Will more Texans open their eyes?

It’s good to see that the Austin American-Statesman can see the obvious:

Is this state’s education agency being driven by a political orthodoxy so fierce that it dumped its science director for passing along a harmless e-mail? It’s possible.

Chris Comer was director of the science curriculum for the Texas Education Agency for nearly a decade when she was forced to resign recently. Her offense, as unbelievable as it is to relate, was forwarding an e-mail message about a presentation by an author critical of the intelligent design approach to science education.

We knew when McLeroy was appointed to run the agency (and before) that Texas education was going to be subordinated to promoting a religious doctrine. Maybe this little episode will finally wake a few people up.


  1. Stephen says

    Of course, officially, they’re not “promoting a religious doctrine,” they’re remaining “neutral” between evolution and intelligent design.

    For the sake of consistency, they should also take a position of neutrality between conventional history and Fomenko’s New Chronology. After all, they’re just two equally valid interpretations of the same evidence.

  2. Prillotashekta says

    I have family in Texas, scattered over much of the state. I’ve asked around, ad have my dad (a biology prof. at one of TX’s large universities) asking around, too.
    As far as I can tell, the Austin Statesman is the only paper that’s picked this up, and the subject of Comer’s coerced resignation is little-known across Texas, except maybe in Austin.

    More Texans aren’t going to open their eyes until they find out there’s a problem. They aren’t going to find out unless more people give this issue attention.

  3. raven says

    Crosspost from PT

    “At one point during the lecture, McLeroy clearly tied “intelligent design” – a religious-based concept billed by supporters as an alternative to the scientific theory of evolution – to Biblical creationism:

    “Why is ‘intelligent design’ the big tent? Because we’re all lined up against the fact that naturalism, that nature is all there is. Whether you’re a progressive creationist, recent creationist, young earth, old earth, it’s all in the tent of ‘intelligent design.'” (6:10 mark on recording)

    McLeroy recounted the controversy over teaching evolution during the State Board of Education’s adoption of new biology textbooks in 2003. McLeroy was one of only four members on the 15-member panel who voted to reject the textbooks. Those four members argued that the textbooks failed to discuss what they called the “weaknesses” of evolutionary theory. They were backed by the Discovery Institute, a Seattle-based organization that opposes evolution and promotes “intelligent design” as an alternative. McLeroy said:

    “It was only the four really conservative, orthodox Christians on the board [who] were willing to stand up to the textbooks and say they don’t present the weaknesses of evolution. Amazing.” (8:15 mark on recording)”

    The Texas State Board of Education is not neutral on evolution. The head, comrade McLeroy, is a religious bigot, a creationist, and an associate of the DI institute. He has been trying for years to deepsix the science textbooks in favor of DI material.

    Neutral in McLeroy doublespeak means “against evolution”.

    He is not hiding anything. He says this often in public and they will definitely go as far as they can in eliminating the teaching of evolution in the Texas school system. A court case is inevitable, time to start preparing.

    Two points.
    1. Chris Comer was forced out in an action similar to anything done by Stalin or McCarthy. She is guilty of thoughtcrime, accepting the scientific consensus on evolution. After the purge, she will be replaced by a creationist, guaranteed.

    2. This is blatantly illegal. The Texas State Board of Education has no legal right to jam religious beliefs down the throats of school kids. Which they are in the process of doing. They also have no right to discriminate against a TEA bureaucrat on the basis of religion. Which they just did.

    Expect a court case. It is inevitable and no use whining when you start preparing for one.

  4. raven says

    Will more Texans open their eyes?

    Probably not. The head of the State Board of Education is McLeroy, a religious bigot, creationist, and someone with ties of some sort to the DI. He was elected to the board and appointed chairman by Perry the governor. He is not hiding anything, been trying to kill evolution in the schools for years.

    Clearly he has the support of the governor.

    Any Texan who cares for science, the truth, or the US constitution will be horrified. The rest, probably a majority won’t care.

  5. JJ says

    Prillotashekta – every paper in the state carried the story.

    It is well know throughout the state. We know we have a battle with the upcoming science standards revision in Texas.

  6. AllanW says

    #5 Good to hear; good luck with it.

    Maybe the thing to do is get rid of the Governor and McLeroy or maybe more likely, stop those delusional fools from winning in the first place.

  7. Prillotashekta says

    Re, JJ @ #5

    That is good to hear. I am relieved it actually has received statewide attention.
    Good luck down there.

  8. says

    This story still pisses me off, and I have subsequently written Texas off as nothing more than an enclave of The Burning Stupid.

    I do feel badly for the rational-minded folks living there, and I hope they can bring some sanity to their school board.

