Don McLeroy Not Confirmed as Chairman of the Texas State Board of Education

Steven Schafersman
Texas Citizens for Science
From the Houston Chronicle Evo.Sphere Blog
2009 April 22 - June 1

April 22

Don McLeroy, the Chair of the Texas State Board of Education, faced the Senate Nominations Committee on Wednesday, April 22, and received harsh questioning from Democratic Senators. The Republicans on the committee did not defend him but kept quiet. McLeroy's confirmation hearing was long and contentious, and he may not be able to get the required two-thirds vote from the Senate to confirm him. I predict his nomination will not receive approval because of his many past efforts to damage state education standards, censor textbooks, and flaunt the law. The fact that he was appointed by Governor Rick Perry will not help either. McLeroy's sins in furtherance of his Religious Fundamentalist, Young Earth Creationist, anti-science, and anti-public education agenda are many and his critics have not forgotten.

One news report is available so far, written by Kate Alexander for the Austin American-Statesman. She describes the atmosphere in Austin and the mood of the senators. "You've created a hornet's nest like I've never seen," Senator Eliot Shapleigh, D-El Paso, said, noting that 15 bills -- "the most I've ever seen" -- have been filed during this legislative session to strip various powers from the State Board of Education. It is likely that some of these bills will pass the legislature, but all will presumably be vetoed by Perry. I don't know if the Legislature can override his veto on these, but the vote will be close. Senator Kirk Watson, D-Austin, also questioned McLeroy closely.

Alexander writes: "Shapleigh said there is a perception that McLeroy is using the chairmanship of the State Board of Education as a bully pulpit for promoting his religious point-of-view and pushing it into the public arena." McLeroy disingenuously denies this, claiming the fight is over different "educational philosophies," and "that is the source of the controversy, not his religious views." While that may be true of some actions, such as forcing a traditional English Language Arts curriculum unwanted by ELA professionals on the state and illegally throwing out a mathematics textbook, in most cases the Fundamentalist Protestant Christian religious beliefs of McLeroy and his six cronies on the State Board were definitely behind their actions. These include the adoption of flawed, damaged science standards, the explicit attacks on evolution, the fossil record, and ancient geological ages of the Earth and universe, adoption of a flawed and inadequate Bible curriculum that will permit unscholarly and unscientific Bible instruction, and the frequent threats to publishers--which is a form of extortion that publishers come to expect--to reject their textbooks if they don't contain sufficient anti-scientific information against evolution and in favor of Intelligent Design Creationism. McLeroy tried to censor textbooks previously in 2003 by threatening publishers, but failed.

I could write--and in fact have written--so much more about Don McLeroy, including his anti-intellectualism here and here, his fraudulent farce of appointing three anti-science Scientific Creationists to match three science professors as experts, his plagiarism, misquoting, and quoting out of context to support his unscientific beliefs about fossil evolution, how he unethically played one publisher against another to get them to censor their textbooks, and his facilitation of expanding virtual academies for use as Religious Fundamentalist home schools using public tax money in opposition to the wishes of the Texas Legislature.

Alexander writes that McLeroy "does not shy away from sharing that his conservative religious beliefs form the foundation of his commitment to education." In response, McLeroy claims that "he has not injected those beliefs into the state's curriculum standards or textbooks," but this denial is flatly untrue. Pushing his religious (and political) beliefs into the state's curriculum standards and textbooks is precisely what McLeroy has done over the past decade and intends to keep doing as long as he has the power. I have written many articles about McLeroy's unethical activities on the State Board of Education and most are linked above.

According to the article, "Shapleigh said he plans to have McLeroy separated from the others when his nomination comes up on the Senate floor so that it could be debated and voted on individually." That is an excellent suggestion. All of the nominations were left pending, including McLeroy's, since there was no quorum left at the end of the meeting. So there is still time to write to the committee and to the senators to express your disgust with Don McLeroy and urge that his nomination not be approved.

