Whatever happened to Cheri Yecke?

That former blot upon the fine educational system of Minnesota has ended up at “Harding University, a private Christian school in Searcy, Ark. She’ll be the dean of graduate programs and an associate professor of education.”. Good for her, and at least now her damage is limited to only 6,000 students at a time, rather than a whole state’s worth.


  1. says

    And to the question: Who in the world is Cheri Yecke, here’s the wiki:

    In July of 2003 during her term as education commissioner, Yecke proposed that the Minnesota Science Standards include a technique favored by intelligent design proponents called Teach The Controversy in science curriculum.

    She cited the pro-intelligent design Santorum Amendment as supporting her effort. The versions of the Minnesota Science Standards circulated by Yecke contained language used by intelligent design advocates in the Teach The Controversy campaign which casts doubt on evolution while offering intelligent design as a competing theory. The version that was circulated among the public did not include these revisions.

    PZ Myers and other critics of intelligent design deemed the move an attempt to misinform the public in order to sway the committee decision in favor of intelligent design using public opinion

  2. QrazyQat says

    One thing I can be pleased with about myself is that I never feel tempted by the lure of wingnut welfare, despite the lifelong employment it offers no matter what your screwups.

  3. Sili says

    6000 students? 6000 years since Creation. Coïncidence? I think not.

    And you silly evillusionists think that the world is billions and billions of years old! Show me a school with room for a Sagan of students!! You can’t, can you!! There isn’t even that many students in the whole world!!!! Now who has the last laugh?!?!?!?!

  4. ice9 says

    Oh, who indeed. I may be the most long-term sufferer under Ms. Y in all the world. As a teacher in Prince William County, VA Ms. Yecke created a stir with some published “thinking” about gifted and talented education based on chagrin over her own daughters’ treatment in school. The paper or article or whatever so impressed my principal at the time he directed unilateral changes in our school’s GT program, causing disastrous consequences that he managed to interpret as successes. That was in Fairfax, just one county north of Yeckeville.

    THEN she went to UVA and got a PhD that made her suddenly not a pessimistic right-wing prayer-in-schools wingnut–no, she became a politician and was in short order appointed something big in VA’s education department. She quickly alienated everybody, so was the natural choice to institute statewide high-stakes tests. These were so poorly conceived and so badly written that, in a session I attended (compulsory, of course) to explain them the assembled teachers booed and hooted and heckled the state dept. representative off the stage. The American Lit test contained “factual” items that were dead wrong, just plain wrong, and when we complained we were threatened with termination for violating the confidentiality agreement. Then the test scores just…disappeared…gone.

    She was an utter failure, and then the worm turned on her she disappeared and flitted out of our lives. We rejoiced.

    Until I moved to Minnesota. Imagine my dismay when I found that the state commish for ed. was none other than Cheri. She was as full of vim and right-wing spleen as ever, and less sensible. Just not fair. Thankfully the Minnesotans were more sensible than the Virginians and they turned her out.

    My odds of getting a job at that arkansas shit-for-brains academy is small, though I could use a grad degree to punch up my salary…hmmm…maybe it’s fate.


  5. joe says

    Who are these people that want to go to Xian college? It’s sad to be so committed to a death cult at that age.
    Many jobs are somewhat ‘soul-crushing’ but at least you get paid rather than schlocking out however much Harding University [sic] charges.

  6. Alex says

    “That’s still 6000 students too many. Welcome to Christianity. A mind is a wonderful thing to waste.”

    I think this is more accurate:

    “That’s still 6000 students too many. Welcome to Christianity. A mind is a wonderful thing to control.”

  7. joe says

    BTW, check out the department of biology mission statement.
    Mission: …”give students a rigorous working knowledge of the database from which current biologists work…”

    Is this a metaphor? Are they Linaean?

    This one made me wince:
    “Encourage students to develop an internally consistent philosophy of life that integrates science and scripture and recognizes God as the source of all life.”

