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The Holy (Text)Book: Former SBOE Chair Don McLeroy’s Strange Return

Photo: Mary Tuma, License: N/A

Mary Tuma

A perennial laughingstock of the nation, the Texas State Board of Education isn’t helping its—or the state’s—image as a politicized machine that churns out backwards, anti-science education to the young, impressionable minds of the future. In its latest round of nonsensical, regressive debate, the Board spent four hours of taxpayer time hearing arguments over whether or not creationism should be included in the classroom.

What caused the debate to resurface? In preparation for the adoption of new high school biology textbooks, to be chosen this November, the Board is tasked with nominating panelists to review books from a variety of publishers. While it seems like a simple exercise in selecting the most qualified, relevant candidates to an influential panel, the SBOE found a way to turn the process into national controversy, a familiar pattern among the 15-member body.

That’s because the panelists read like a who’s who in the pseudo-science sector. At the review table sit at least six creationists who come from deep backgrounds in peddling and even writing some of the seminal intelligent design literature. To give a sense of their ‘expert’ credentials, more than one reviewer is listed as a “Darwin Skeptic” in the Creation Science Hall of Fame. Some panelists can’t even tout a career in science at all (quasi or otherwise)—like the dietician and retired businessman on the team. The questionable reviewers are indicative of a lax adoption process—qualifications to join the “expert” panel are non-existent and efforts to heighten those requisites have repeatedly been denied by the Board’s conservative majority.

The panelists’ comments, obtained by watchdog organization Texas Freedom Network, reflect as much—recommendations include questioning climate change and the evolutionary fossil record, and a clear effort to insert Bible-based beliefs into textbooks: “I understand the National Academy of Science’s [sic] strong support of the theory of evolution. At the same time, this is a theory. As an educator, parent, and grandparent, I feel very firmly that ‘creation science’ based on Biblical principles should be incorporated into every biology book that is up for adoption,” wrote one reviewer overseeing books from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

The recommendations fly in the face of evidence from the National Academy of Sciences to NASA—not to mention the Constitution, as TFN points out. A 1987 U.S. Supreme Court ruling, Edwards v. Aguillard, determined that teaching creationism in science classes at public schools is unconstitutional.

The comments didn’t sit well with SA’s relatively new SBOE board member Marisa Perez, who told the Current, “we wouldn’t choose anyone but an architect to review blueprints. We need to focus on fact and research and be mindful of who we select,” in regards to panelist qualifications.

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