Several witnesses were on hand Wednesday to speak against McLeroy's nomination. These included Professor Arturo De Lozanne of UT Austin, former SBOE candidate Laura Ewing, Center for Inquiry-Austin supporter John Kingman, TFN President Kathy Miller, Professor Ronald Wetherington of SMU, and Michael McCants. Speaking on McLeroy's behalf was radical religious right/Young Earth Creationist SBOE member Ken Mercer and Jonathan Saenz of the religious right-wing Free Market Foundation.

April 23

Texas Freedom Network live blogged the confirmation hearing. Readers should consult this for a fascinating look--under sharp questioning from Senators Shapleigh and Watson--into Don McLeroy's perverted understanding of science.

Gary Scharrer of the Houston Chronicle Austin Bureau published a news report in the Chronicle here.

A video of the hearing is now available here. All sessions and committee hearings of the Texas Legislature are live broadcast on the Web, videotaped, and archived. This archive video will be worth watching to see Don McLeroy squirm under tough questioning, something he hasn't faced frequently.

Here are some bookmarks for the video (courtesy of John Kingman):

1:20 McLeroy
1:56 Shapleigh
2:21 Watson
3:02 Wetherington
3:14 Kingman
3:18 McCants
3:23 De Lozanne
3:32 Miller
3:38 Ewing
3:46 Mercer
3:56 Saenz

April 27

The Houston Chronicle's R. G. Ratcliffe interviewed Governor Perry about McLeroy and posted a video on April 23 of this very interesting interview here.

After watching this video, it was clear to me that Perry is abandoning McLeroy. I wrote the following to TCS supporters on April 24:

I think McLeroy is now politically dead. I think that Gov. Perry is letting McLeroy swing in the wind. He is now too much of a liability for a governor who is seeking re-election, even a religious right-wing one whose base is the 39% Christian Fundamentalist segment of Texas citizens. That should say something about how stupidly McLeroy has done his job.

Perry appointed Tincy Miller six years ago, but she was deemed too liberal by Perry’s radical religious right supporters, or perhaps I should say supporter, James Leininger, who asked Perry to appoint McLeroy two years ago. Miller, BTW, is a true conservative, but Perry’s supporters, who also control the Texas Republican Party, are not conservatives. They are radical right, in the reactionary or fascist end of the political spectrum.

Perry won't appoint mainstream conservative Republicans Miller, Craig, or Hardy. Miller is on Kay Bailey Hutchinson's campaign team, and Craig and Hardy both support Hutchinson but haven't publicly announced this. After June 1, when McLeroy has not been confirmed by the Senate, Perry will appoint Bradley or Leo, both of whom have considerably more seniority than Cargill, Mercer, or Dunbar. Perry is tying his entire re-election campaign to the radical religious right base of his party--who vote overwhelmingly in the Republican primary, so either Bradley or Leo would be a perfect choice for Perry. Competence or intelligence is not a criterion for this nomination, only politics, so either Bradley or Leo would be ideal. Hutchinson needs to pick up mainstream conservative Republican votes, which will not be enough, and also many Democratic voters who will vote for her in the Republican primary. Together, these two groups might give her the majority she needs in the primary, then she can win in November. The Democrats look set to nominate Kinky Friedman, so the general election campaigning and debates will at least be entertaining.

Tony Whitson posted audio of the Senate Confirmation Hearing on McLeroy's nomination here. Each speaker is presented separately.

The Discovery Institute has sent a private "Academic Freedom Action Alert" letter to its Texas supporters. I don't have a link to it, but here it is:

Academic Freedom Action Alert: Your Help Needed!

Darwinists Are Trying to Expel Texas Board of Education Chairman

Chairman Targeted in Retaliation for Promoting Critical Thinking on Evolution

When elected officials take a stand for academic freedom, they become targets for the Darwin lobby. Because of his leadership and support for critical thinking on evolution, Texas State Board of Education Chair Don McLeroy has been targeted by Darwin’s defenders in the Texas Senate who want to remove him from his position. Less than a month ago, the Texas Board adopted landmark science standards that will protect teachers who want to let students evaluate and critique the evidence for Darwinian evolution. Now Darwinists are trying to convince the state Senate to block McLeroy’s reappointment as Board Chair.