  8. Dennis N says

    My compass is so screwed up. I watch TV and politicians are batsh*t crazy, our president doubts evolution, and creationism is actually something we have to fight to keep out of schools. Then I step outside, in Boston, and everyone I know seems sane and in touch with reality. Then I go online to my favorite blog, filled with intelligent people, and the light is turned to the dumbest people I have ever been made aware of. I’m surprised Cheri Yecke didn’t want time cubes taught in…uh, math class? Physics? Whatever its discipline… Can someone please clarify for me the exact level of how messed up America is? I just cant gauge right now.

  9. Kitty says

    Let’s face it. In the great scheme of Life. the Universe and everything she’s pretty local and has little impact on the real world.

  10. mothra says

    ‘Hello, I’m your compulsory neurosurgeon at Harding U. Will that be one or two scoops?’

  11. The Wholly None says

    Good! Quarantine’em in backwater religious schools where they can’t do any damage to real students. I wonder if she has a job for Freshwater?

  12. Dahan says

    “Let’s face it. In the great scheme of Life. the Universe and everything she’s pretty local and has little impact on the real world.”

    You say that, but she wasn’t the friggin’ education commissioner of your state I bet. That’s a position where your decisions affect literally tens of thousands of students yearly. Hard to argue that isn’t rather powerful. Those students go on to inhabit our “real world” and do things like vote. Maybe “local” is just relative. It’s true we’re only one of the 50 states here in the most dangerous country in the world. Still…

  13. Kitty says


    “It’s true we’re only one of the 50 states here in the most dangerous country in the world. Still…”

    Point taken. From here in Wales she’s irrelevant. I can understand your stance but really in the grand scheme she’s a minnow.

    Parochialism s alive and well in the USA. Look to China if you really want to see the real world.

  14. says

    Dahan: “most dangerous country in the world”…

    Ah, come on. It’s not like the American people would ever vote a drug-using, convicted drunk driver who would start a long, costly, and unnecessary war with absolutely no valid provocation into the presidency simply because he expresses a popular religious belief. Oh wait…

  15. says

    #19 Kitty said:

    Let’s face it. In the great scheme of Life. the Universe and everything she’s pretty local and has little impact on the real world.

    It is important to throw water on burning embers before there becomes an out-of-control conflagration. She was the pro-“teaching the controversy” chancellor of K-12 education in Florida, and look at what is happening in that state right now: The Evolution Academic Freedom Act just passed in the Senate, and today has been read on the floor of the House for vote next week. Best case scenario is it gets voted down. Worst case it gets approved and sent back to the Senate for re-vote on the House-amended bill and then enacted.

    The crackpots must be stopped as they reveal themselves, otherwise they poison the well — whether it be Yecke or Ronda Storms or Alan Hays. At least Yecke has now found the right forum for her medieval ideas, safely away from impressionable children.

  16. Dahan says


    I did think of China, actually, when making that statement. Which is why I didn’t use a term like “the most powerful country” etc. However, China is no more real than America, or Japan, or Sudan… It’s about the influence they weild.

    Would she be more influential if she were the administrator of education in a province in China? Highly debatable, but I think not. If she’s a minnow, who are the whales?

  17. Kitty says

    Americans always have an inflated sense of their importance in the scheme of things.
    What is happening in Florida is not the topic of conversation in Cardiff.
    While I have every sympathy for your local issues there are many more important issues.
    You really do have to think outside the box!
    China is probably more important than America right now – deal with it!

  18. says

    Go to that page and read the comments. There’s a few supporters…

    then us, the PZombies

    I like that… PZombies

    well, we’re certainly in favour of BRAAAIIINNNSSS

  19. Kseniya says

    Kitty… it’s ALL the real world.

