Last night’s State Board of Education elections marked another big step toward an end to the culture wars in Texas public school classrooms. With the defeat of incumbent Charlie Garza, R-El Paso, the state board’s faction of far-right ideologues should be smaller next year than at any time since before the 2006 elections.

Zooming out a bit, here’s the big picture that emerged from this year’s elections:

Garza lost to challenger Martha Dominguez, D-El Paso, after just two years on the state board. Educator Sue Melton of Waco defeated longtime incumbent Gail Lowe — a leading member of the board’s far-right faction and a former board chair — in the Republican primary this past spring. Longtime religious-right firebrand Terri Leo chose not to seek re-election after it became clear that she would face a very tough challenge in the GOP primary.

Add that to dramatic shifts on the board after the last election cycle in 2010:

Thomas Ratliff of Mount Pleasant knocked off former board chairman and arch-creationist Don McLeroy in the Republican primary. Cynthia Dunbar, one of the far right’s most divisive voices on the board, chose not to seek re-election that same year.

Consider… Read More

For reasons unknown, the conservative website Texas Insider insists on publishing the rants of a race-obsessed, right-wing activist. The newest rant from Bill Ames, who has criticized what he sees as an “overrepresentation of minorities” in social studies curriculum standards, once again claims that “leftists” hate America. And it’s predictably filled with ridiculous mistruths.

In his attempts to demonize Michelle Obama, for example, Ames charges that the First Lady once “once proclaimed that she had been ‘Ashamed of America her entire adult life.'” That’s not true, of course, but truth hardly matters in a hate-filled rant.

Former Texas State Board of Education chairman Don McLeroy appointed Ames to a team helping rewrite social studies curriculum standards for public schools in 2009. That adventure appears to have confirmed for Ames that “leftists” are out to destroy America by corrupting the education of our youth. So his newest Texas Insider screed lists “Communism’s goals to destroy the United States” alongside what he says the curriculum teams did (or tried to do) during the social studies revision. Some examples:

Communist goal #22:  Continue discrediting American culture by degrading all forms of artistic expression.

Review panel:  My… Read More

Allen Quist, the Minnesota extremist Don McLeroy — then chairman of the  Texas State Board of Education — tried to appoint as an “expert” adviser during the revision of social studies curriculum standards in 2009, is back in the news. Quist’s appointment three years ago seemed almost a done deal until the Texas Freedom Network learned about the effort and moved immediately — and successfully — to block it.

Mother Jones magazine reports that Quist is locked in a battle for the Republican nomination for a Minnesota congressional seat. TFN Insider also reported about Quist here two years ago.

The new Mother Jones piece reviews Quist’s rather bizarre history. The anti-gay fanatic’s obsession with homosexuality is so great that he once went “undercover” at a gay bookstore and a bathhouse to “prove” that gay people were having sex:

Quist’s almost singular focus on sexuality didn’t go unnoticed. “At one point,” the St. Petersburg Times reported in 1994, “a Senate leader suggested he had an unhealthy preoccupation with sex, having devoted 30 hours to it in a single session.”

MJ continues by noting how Quist has — among other things — argued that… Read More

In the 1990s, San Antonio businessman James Leininger — the religious right’s sugar daddy in Texas — poured hundreds of thousands of dollars into State Board of Education (SBOE) races. That money helped hard-right social conservatives build a multi-year campaign to take control of the board — and turned subsequent board debates over textbooks and curriculum standards into divisive “culture war” battles that put politics ahead of education. But new campaign finance reports — which cover contributions and expenditures for January 1-April 19 — to the Texas Ethics Commission show that far less money is flowing (so far) into most election contests for all 15 SBOE seats this year. Moreover, Leininger hasn’t contributed any money (so far) to candidates in those races.

In the District 12 Republican primary, Geraldine “Tincy” Miller, R-Dallas, is spending a lot of her own money to win back her old state board seat, which she lost to George Clayton, R-Richardson, in 2010. Miller’s spending tops that of all SBOE candidates, by far. She reported nearly $93,000 in campaign expenditures over the first four months of this year. That’s in addition to the $41,000 she spent in the last six months of… Read More

Key moment from last night’s Colbert Report interview with Don “Somebody’s gotta stand up to experts” McLeroy? That probably came when host Stephen Colbert asked the former Texas State Board of Education chairman who decides what information gets into textbooks:

Colbert: “I imagined that experts wrote textbooks, but in fact it gets voted on at a school board as to what is true?”

McLeroy explained that the state board sets the standards for what should be in the textbooks, leading Colbert to wonder aloud what happens to textbooks that don’t meet the board’s standards:

McLeroy: “If they don’t, they will not get adopted.”

Colbert: “I have always been a fan of reality by majority vote.”

Of course, Colbert’s deadpan response neatly sums up how the State Board of Education decides what millions of Texas students learn in their public school classrooms: “facts” are determined by a majority vote of politicians, not research, scholarship or — clutch the pearls — experts who actually know what they’re talking about. The full clip (above) is online here.Read More