American history with lies and half-truths. Not surprisingly, he’s up to his usual tricks. The minister’s agenda is far more obvious. The only bright light in this whole sordid mess is the fact that Texas Freedom Network is doing a great job of covering the mess and helping to keep us informed. With luck, we can get more sane people on the board in the upcoming election. For now, we can really only watch the train wreck and hope for the best. (Yes, there’s a public hearing this week, but I don’t think it will have an impact.)

While I have certainly felt a lot of frustration and anger at the Texas SBOE over the years, today I’m feeling kind of sorry for Christianity. I feel pity. If the facts about Christianity were actually taught in schools… the Crusades, Salem Witch Trials, systematic persecution of Jews, the burning of the Library of Alexandria, the Spanish Inquisition, the corruption of the Popes, the sabotage of medical advances, the marketing of rapture snuff porn, and the link between belief and so many social ills… if all of the facts were taught in schools, in an unbiased way, it would inoculate kids in the US against the disease of Christianity. That’s what they’ve done it in Europe and the level of belief has plummeted.

Christian leaders here know of this danger, so they’ve packed the board with ideologues and sent in their crack team of propagandists to make Texas children’s minds safe for a false religion. They know they have to lie to the children because the truth is not on their side. It’s a pitiful attempt to save the falsehoods they hold so dear. Even in its sickly state, however, Christianity is still doing great harm.

This just in: Dunbar not running for another SBOE term

From a TFN email I just got:

We wanted TFN members and supporters to be among the first to learn about developing news at the State Board of Education. News reports today revealed that Cynthia Dunbar, R-Richmond, has decided not to run for re-election to her seat on the Texas State Board of Education. As TFN members know full well, Dunbar has been an outspoken leader of the far-right faction on the board, repeatedly using the state’s public school classrooms to wage her own personal culture war.

While Dunbar has not yet revealed the reason for her decision, her extremist track record has clearly made her a damaged brand in next year’s election — and TFN has been the leader in exposing that record.

  • TFN introduced the world to Dunbar’s 2008 book, One Nation Under God, in which she called public education a “tool of perversion,” “tyrannical” and unconstitutional.
  • TFN broke the story about Dunbar’s attacks against then-candidate Barack Obama, authoring an opinion column that labeled him a terrorist sympathizer who wanted another attack on America so that he could declare martial law and throw out the Constitution.
  • TFN exposed her efforts to politicize our children’s social studies classrooms and to promote creationist arguments against evolution in science classrooms.

Unfortunately, the candidate Dunbar has handpicked to be her successor shares many of her anti-science and extremist views. A blog post today at TFN Insider reveals some troubling information about Brian Russell, whom Dunbar has apparently recruited to fill her shoes on the board. So our work is not done.

Dealing with right-wing creationist d-bags is like playing Whack-A-Mole. But you gotta keep whacking.

Democrats wake up and take the SBOE debacle seriously

The first step in de-moronizing the Texas State Board of Education has begun. In past years the Democrats have ill-advisedly ignored the SBOE, preferring more high-profile races in Texas politics. But with the current board overrun by anti-science creationist wackaloons who are turning the entire state into fodder for late-night comedians, the Dems are finally extracting craniums from rectums and realizing that the neocon theocrats cannot be allowed to gang-rape the education of an entire generation of Texas students.

And so the first challengers have been announced for the 2010 elections. Democratic activist Susan Shelton has announced she will challenge walking joke Cynthia “Obama Is a Terrorist” Dunbar, and that “as many as a dozen” other Democrats are considering a run. It’s about frickin’ time.

Meanwhile, the recent, second hearing on January 21 was evidently no less packed with stupid than the first. (Note to Clare Wuellner, who emailed me urging me to participate this time: I did try to call the number you gave me, but got nothing but a dispatcher who sounded like she couldn’t hear me and kept saying, “Hello, go ahead!” until I hung up. Weird.) You know, it’s just so tiresome the way these people try to pretend, with all of their “strengths and weaknesses” code words and what have you, that their opposition to evolution education isn’t about promoting their religious agendas. And then when these hearings are held, the fools speaking out for their side put the lie to that the instant they open their idiot gobs.

Folks, we got change in 2008. Let’s get some more in ’10. Vote!

The heat is on Dunbar

Cynthia Dunbar took a pounding today on the editorial pages of the usually staid Austin-American Statesman, in a blistering piece that rightfully excoriates her as “an embarrassment who has brought heaping amounts of ridicule to this state,” and “a disgrace to public education and an embarrassment to Texas.”

But on top of her utterly asinine remarks about President-elect Obama (which, to the surprise of no one, were published by Brannon Howse’s home for wayward congenital idiots, the Christian Worldview Network), we’ve been concerned about her ilk for a long time. She is one of the fundamentalist faction on the State Board of Education, and is responsible for putting two fellow idiots from the Discovery Institute in positions of authority to “review” science education standards for the state. A purer example of putting foxes in charge of the henhouse you could not find.

Stephen Meyer’s and Ralph Seelke’s appointments also carry the taint of conflict of interest, as they are authors of the Discotute’s new anti-evolution “textbook,” Exploring Evolution. This is the book intended to replace Of Pandas and People. It has bleached its pages of anything that could be considered ID-promoting lawsuit bait, but still repeats the same bogus claims about evolution the DI has always been making. And Dunbar has been instrumental in machinating this latest assault on science education. As the Statesman editorial also notes, Dunbar “lists herself as an anatomy teacher but won’t tell even the Texas Education Agency at which school she teaches.” Is it any surprise that ideologues can get elected in a neoconservative political climate and freely lie about their own professional qualifications?

There has to be some way to oust this despicable fool from her position on a board she has no business serving coffee to, let alone serving on. I strongly encourage anyone who can to sign up to speak on the 19th. And send a polite but strongly worded letter (or fax or phone call) to Governor Perry demanding he condemn Dunbar for her anti-Obama remarks. (She will, of course, defend herself by waving the flag of free speech, but as so many neocons don’t realize, free speech includes both your right to say stupid shit, and everyone else’s right to nuke you for it.) Dunbar may be the kind of beyond-the-pale ideologue who blossoms rather than shrinks under the heat of scrutiny. But that doesn’t mean she shouldn’t feel the heat all the time. We all should make the loss of this woman’s job our mission.

Office of the Governor
P.O. Box 12428, Austin, Texas 78711
Phone: (512) 463-2000
Fax: (512) 463-1849