"Supporting those, like Don McLeroy, who take a stand for academic freedom to question evolution at personal cost is one of the most important and effective things citizens can do," said CSC Associate Director John West. "It sends a message to elected officials that expelling leaders like Dr. McLeroy because of their stance on Darwin’s theory is simply not acceptable."

Here’s one thing you can do to help:

E-mail the chairman of the Senate Nominating Committee, Mike Jackson, at [removed] and tell him you support Dr. McLeroy as Chair of the State Board of Education. Be sure to e-mail the other committee members as well at these addresses: [removed]

We’ve included a sample letter below:

Dear [Committee Member],

I support Don McLeroy as Chair of the State Board of Education, and I urge you to confirm the governor’s nomination and bring it before the Senate for a vote.

Don McLeroy is a proven leader in education for Texas students. It is reprehensible that he has been targeted for removal because he has dared to question evolution and encouraged young minds to remain open to critical examination of Darwin’s theory. It is for this reason that Darwin’s defenders are trying to expel Dr. McLeroy from his role as SBOE Chair, and I hope that you will hear those of us who stand by Dr. McLeroy and support him against this political bullying by Darwinist groups.


[Your Name]

Please stand with Don McLeroy and support academic freedom in Texas. Forward this email to your friends and family, and let’s show the Darwin-lobby that they cannot expel critical thinking from the science classroom.

April 30

McLeroy's nomination is officially dead. Yesterday the Texas Senate Nominations Committee approved all nominees considered during last week’s hearing except for Don McLeroy as chairman of the State Board of Education. Radical religious right groups, including the Discovery Institute (see above), targeted Senate offices with thousands of calls and e-mails in support of McLeroy’s confirmation, but that effort failed.

There are not enough Senate votes to confirm McLeroy's nomination. As a result, committee Chairman Mike Jackson, R-La Porte, plans to leave McLeroy’s confirmation pending, so his nomination will be considered rejected at the end of the session on June 1. After that, Governor Perry will be obliged to appoint a new SBOE chair. There is quite a bit of speculation on whom that will be.

Kate Alexander of the Austin American-Statesman wrote this on April 30:

The confirmation of State Board of Education Chairman Don McLeroy is dead in the water, Sen. Mike Jackson, R-La Porte, said Thursday.

Jackson, chairman of the Senate Nominations Committee, said McLeroy will be left pending in committee because there is enough opposition on the floor of the Senate to block his confirmation, which requires approval of two-thirds of the senators.

There are too many other important issues to take up on the floor to waste time on a doomed confirmation, Jackson said.

McLeroy, R-Bryan, was first elected to the State Board of Education in 1998 and would retain his seat as a board member even if not confirmed as chairman by the end of the legislative session. Gov. Rick Perry would then pick a chairman from among the other board members who would not face Senate confirmation until 2011.

Who will Perry appoint to replace McLeroy? Some individuals have suggested Bob Craig, Tincy Miller, or Pat Hardy, but this will never happen for reasons discussed above. More logical suggestions are David Bradley, Terri Leo, Barbara Cargill, Ken Mercer, Gail Lowe, or Cynthia Dunbar. I predict that Perry will appoint Leo, but many predict that it will be Cargill. Your guess is as good as mine.

May 20

It appears the rumors of Don McLeroy's demise were greatly exaggerated.

Moments ago at a surprise meeting, the Senate Nominations Committee voted to send the nomination of Don McLeroy, R-College Station, to the full Senate for confirmation as State Board of Education (SBOE) chair. This sets up a major showdown on the floor of the Texas Senate, likely next Monday or Tuesday.