  9. says

    To my surprise, the creationist trolls and ID apologists have yet to infest the Austin American-Statesman’s comment thread on its editorial. Actually sane people are cheering the paper on and defending science teaching in Texas. Perhaps the trolls are still at their multi-hour praise-and-worship-and-fall-down megachurch services.

  10. Kerovon says

    As both a Texan, and a highschool student still under the thumb of the TEA, I would like to say that I am glad that I will be leaving before the push their agenda into the schools. This is depressing, but honestly it isn’t that suprising to me, because I have been watching what most people think here in the buckle of the bible belt. This is yet another reason that all of the colleges that i am looking at are either on the far east or the far west coast.

  11. JJ says

    #10 – Someone had cross posted replies on PT and the same comments in the Statesman about the original article. I am sure this person will pop up again on the editorial thread. An interesting note, in the last election, Perry only received 39% of the vote. Which was more than any of the three other candidates. One of those running was Kinky Friedman.

  12. BobC says

    The Texas voters got what they deserve and probably what they wanted. Their governor, who appointed a creationist to chair the state board of education, said he believes in the inerrancy of the Bible and those who reject Jesus Christ as their Saviour will go to hell (according to wikipedia). With an insane governor like that, it should be no surprise if the teaching of evolution is suppressed in that state. I read recently that evolution is not taught at all in half of the Texas public schools. I would bet this is true in many other states. Obviously there is something terribly wrong with this country.

  13. Ichthyic says

    The Texas voters got what they deserve and probably what they wanted.

    yes, but, cycle back to the point made on the original thread that Texas is rather instrumental in deciding textbook content for a MUCH larger audience.

    I too was ready to wash my hands of Texas until reminded of that simple fact.

    it makes Texas FAR more important than Kansas or Ohio or Pennsylvania ever dreamed of being wrt K-12 education.

  14. MPW says

    I also wanted to chime in and say I’ve noticed a lot of Texans expressing outrage at this in the comment threads at websites and online papers. Of course, this is to some extent a self-selecting sample, so I’m not sure how much it represents the general population. But even in those threads that have been boarded by creationists (Larry Fafarman is in his full Perry Mason wannabe mode in more than one, under various names), those types are far outnumbered by the reality-based community members.

  15. BobC says

    OK, Texas is important, and this problem must be fought, but the Texans are doing nothing. Half their schools don’t teach evolution and obviously nobody in Texas cares. Why aren’t the parents of the students who are receiving a terrible education screaming at their school’s administration? It’s because virtually all the parents are creationists, and probably the parents are the reason many Texas science teachers are afraid to teach evolution. The vast majority of Texans are religious morons and there might be nothing that can be done for that state. I still support all attempts to keep the creationists under control, but since half their schools don’t properly teach biology, it’s obvious the war against science in Texas is over and the flat-earthers won. I’m not suggesting surrender, but I really don’t see much hope for a state that contains so many insane people.

  16. says

    Perhaps it’s time to give Texas back to Mexico. Although we stole it fair and square, we’re done with it now.

  17. Ichthyic says

    Why aren’t the parents of the students who are receiving a terrible education screaming at their school’s administration?

    I’d say partly because some are happy with it, as you suggest, and others simply don’t know because they themselves got a rather poor education to begin with.

    hopefully, bringing attention via things just like this will indeed start to wake a lot of Texans up to the situation.

    not like the same exact thing didn’t need to happen in Dover, Kansas, Ohio…

    it indeed is a constant and very frustrating struggle that logically shouldn’t even be necessary, and I too find myself so weary of it I’d prefer to let them cook themselves, but i guess it still needs to be fought, if not for their kids, then for the rest of the kids that will unfairly be impacted by this idiocy.

    damn demented fuckwits making me care about what happens to their state…



  18. Christianjb says

    Don’t write off Texas or Texans because of this disaster.

    People in Texas are just as smart as in every other state. It’s just that we’re stoopid in different ways. People here have been manipulated every which way by corporations, religious organizations and politicians who have a vested interest in keeping Texans uneducated.

    If you believe that Texans, Kansans and Alabamans are any stupider than the good people of Seattle or New York- then you’re part of the problem.

    We all deserve a decent education, and that includes Texan schoolchildren.

  19. MikeG says

    “Kinky, wherefore art thou?”

    Ummm… because his parent’s gametes mixed and he made it to birth?

    Juliet wasn’t wondering where Romeo was, she was wondering why he was Romeo, i.e. a Capulet and therefore her enemy. “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet…”

    [/pedantic rant]

  20. MikeG says

    Everyone, move along. There are no apostrophe errors in the preceding post.

    Th’es’e a’re no’t the droid’s your’ lookin for.

