This should be fun. Don McLeroy, the former chairman of the State Board of Education and a leader in efforts to undermine instruction on evolution and rewrite what students learn about American history, is scheduled as a guest on the Colbert Report tonight. McLeroy’s appearance on Stephen Colbert’s show comes after Friday’s premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York of a new documentary, “The Revisionaries,” that examines the role of religious extremists in revising curriculum standards in science and social studies for Texas public schools. McLeroy, Texas Freedom Network President Kathy Miller and the fight over the curriculum standards from 2008 to 2010 are featured prominently in the film. (Click here for the film’s trailer.) The Colbert Report appears at 10:30 p.m. Central/11:30 p.m. Eastern on Comedy Central.… Read More

The conservative Thomas B. Fordham Institute has posted a new essay following up on the organization’s January report giving low marks to science curriculum standards in most states, including Texas. Dr. Paul R. Gross, an emeritus professor of life sciences at the University of Virginia, writes for Fordham’s Education Gadfly e-newsletter that weak coverage of evolution is a product both of religious objections and politics.

“A focused combination of politics with religion, in pursuit of (or opposed to) governmental action, is vastly more effective than either one alone.

By themselves … religious anti-evolutionists would wield scant power over state decisions. Real power comes by politicizing the arguments and switching them from scripture to more stylish notions: ‘scientific alternatives,’ ‘critical thinking,’ or—most commonly—’strengths and weaknesses of [Darwin’s] theory.’ When these are pressed by politicians dissing ‘Darwinism,’ a downgrading of science is underway.”

Gross writes that increasing efforts in state legislatures to politicize and undermine the teaching of evolution have serious consequences for science even if proposed anti-evolution measures don’t pass:

“(T)hey can still have real effect on classroom teaching, on textbook content and selection, as well as on the curriculum as taught. All this political activity and… Read More

This should tell you a lot about the intellectual and moral bankruptcy of the Texas State Board of Education. Last year the conservative Thomas B. Fordham Institute sharply criticized the state board for its “ideological manipulation,” historical revisionism and contempt for expertise in adopting new social studies curriculum standards for Texas public schools in 2010. Today a new Fordham report gives science curriculum standards adopted by the state board in 2009 a grade of “C.” Yet here’s what state board Chairwoman Barbara Cargill, R-The Woodlands, had to say about the new Fordham report:

“As a science teacher, I am pleased that our standards received a score of 5 out of 7 for content and rigor. We look forward to continuing to work with Texas teachers to bring the best instruction to the classroom with our excellent science standards.”

Seriously? She celebrates a “C” grade? She really thinks Texas is giving kids the “best instruction” with “excellent science standards” that, in fact, get low marks from a conservative education think-tank? News flash for Ms. Cargill: Most parents don’t think mediocrity is something to celebrate, especially when it comes to the education of their… Read More

All Texas State Board of Education (SBOE) seats are up for election this year, but so far there’s not a lot of money flowing into those campaigns. Nearly all SBOE candidates have now filed their July 1, 2011-December 31, 2011, campaign finance reports with the Texas Ethics Commission.

Some non-surprises:… Read More

The picture above of current Texas State Board of Education member Thomas Ratliff, R-Mt. Pleasant, pointing (sort of) at former board chair Don McCleroy, R-Bryan, is not directly related to what you're about to read, but it will be what springs to mind when you're done with this blog post. A few weeks ago TFN President Kathy Miller shared a dais with McLeroy for a panel discussion on the SBOE during the Texas Tribune's Tribune Festival. That's where McLeroy blamed the culture wars at the SBOE on his and the far right's willingness to put personal agendas and politics above the best interests of Texas' schoolchildren. Just kidding. McLeroy actually blamed TFN and what he called our "incendiary" language for sparking the culture wars at the SBOE. That's right, he blamed TFN. Let that one sink in for a moment. Here was McLeroy's response when panel moderator and Tribune reporter Morgan Smith posed the question of whether the culture wars and politics distract board members from the important work before them (audio of the full conversation from the Tribune): Back in 1994 you had the rise of prominence and political clout of conservatives on…… Read More