Even though we have already asked you to call your senator about this issue, now we must do so again: Please take a moment to contact your senator and ask him or her to vote against Don McLeroy as SBOE chair.

Though numerous news outlets reported that McLeroy's nomination was blocked after an embarrassing hearing before the Senate committee last month, it appears a flurry of calls from religious-right pressure groups has reinvigorated McLeroy's nomination. Many of these groups are claiming that McLeroy is a victim of religious persecution:

It is hard to believe that in the United States of America, religious discrimination at the level of the Texas Legislature has occurred. Dr. McLeroy is being vilified and condemned because he is a Christian and holds a Biblical worldview of creation. -- E-mail alert dated May 19, 2009

That kind of accusation is both ridiculous and offensive. McLeroy's nomination is in trouble because the board under his chairmanship has made Texas a national laughingstock. The decision to confirm or deny McLeroy's appointment is a clear referendum on the outrageous antics of the State Board of Education.

It requires just 11 senators to reject a confirmation. But we need your help to find 11 reasonable senators who believe education policy should not be held hostage to the personal and political agendas of extremists on the state board.

The religious right recognizes the importance of having McLeroy as board chair. If we don't match their passion and determination, we can expect two more years of "culture war" battles fought on the backs of Texas schoolchildren.

Why the Senate Should Reject Don McLeroy

Gov. Perry appointed McLeroy board chairman in July 2007. Since then, the board has turned debates over language arts and science curriculum standards into "culture war" battlegrounds. Chairman McLeroy has also endorsed a book that says parents who want to teach children about evolution are "monsters" and call clergy who see no conflict between faith and science "morons." This spring McLeroy led other creationists on the state board in adopting new science curriculum standards that call the scientific consensus on evolution into question and even drop references to the age of the universe.

And if you need another reason why McLeroy is unqualified to be board chair, click here to watch this short video of McLeroy wildly declaring, "I disagree with these experts. Somebody's got to stand up to experts. . . ." I have transcribed this 2009 March 27 testimony for use in another project to document how Young Earth Creationism has deformed the scientific understanding of several SBOE members. Here it is.

People are trying to say I'm speaking out of context about stasis. Stephen Jay Gould, the number one defender--the late Stephen Jay Gould--the number one defender of evolution...the PBS would call on him, everyone would call on him. Do you know what he did? He said: "Stasis is data. Say it ten times before breakfast every day for a week. Stasis is data." Data is scientific. The data shows that they stay the same.

They draw little dashed lines to connect it. What should we see if evolution was true?

Darwin said it's the greatest objection to his theory. Greatest objection. It's still the greatest objection. It is so scientific. It's not complicated. It doesn't take mathematics.

I disagree with these experts. Somebody's got to stand up to experts that are just....I think, I don't know why they're doing it. They're wonderful people. The fossil record does do it. Why take it out if evolution is so true and has no weaknesses, I can't see any reason to put it in there. All it does is give them an extra standard to argue for it. Yes, it's hard to stand up to very brilliant, wonderful people. And the opposition is very nice, they're wonderful people.

But frankly this is an excellent standard. It doesn't take complicated mathematics. It takes looking at a chart. What this would accomplish:

Our textbooks would state there is stasis in the fossil record. The textbooks would say there's the sudden appearance that this does raise problems for the idea of common ancestry. Now remember, the great claim of evolution--my two amendments that looks like are going to be taken out unless somebody listens to my impassioned plea.

What they do, they argue at the core of evolution, which states, this is scientific, this is scientific, the idea that all life is descended from a common ancestor by the unguided natural processes. This is applied to the first great claim. You look in the graveyard, what do you see? It's been 150 years since the Origin of Species and the fossil record still has problems. Yes it supports it but yes it doesn't support it. Let the students do that. We need to be honest with our kids. Thank you.