  21. raven says

    crosspost from PT,

    offthekuff.com August 31, 2006:

    Eighteen percent of Texans, and 25 percent of Texas children, lived below the federally defined poverty level, according to the 2005 American Community Survey. The nationwide percentage below poverty level was 13 percent. […] Overall poverty rates, locally and nationally, didn’t change much between the 2000 census and last year, although levels increased somewhat more significantly among Hispanics and blacks in Harris County.

    “Generally, the survey reports that the socioeconomic profile of Texas has stayed pretty much the same as it has been for years. It was bad to begin with and has not gotten better,” said State Demographer Steve Murdock, with the Texas State Data Center at the University of Texas in San Antonio.

    Not sure what the Texans get out of their hyperreligious culture. The rates of poverty and child poverty are much higher than the national average. This is despite the fact that there is a huge amount of oil money sloshing around their economy.

    They also have the 2nd highest teen age pregnancy rate in the USA.

    Doesn’t seem like a good idea to dumb down their school system right now.

  22. raven says

    This story still pisses me off, and I have subsequently written Texas off as nothing more than an enclave of The Burning Stupid.

    Don’t do that. We may have to grant the refugees political asylum and set up resettlement camps. And airdrop scientific journals and newspapers to those that managed to learn to read after the creos “fix” the school system.

    I’m sure there is a sizable minority that is in a state of shock. Most of the intelligentsia for sure.

  23. RoonieRoo says

    As a Texan, I can tell you one group to blame and I realize most people won’t get this. But this is partly the fault of the DNC. Really. I know, but follow me here.

    I am a democrat, well “Texas Democrat” and that is why I know partly why the Democratic National Convention is at fault.

    They completely abandoned Texas. Totally threw us over the cliff. Texas has been politically overrun by the wingnut whackjobs partially because the DNC pulled most of their funding out of Texas and supportive funding for Democratic candidates running for office during some very important election cycles.

    It was the takeover of the nutbars like Shrub and now Gov. Goodhair that allowed for the truly crazy people to get in charge enough to make the affects you are seeing today.

    Why is this little bit of knowledge important? This is important for the very reason that I’m seeing in comments about the rest of the sane people in the country giving up on Texas and writing us off as a lost cause. If you do and do not help the Texans fighting this insanity in whatever capacity, then this also becomes partly your fault and helps guarantee our failure in this fight.

  24. Ichthyic says

    its not on the curriculum.

    this year.

    how long until your governor up for re-election?

    do you have any say in the TEA decisionmaking process?

    if you do, gather your strength and start beating McLeroy over the head!

    don’t wait for it to become another Dover, by then it will be too late to do anything about how the TEA decides on textbooks.

  25. RoonieRoo says

    As an added note, Gov. Goodhair (Perry for those who don’t know how fantastic his hair really is), was only elected by 39% of the vote. Not 70%, not 60%, not even 50% but 39% of the vote.

    39% that means 61% voted against him!

    How much support do you think that Chris Bell, the Democrat got from the DNC? Hardly any. Not to denigrate Kinky but seriously folks.

  26. Ex-drone says

    I think the fundies are upset about islamic madrasas only because the muslims put them into practice first. Texas will start getting caught up now that McLeroy is responsible for the public indoctrination of christian dogma.

  27. Ichthyic says

    39% that means 61% voted against him!

    well, not in the way you mean.

    he still received a clear majority between himself and the opposition, even if one wouldn’t exactly call it a “mandate”.

    to fix this Texans need to:

    have someone sponsor MAJOR re-revision of the asinine gerrymandering conducted by the Rehtuglicans under the leadership of Karl Rove (don’t kid yourselves, Bush was foisted up by Rove).

    to do THAT you’re gonna have to get rid of most rethuglican congressionals on principle alone, given the way the districts are currently drawn up – you will have to lobby districts OUTSIDE of your own, and hard.

    once that is done, and the congressional district divisions are fixed to be more sane again, there might be a chance to have someone sane voted in for both state congress and the governor’s office in the future.

    ITMT, I can’t for the life of me, figure out how one would go about trying to head the current TEA “off at the pass”.

    it looks very bad.

  28. says

    “Ex-Texan Returns to Defend Science”

    I was born in Texas in the early 40’s. My family moved to California in 1951. I returned for a visit in 1959, saw signs over two drinking fountains, in a Safeway, that said, “COLORED” and “WHITE.” At my young age I was appalled and remember quite clearly saying to myself, “Texas is the iron-curtain-of-the-mind,” and I vowed never to return. For all these years, I never tell people where I came from. I have always been ashamed of my heritage–being on the wrong side of the civil war, and then blatant–in-your-face segregation. Now, add homophobia, and creationism.