    Have you ever heard the phrase (ok, slogan) “Think globally… act locally”? It’s all of a piece. I’m pretty sure the rise of Christian Fundamentalism in the USA started on the local level. Now, decades later, we have a society that is in many ways more conservative than any of our peer nations, and a population notable for its shockingly high percentage of evolution skeptics. We have a born-again Christian as Commander-In-Chief. We have viable presidential candidate talking about rewriting the Constitution to be more like the Bible. We have “liberal” candidates who sound like the conservative and overtly religious candidates of 30-40 years ago, and a voting public that is significantly more likely to vote for a homosexual than an atheist – even as they move to enact consitutional amendments that discriminate against homosexuals. Do you think these trends in the US have no effect on world events?

  20. Dahan says

    “You really do have to think outside the box!
    China is probably more important than America right now – deal with it!”

    Please, don’t treat us all like cartoon idiot Americans. You’re talking to someone who’s lived in several countries (including Korea and Japan), isn’t America-centric, and can talk without using cliches. Kseniya just stole most of my lines, look at his post.

    If you had a blog where you spoke of a psycho-idiot who had been in control of your education system, I expect you would expect us to understand that that sort of thing should matter to us here in the US. Why no reciprocity?

  21. says

    “Another incompetent right-winger failing upward. They seem to excel at that.”

    There’s usually some slime in high places that find either these people, or their brain-dead product useful.

    “Let’s face it. In the great scheme of Life. the Universe and everything she’s pretty local and has little impact on the real world.”

    Didn’t you ever see “It’s a Wonderful Life”? I take insulin and watch it once in a great while. All she has to do is mentor someone who is 1% stupider and 1% crazier than “Dubya”, who goes on to be….

    People like Cheri need jobs where they absolutely cannot screw with other people’s minds. Would you give a book of matches to a pyromaniac?

  22. says

    Actually, this whole Yecke thing is pretty remote to myself on the West Coast as well.

    Nevertheless, it’s baffling to try to work out what Kitty’s going on about. Are we supposed to be thinking about evolution education in China, and whether that will affect American education for good or ill?

    Or is Kitty herself so busy with her own little world that she doesn’t understand how Americans might be concerned about American education? Seems pretty damn parochial on her part, which is something I do tend to think as more of an American affliction, but they’re hardly immune across the water either.

    There’s no question that the success of IDiocy over here has caused problems for education in the UK, although those are small compared with our own. Perhaps of more concern is that American IDiocy helps to consolidate anti-science attitudes in the Muslim world, potentially feeding Islamic radicalism.

    Like I said, Yecke’s fairly remote to myself, however it makes sense to follow her actions and movements somewhat, simply because in the end the whole fight against IDiocy is both local and individual. What is supposed to happen, is the fight only supposed to be general, and never specific?

    Glen D

  23. Dahan says

    Kseniya, sorry, didn’t mean “stole”. Meant “said first”. Hope you understood…

  24. CButterb says

    What is happening in Florida is not the topic of conversation in Cardiff.

    Well, and vice versa. Except for that transdimensional rift and that institute with the aliens that you have. That’s pretty well-known over here.

  25. says

    Cardiff? Do the green bells still sing? Or, have they been sold to Japan for scrap. Nope, not muvh news from Cardiff around here either.

  26. Kitty says


    “Do you think these trends in the US have no effect on world events?”

    Of course they do!

    But you are probably the least likely nation in the world to take on board what is happening elsewhere in the world.

    Your arrogance = Bush = is legendary.

    While I have no right to say how you should educate your children (Glen) I have the feeling you would prefer to have them educated in the Welsh system – comparative religion and no ID, ever.

    PS. The Rift is ever with us.

  27. Shigella says

    Whoa. Once upon a time, I almost went to Harding University. Then, sanity set in and I decided to go to a school where I would get a top-quality biology education, evolution and all. I am so very glad that I made that decision. Unfortunately, I have relatives that work there. It is a pretty fundamentalist (in the true sense of the word) university, about two steps away from being Liberty University.