May 28

Today the Texas Senate failed to confirm Don McLeroy as Chairman of the Texas State Board of Education. Rejection of a governor's nomination is rare. McLeroy lost confirmation in a close party-line 19-11 vote. One Democratic senator, Sen. Eddie Lucio, Jr. was present but abstained. A two-thirds majority (21 votes among the 31 senators) was needed for confirmation. McLeroy will remain on the SBOE as a member.

Don McLeroy

News reports about this topic can be found in the Houston Chronicle, Austin American-Statesman, the Dallas Morning News, and San Antonio Express-News.

As is widely known, Don McLeroy, a Bryan Republican, is a Young Earth Creationist who believes the Earth is 6,000 years old, that the Earth and the entire universe were created in six 24-hour days, and that all species were specially created in their present form by God. Organisms now represented by fossils were all killed and deposited in sediments of Noah's Flood.

Since McLeroy's nomination was unconfirmed, after June 1 the SBOE will have no chair and Governor Rick Perry will be obliged to appoint a new chair. The next confirmation hearing for SBOE Chair will be in two years, so if Gov. Perry appoints Radical Religious Right and Young Earth Creationist Cynthia Dunbar, Terri Leo, David Bradley, Ken Mercer, Barbara Cargill, or Gail Lowe to be the next SBOE chair, he or she will be able to serve for at least two years before facing Senate confirmation.

I have been told that Gov. Perry can just not appoint a new chair and let McLeroy keep his job, swinging in the wind. First, I believe that state law compels Perry to appoint a new chair. Second, I don't think the governor will do that because McLeroy will have no legitimacy. McLeroy will probably not want that either.

There is great speculation on whom Gov. Perry will choose to replace McLeroy. I gave my predictions above. I absolutely believe he will appoint another member who shares McLeroy's radical religious rightwing political beliefs, not one of the three Republican Conservatives on the Board and certainly not a Democrat.

Several Democratic senators spoke against McLeroy's confirmation. Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, D-San Antonio, said her "opposition to the chairman of our State Board of Education has to do with his management and leadership style. The State Board has become increasingly divided and deeply dysfunctional and almost paralyzed to action at certain times." Under McLeroy’s leadership, the state board "has become the laughingstock of the nation." Sen. Van de Putte itemized the many problems that have plagued the SBOE under McLeroy’s leadership, including divisive culture war battles, official actions in violation of state law, and disregard for the work of educators and specialists. "His actions and leadership have caused the board to be extremely dysfunctional, and that has harmed the 4.7 million schoolchildren of Texas," she said. Sen. Van de Putte added that McLeroy has "recklessly disregarded the advice" of education experts.

Sen. Rodney Ellis, D-Houston, said "we haven’t done our job concerning the State Board of Education. Dr. McLeroy isn’t the only problem on the State Board of Education. We ought to reform how people are selected to go on the State Board of Education. It’s embarrassing to hear what people have to say about our State Board of Education." Sen. Ellis may have been referring to the very negative editorials in the New York Times and Washington Post that have alerted many in the nation to the very bad performance of the State Board of Education in Texas.

"This is not about partisanship. Please forget all the shouting and protests about this nomination from day one. This is about his leadership as chairman. He has enthusiastically embraced his role in the endless cultural wars. Education is far too important to be little more than a front in an ideological, political and cultural battle," said Sen. Kirk Watson, D-Austin. "Leaders must lead and Dr. McLeroy has proven conclusively that he is less concerned with leading the Board than fighting his ideological battles."

McLeroy's primary defender, Sen. Steve Ogden, R-Bryan, accused opponents of applying a "religious test" for serving on the board. "I think Texas is watching here because I think, whether intentional or not, there will be a perception…that we are applying a religious test for serving in this state,” Ogden said. "If we vote against Dr. McLeroy, the perception among many Texans will be that if you are a conservative and believe in the infallibility and literacy [sic--he means literalism or literal interpretation] of the Bible, there is no need to apply to be on the State Board of Education." McLeroy's "service has not been incompetent, illegal or out of bounds," Sen. Ogden added.

