Mercer Still Attacking Science and Teachers

by Dan Quinn

How in the world did we miss this? Seems that in August, Texas State Board of Education member Ken Mercer, R-San Antonio, had some interesting things to say about science and social studies curriculum standards on a Tea Party radio program. Speaking on the San Antonio Tea Party’s Boiling Point radio show, Mercer offered much of the usual commentary we’ve come to expect from the state board’s far-right members. But some of what he said was more revealing than he probably intended.

For example, Mercer claims during the radio interview that one of his particularly goofy arguments against evolutionary science in 2009 was just a joke. But as he continues, it sounds like he really does believe that the absence of “dog-cats” and “cat-rats” makes the case against evolution:

“If your theory’s right, all these species would get together and form a new species, then where is the cat-dog or the rat-cat, whatever it be. They don’t come together. Cats go with cats, and dogs go with dogs.”


Mercer also exposes what he and other creationists on the board were trying to do when they revised the science curriculum standards two years ago. In fact, they were doing what we have said all along — just looking for ways to get creationist (read: nonscience) arguments into classroom discussions of evolutionary science by pretending there’s really a “debate” over the issue among scientists:

“We cannot teach openly creation and ‘intelligent design,’ but where we draw the line is that we allow kids to ask honest questions in class. And that’s the strength of it right there because sometimes in debate it isn’t you really don’t have to prove your point, but if you can just prove another point.”


Mercer repeated (over and over) his misleading contention that supporters of teaching evolutionary science don’t want students asking questions. That’s nonsense, of course. Asking questions is one way students learn. What science supporters were saying two years ago (and since) is that 15-year-old kids simply don’t have the knowledge to critique with any real authority the overwhelming scientific evidence behind evolution, the foundation of the biological sciences. But now we really know what Mercer and other creationists mean when they say “ask questions” — they mean parroting unsupported arguments that scientists debunked long ago.

Other comments from Mercer once again reveal his contempt for teachers. In discussing the state board’s deeply controversial revision of social studies curriculum standards last year, he smears educators and scholars involved in that process as “America bashers and America haters.” And he claims that he and his far-right colleagues on the board were simply trying to “educate” schoolchildren:

“Conservatives believe  in a thing called education. The far left believes in a thing called political indoctrination. And that’s the big difference. We want our kids educated, not indoctrinated.”

That  might make a good soundbite, Ken, but here’s what the conservative Thomas B. Fordham Institute wrote this year about the political hash you and other board members made of the social studies standards:

“Texas’s heavily politicized 2010 revisions to its social studies curriculum have attracted massive national attention. Indeed, both in public hearings and press interviews, the leaders of the State Board of Education made no secret of their evangelical Christian-right agenda, promising to inculcate biblical principles, patriotic values, and American exceptionalism. And politics do figure heavily in the resulting TEKS. . . .

Complex historical issues are obscured with blatant politicizing throughout the document. Biblical influences on America’s founding are exaggerated, if not invented. The complicated but undeniable history of separation between church and state is flatly dismissed. From the earliest grades, students are pressed to uncritically celebrate the ‘free enterprise system and its benefits.’ ‘Minimal government intrusion’ is hailed as key to the early nineteenth-century commercial boom—ignoring the critical role of the state and federal governments in internal improvements and economic expansion.”

You can listen to all of Mercer’s radio interview here. All of the Fordham Institute’s devastating critique of the social studies standards is here. We figure Mercer probably hasn’t read it. He’s too busy trying to justify the damage he and his board colleagues have done to the education of Texas schoolchildren.