UPDATE: Nathan Bernier at Austin’s public radio station, KUT, also talked to Clayton. One thing is becoming clear: he’s not an ideologue. He calls arguments about teaching “strengths and weaknesses” of evolution just “code words for creationism.” Check out the interview here.
George Clayton‘s Republican primary victory over longtime Texas State Board of Education incumbent Geraldine “Tincy” Miller of Dallas on Tuesday stunned just about everyone. Today Kate Alexander at the Austin American-Statesman got in a few questions with Clayton, a high school administrator in Dallas. Money quote:
Given the board’s delicate balance, the question on many people’s minds is whether Clayton will ally himself with the board’s conservative bloc or the more moderate faction. Miller has often voted with the moderates on the sharply divided board.
Clayton said he wanted to avoid labeling himself — except for one.
“I want to be the leveler,” Clayton said.
6 thoughts on “American-Statesman Talks with SBOE Winner”
Clayton’s website makes him sound a little flaky, but we shouldn’t over-react to that. His interview on KUT shows him to be both intelligent and well-informed, with nuances that aren’t going to please culture warriors of any stripe. So do his responses to the Dallas Morning News’ questions. His issue is education, period, rather than using the school system to reshape society. He also has plenty of experience with what is or isn’t working, and isn’t afraid to say so. (His complaints about the destructive effects of too much testing are right on the money.)
I look forward to his saying “the emperor has no clothes” fairly often at the SBOE, and that’s a very valuable role. Whether he can go beyond that, and work with others to get things done, remains to be seen.
Bottom line: I’m cautiously optimistic about him.
I agree Lorenzo. He appears to be anything but an extremist. It may be that TFN won a lot more than it bargained for in this primary election. Maybe Mr. Clayton was the piece of chocolate with the coconut center in one of Forrest Gump’s boxes? Of course, in this particular case, I would enjoy the switch from fruitcake to chocolates. Wait a minute. There may still be at least some fruitcale left in November. I know. Chocolate covered fruitcake. Yeah!!! That’s the ticket!!!
I think the by-line is *cautiously* with regard to Clayton. There’s so little information here that we can’t say he’s better or worse than Tincy. The “leveler” of what? I’m hopeful that he’s not a replacement for the McLeroy faction, and turns out to be someone who cares about Texas public school students and public education generally. Still, he’s sort of a stealth candidate. Given this, and the overall low turn outs, no one should become complacent about SBOE #3, and there’s a lot of work ahead to secure reasonable representatives on the SBOE for #5 & #10.
A few things about Clayton are obvious. He may (or may not) personally be conservative, but he’s NOT obsessed with a social conservative agenda. He’s driven by his own experience, as a teacher, of what isn’t working in our schools. We don’t yet know whether the changes he will fight for are good or bad — the same can be said of any reformer — but we already know that they will be focused on making life better for students and for teachers. That’s a great start.
The quotes from the Alexander piece don’t do him justice. Listen to the whole KUT interview. The way he addresses the hot button issues of evolution, discussion of evolution in science classes, American history, and sex education are all consistent. He knows his stuff, and the actual challenges faced by teachers and students matter a lot more to him than abstract arguments about ideology.
To add to what Lorenzo said, Clayton was passed over for an endorsement by the creationist group Texas for Better Science Education, which would have been a slam dunk if he was in with the far-right faction. They endorsed Don McLeroy, Ken Mercer, Randy Rives, Brian Russell, and Joanie Muenzler and said nothing about the Miller-Clayton race. The fact that they endorsed Russell (no surprise given he is Cynthia Dunbar’s recruit) makes we want to support Marsha Farney in the April 13 runoff. While Clayton is a done deal, in the meantime I am eager to learn more about Farney.
In other words, Clayton is not like the members of the majority population in this old commercial and is maybe a smidgen more like “her” (I know, but I like it):