    Oh, and hello? The author of this blog is American. Of course he’s going to write about issues facing Americans, whether people in Wales care about them or not. You don’t have to read posts that aren’t relevant to you. Really.

  28. ice9 says

    When a welshman writes poetry, we listen.

    When an American defines “solecism” with her life’s work, we laugh. Give us our fun.


  29. Dahan says

    Kitty has given up on America. Our efforts to stave off the ignorance of other Americans are futile in her eyes. We’re all arrogant and we have a dumb-ass president (OK, the last is true, but it’s not for life fer chrissake). Furthermore, we make egregious generalizations about things, unlike the rest of the world (hers included).

    Kitty, you haven’t answered any questions I, or anyone else has asked you. You show a real contempt for America, which I could certainly understand if you were basing it on anything rational, there’s plenty of fodder there. Instead, you fall back on stereotypes, etc.

    Let me ask you one more question. Are you prepared to join hands with the rest of us and fight ignorance and the lies being taught our (big our, the world) children, like we want to with you, or are you to contemptuous of all things American and smug in your own small society to deal with us? Cause for sure, right now it sounds like your a whole shit-load more proud of yourself and your society than most of the people I know over here. Pot, meet kettle…

  30. Bride of Shrek says


    I think we’d all have a pretty narrow viewpoint if we only concerned ourselves with people and issues that directly affected us on a local level. I’m not in the US but I’m interested in this story. No, I don’t know who this person is apart from what I’m reading in the comments here but I quite like learning. This includes expanding my mind to encapture things that may not be directly relevant. By this I’m trying to say that although the actual person here doesn’t really interest me the ISSUE does. And by derivation I’m therefore also interested in the viewpoints of the people who are affected by her and the ways in which the issue is dealt with.

    I sort of see it in the same light as when a thread topic is discussed about zebrafish or some such. I’ve never seen a zebra fish,I’m not a biologist and I’m not particularly interested in zebrafish per se( sorry PZ) but I still read the thread and find people’s opinions about it fascinating.

    Sorry if that’s long winded to explain and is not meant to be a lecture. I do in a way get your point and what you’re trying to say but I think the view that the world has about insular Americans who are completely US-centric is not only a bit old fashioned but really doesn’t apply to the group of people you have on this blog who, for the most part, are educated, well-versed and world savvy ( except for Planet Killer- he’d a complete knob).

  31. Kitty says

    With great pleasure I join you in your fight against ignorance, and rejoice in Americans who have the courage to stand against the bigotry in your society.
    I grew up in a Methodist tradition which had no place in it for a radical child who asked the wrong questions and made the ‘faithful’ uncomfortable in their righteousness.
    Please don’t think I am being unkind to ‘Americans’ per se but I feel you (your public persona if you wish) need a bit of work!
    Look upon me as a bit of a devil’s advocate if you will but I will always support you in this.

  32. Dahan says

    Kitty, We all need work. I appreciate all my allies in this endeavor. Just don’t count us out, or expect us not to mention when local issues on this front take place.
    Thank you for your support.

  33. Rey Fox says

    “Please don’t think I am being unkind to ‘Americans’ per se but I feel you (your public persona if you wish) need a bit of work!”

    Who are you talking to here? PZ? Other concerned commenters on this thread? The yokels who don’t read this blog?

  34. Kitty says

    Bride of Shrek

    Apart from the fact that you noticed I exist – all hail the power of Shrek – thanks for seeing at least part of where I’m coming from.
    I’m not trying to undermine the accepted milieu.
    I just want to open the discussion to the possibility that America is not the centre of the universe and there may be other points of view out here.
    And I agree that this is the most intelligent blog around. No contest!
    Gosh, Rey Fox you are touchy! don’t worry PZ is safe with me!
    But at 1-30am BST and having imbibed a good bottle of Shiraz I’m probably not in the best frame of mind to continue this discussion.
    Good night all.