Sen. Ogden is wrong. He is trying to make it seem that the Senate Democrats are attacking McLeroy for his religious beliefs rather than for his bias, unfairness, and lack of competence, which is the actual situation. Ogden believes that McLeroy's behavior has "not been incompetent, illegal or out of bounds." In fact, just the opposite is true. I don't fault Sen. Ogden for not knowing about Don McLeroy's many past transgressions, since the details are unknown to most except those who pay close attention as I have. As I have amply documented over the years (see above for links), McLeroy has frequently and repeatedly pushed his Fundamentalist religious views into science curriculum matters, attempting and succeeding to injure and water-down science standards and biology textbooks to misrepresent modern scientific knowledge about evolution, the origin of life, and the age of the Earth. His knowledge of science is incompetent and his efforts to damage science standards, textbooks, and education are very definitely out of bounds.

McLeroy has been responsible for leading several illegal acts by the SBOE, although I recognize that the SBOE has never been successfully litigated for engaging in them. Several publishers have wanted to challenge the SBOE in court and one tried but had to halt its effort (it did not lose, but a decision was made to not proceed in the face of possibly hostile appeals courts and greater financial expense). It is difficult to challenge a government agency in court. The State Board has rejected textbooks for illegal reasons, has written curriculum standards that defied the Legislature, has two ongoing programs that funnel public money to religious schools, and has threatened, intimidated, and extorted textbook publishers to re-write sections of their books to conform to the Fundamentalist religious, ideological, and political views of the most radical State Board members. Don McLeroy has been at the center of all of these efforts. Most have been successful but are not widely known to the public. All of these are documented on my website.

I am shocked that every single one of the Senate Republicans voted to confirm McLeroy. Are they all totally controlled by the Radical Religious Right Texas Republican Party and feel they must support its candidates, not matter how extremist? Obviously, the answer is yes. I find it hard to believe that there is not a true Conservative among the 19 Republican senators--someone who is interested in preserving the conservative and traditional values of public education and science--but apparently not. What a scandal for our state. The Texas House will become majority Democratic in two years and the Senate will soon follow if these Republican legislators keep defending those who are, in my opinion, the most ignorant, bigoted, corrupt, and anti-education seven Radical Religious Right Republican members on the State Board.

May 29

A commenter questioned my use of the words "ignorant, bigoted, corrupt, and anti-education" to describe the seven Radical Religious Right members of the State Board, saying the words were "horrible and unfair." I admit that these are not words normally used in newspapers. Most journalists are more circumspect. Since I write a blog, and not an edited news column, I can be more frank. I stand by all four adjectives.

Since all seven of the Radical Religious Right SBOE members are Biblical Literalists and Young Earth Creationists who believe the Earth is 6,000 years old, that makes them all ignorant at the very least. I was being charitable. They could reasonably be described as stupid, too, but I prefer to look at the best in people. They demonstrated their ignorance by bringing up a host of Creationist pseudoscientific objections to evolution, biology, and paleontology during public testimony and debate. They are currently demonstrating their ignorance of history, politics, and philosophy now that the social studies standards are up for revision. Educated individuals should know better.

Bigotry is the irrational hatred of something commonly accepted by society or that cannot be changed, or intolerant devotion to one's own opinions and prejudices. All seven Radicals hate science and public education. For science, they have demonstrated that animus by their repeated votes to undermine and damage science education in Texas. Several have also voiced their negative opinions of public education; for example, one said that "public education is tyrannical, unconstitutional, and the Satan-following Left's subtly deceptive tool of perversion" (Cynthia Dunbar, of course). I can testify that the views of the others are similar. At least two of these radicals home-school their children. Furthermore, they have not hesitated to push their aberrant views and make them public policy. Their irrational hatred of evolution is bad, but their bigotry against teenaged girls is worse; they have subjected them to an abstinence-only curriculum of ignorance, refusing to allow them to learn about contraceptives in Texas schools.