    When I heard that Governor Perry had appointed a creationist to head the state school board, I thought it was time to do my part, to help Texans to be more open-minded, and accept science. I am a doctoral candidate, and I’m developing course material for high school age college classes entitled “Evolution vs. Creationism: Listen to the Scientists.” The idea is to bring some of our country’s top scientists into classrooms in the form of short video mini-lectures. About two months ago. I sent a website link to approximately 50 heads of science education in districts all over Texas. Only two returned an email expressing interest. One was Chris Comer (the one who lost her job over defending science), and the other was Steven Schafersman, Ph.D._President, Texas Citizens for Science. Chris Comer stated that she wanted to see the videos and needed some instructions to get her computer to play them. Stephen Schafersman returned an email saying he very much approved of the scientific relevancy of the videos, and would pass along the email link in his organization news letter.

    Think about it– Chris Comer got fired for passing along an email announcing a lecture to be given by Barbara Forrest (whose testimony at the Dover trial “blew-the-whistle” on the fact that I.D. is simply creationism renamed–therefore religion, and does not belong in schools because of the first amendment–read Judge Jones decision). If what Barbara Forrest is saying to the world is so horrible–enough to get the “Texas Education Agency, Director of Science Curriculum,” fired, then, if I were a citizen of Texas, who uses critical thinking, I would certainly be curious to hear for myself what kinds of things Dr. Forrest is saying that is so blasphemous. If Texans start watching these mini-lectures, with top scientists, they will have a chance to hear what Dr, Forrest said, and be able to judge for them selves. They are available directly through You Tube, or on http://www.evolutionvscreationism.info. If you want to evaluate them as potential classroom material, then go to http://www.scienceteachersandevolution.com. This site contains is a survey where you can evaluate the mini-lectures. These mini-lectures contain considerable footage with Barbara Forrest–probably everything she said at the fateful Texas lecture. It’s time that Texans began listening to credible scientists, and hopefully lifting the “iron-curtain-of-the-mind” that has shackled their thinking all these decades. It’s absolutely essential that all citizens, not just Texans, truly understand the “process” of science, and why keeping the integrity of that process is so important to our survival as a U.S., and world society.

    Allison Hoffman, Qualitative Researcher
    Scientific, Qualitative, Research, and Education, Inc. (S.Q.R.E.)
    http://www.sqreweb.org sqre@roadrunner.com

  29. John Bode says

    Texas is stuck with Perry until 2010, unless he decides to run for President in 2008 or something.

    Ichthyic, Perry being re-elected with 39% of the vote has more to do with a lack of a runoff system than with gerrymandered districts (although I agree wholeheartedly that the redistricting was Rove’s baby). I don’t blame Strayhorn and Friedman for running as independents, and I doubt Bell would have won even if they weren’t there, but we really need to require that a candidate win a simple majority of the vote before they can take office.

    Guys, please don’t write us off altogether. We are trying, but it’s swimming upstream at best.

  30. John Bode says

    Texas is stuck with Perry until 2010, unless he decides to run for President in 2008 or something.

    Ichthyic, Perry being re-elected with 39% of the vote has more to do with a lack of a runoff system than with gerrymandered districts (although I agree wholeheartedly that the redistricting was Rove’s baby). I don’t blame Strayhorn and Friedman for running as independents, and I doubt Bell would have won even if they weren’t there, but we really need to require that a candidate win a simple majority of the vote before they can take office.

    Guys, please don’t write us off altogether. We are trying, but it’s swimming upstream at best.

  31. Bill Dauphin says

    We could use Kinky now, if he wants to strike blow or three for good education.

    Like many, I was amused and delighted by Kinky’s gadfly candidacy… but I wonder if we weren’t amused at our peril. I’m not in Texas now and I don’t recall how the votes (and ideologies) were distributed among the various not-Perry candidates, but I wonder if Kinky wasn’t Texas’ version of Ralph Nader? If all of the anti-wingnut forces had united behind one candidate, would Perry still have won? Jus’ wondrin’…

    Also, to those of you ready to write Texas off, cede it back to Mexico, etc., keep in mind that it’s not that simple: Because of their sheer buying power, Texas and California between them essentially determine the content of public school textbooks throughout the country, in that most publishers won’t publish a book they can’t sell to both of those states. Unless you want to see ID cropping up in your child’s biology text, pay attention to what’s happening in Texas.

  32. Skeptic8 says

    PZ, Thanks for the rescue of Texas- at least part of it.
    There are some here, as you see, that cherish the Chalice of the Enlightenment. We have a larding of Confederates who came here to escape Southern debts and the idea of “common descent” means “out of Africa” and the very whiff of THAT is instant intellectual shutoff. The contortions to deny common descent are marvellous. It’s not the monkeys so much as “race”.
    Oh yes, we are euro-mutts plus amerind but that “amerind” has to be “Cherokee” (or equal) but never “Mexican Indian”. Ah, the concatenations of Special Creation are likely to trap the foot of Governor Goodhair.