  35. Rey Fox says

    “I just want to open the discussion to the possibility that America is not the centre of the universe and there may be other points of view out here.”

    What discussion, and what points of view are relevant to a little news post about a former Minnesota state education commissioner by a resident of Minnesota? You’re barking up the wrong tree.

  36. John Phillips, FCD says

    Kitty, from a Cymro living across the water in Bristol, actually this kind of thing is very relevant to us in the UK. Last year I got involved in three or four political campaigns against ID, creobots and various other attempted religious encroachments on our laws. Such as the one to fight the introduction of an ID DVD and a so called education pack sent out to most secondary schools in England and Wales with the intention of having ID introduced into the UK science curriculum. Fortunately, we won this time round and got the various education ministers to strengthen the science curriculum such as to make it impossible for them to be used in state schools. The source of those ‘resources? The Discovery Institute in Seattle US and the type of things this particular wingnut promotes.

    However, we also have the Vardi private schools which promote and teach creationism and where resources like this are being used. So these kind of wing nuts have a very direct bearing on what is happening in the UK and the more power they get in the US the more resources they have to spread their evil to other countries. So, it is actually you being rather parochial and not the rest of us on this blog, wherever we come from as the danger she represents is not purely an US problem.

  37. Apsalar says

    A lot of my high school classmates went to Harding. One got pregnant her first semester (I have no idea how, since having sex on or off campus is clearly against the rules) and was given the choice of getting married, like, yesterday, or getting kicked out. She got married. I have another friend who went there, and the next time I talked to her, many years later, she went on and on about the horribleness of Republicans, so I guess there is some hope. That same friend came to visit me once at my secular god-hating university, and she was wearing a cute summer dress. She told me that as she was leaving her residence hall, the receptionist told her her dress was too short and she should change. Nice place, Harding.

  38. says

    Was that the name of the fella, in the late 80s, who urged that, in the humanities at least, where differences of interpretation are considered illuminating, developed a curriculum called “Teaching the Contradictions.”
    Gerald Graf?

  39. bernarda says

    I guess this Harding University is the old Harding College that produced anti-communist and pro-capitalist propaganda films back in the 40’s, 50’s, and 60’s. A couple of examples.

    These films were made in something they called “The National Education Program”. You can find many more on youtube or The Internet Archive: Prelinger Archives.

  40. says

    ‘Mericans are rather arrogant. Most other folks around the world are too polite to tell us or they work in an industry where telling us any truth would get them sacked. Once the envy of the world, our systems are now near laughingstocks.

    In many of the sciences, the Europeans and the Russians are far ahead of the USA(!!!!). For cutting edge environmental science I get more from the Nederlands than from the US. Big difference in funds and numbers of credentialed scientists.

    Fundies always wanted to be accredited so their graduates could apply for work and not be told that the position of (insert low wage, low skill here) was filled. Without oversight, of course. I am angry. Our local Christian Skool had a graduate that was informed that they must take four years of high school chemie to be on par with public school students. This kid is intelligent, mannered, and diligent. They now have a four year shortfall because there is no standard for religious skools. Wrong. Wrong. Wrong.

  41. says

    Holbach wrote: “Ah, A new flock of sheep.”

    Or, as a preacher friend of mine used to say before walking into the Sunday morning service, “Another flock to fleece.”

  42. deang says

    The phrase “most dangerous country in the world” is apt, not because Americans have “an inflated sense of their importance in the scheme of things” (though they do), but because the US has the largest and most aggressive military in the world, dwarfing China’s, with bases (often unwelcome) in dozens of countries, a military which these days is filled with Armageddon-promoting fundamentalist Christians, making the subject very relevant to this post. Whether people in Cardiff are talking more about the US or China makes no difference when the largest military in the world, with more than enough bombs to wipe out humanity many times over, contains members who actively desire to bring about a global conflagration in order to satisfy their religious beliefs. The subject of US educational trends, even at the local level, therefore becomes of global importance.