The seven radicals are corrupt. They care little about their responsibility to ensure that Texas students receive an accurate and reliable science education, but instead push their own religious and political agendas using the power of their elected office. They voted to adopt science standards that misrepresent science and extort textbook publishers to include anti-scientific Creationist material; they voted to adopt Bible curriculum standards that allow the use of a proselytizing Fundamentalist Protestant curriculum; they have illegally rejected science textbooks that made perfectly-accurate statements that contradicted their own wildly-misguided pseudoscientific beliefs. They have extorted textbook publishers to censor their textbooks and have stated their intention to do this again when science texts come up for adoption.

The seven radicals are anti-education. Here, I admit, I should have been more specific and stated anti-public education. The seven are quite supportive of religious education that entails the indoctrination of students, but they oppose critical thinking that allows students to question the beliefs they are given by elders. They especially dislike science education, and want biology textbook publishers to include false and misleading information that will discredit evolution and the naturalistic origin of life.

So my adjectives are not "horrible and unfair," but perfectly accurate and relevant. The seven State Board Radicals are the poster children for how not to manage public education in a powerful state in the 21st century. All Texans should be ashamed of this situation.

June 1

A commenter, the same one mentioned above, has criticized me again for using the words "ignorant, bigoted, corrupt, and anti-education." He told me I should worry about libel.

I do not assume that because I write a blog I am protected from libel. I am protected from libel because I write the truth and because I write about public figures who really commit the transgressions that I write about. Both are common defenses against libel. I don't make this stuff up. If I was sued for libel, I could easily get dozens of scientists to testify that the seven radical right SBOE members are ignorant about real science, bigoted about scientists, atheists, humanists, etc., corrupt by their contempt for state education law (which they ignore), and anti-public education, which they disdain. I admit I should not have said "anti-education." I am willing to stipulate that I know of no financial corruption or bigotry against ethnic groups or nationalities among the seven Board members, which are the most common examples of corruption and bigotry. But I hope you understand that the terms are broader than just those categories.

I also hope you understand that having an education does not automatically make someone un-ignorant. Education and ignorance are not mutually exclusive. Five of the radical seven have college degrees (indeed, biology degrees in some cases!) and one could presume that they have been exposed to biological evolution, but they choose to remain ignorant about it. They are guilty of willful ignorance despite their educations.

State Board extortion of textbook publishers has been an on-going policy of radical religious right SB members for over four decades. It has been amply documented and discussed in print. Every publisher knows about it, and many pre-censor their textbooks to avoid it. It would be easy to subpoena publishers and have them testify under oath about how they are coerced by (usually) the SB chairman to "edit" (i.e. censor) their textbooks before and after they are submitted for state adoption if they want to get state contracts. Would it help to stipulate that this type of extortion has never been fully tested in court and its legality remains ambiguous?

The State Board members who engage in the extortion process--such as Don McLeroy, who has already publicly stated his implicit threats to publishers to get in line with the new science standards and insert information that he thinks will diminish the credibility of evolution--believe that the traditional extortion process is legal. It may be, and McLeroy may be acting legally. Some day it may actually be finally decided in court. The usual outcome of the extortion process is that science textbook publishers quietly make a few changes in their textbooks that diminish the accuracy and reliability of science and they are adopted with multi-million dollar contracts. Everyone is satisfied with this process except legitimate scientists and, presumably, science teachers and students.

Past and current State Boards have illegally rejected science and math textbooks. This is so well documented that I don't need to say more. In the first case the publisher sued but ultimately dropped the court suit due to the considerable expense compared to the small market for its textbook; in the second case, the several affected school districts were able to get TEA waivers to continue to have the state buy the rejected math book so they could keep their successful math program. They could always buy them anyway with their own money. The market for this conceptual math book was so small that the publisher didn't want to spend the money to defend it, especially when that same publisher has a different, traditional, and non-controversial math textbook that was adopted by the state and is being widely used. Why rock the boat?

Steven Schafersman
Last updated: 2009 October 21