Wednesday, February 3, 2010

State Board of Education Recommendations

The Dallas Morning News has made its recommendations for the State Board of Education (SBOE) District 9 and 12 races in the GOP primary. The SBOE is an elected 15 member board responsible for setting curriculum standards for Texas public schools. The three Rs. 1492 and 1776. Ho hum, right? Not if you care about Texas kids. Unless you've spent the last decade living on Pluto (not a planet anymore, by the way), you know that the SBOE has become the front line in the culture war over evolution, climate change, religion, everything from the Indian Wars to the Indian festival of lights, Diwali. (By the way, the argument over Diwali taught me that there are over 50,000 Hindus in north Texas. I didn't know that. Maybe my education, which didn't include Diwali, was deficient.)

After the jump, why one DMN recommendation is merely OK and the other patently obvious.

For SBOE District 9, which includes Richardson, the DMN recommends Geraldine "Tincy" Miller. Miller has been on the SBOE since 1984 and is an old-line social conservative. To her credit, Miller voted against reintroducing into the 2009 science standards language aimed at undermining the theory of evolution by natural selection, but her vote for strong science education is hardly reliable. Miller defends today's ideologically driven SBOE as "one of the more healthy examples of democracy that exists in this state." Miller has an opponent in the primary, George Clayton, but his lack of experience and and rambling position statements offer nothing to recommend him. So, Miller gets my nod by default. She's hardly an enlightened educator, but compared to the rest of the SBOE, she's at least reasonable.

For SBOE District 12, which includes most of Collin County, as well counties east of Dallas down to College Station, the DMN recommends challenger Thomas Ratliff. Ratliff wants take partisan politics out of decisions and deliberations of the SBOE. He seeks cooperation among the legislature, educators and parents instead of the current board's adversarial relationship with experts. I second the DMN's recommendation of Ratliff.

The incumbent, Don McLeroy, is a conservative Christian who dismisses the advice of professional educators and scientists in favor of his own personal religion beliefs. The Texas Observer provides numerous examples of McLeroy making the SBOE a laughingstock within Texas, and Texas itself a laughingstock to the nation. In a debate over evolution, McLeroy said, "I disagree with all these experts. Somebody has to stand up to these experts." He contended "Scientific consensus means nothing." He dismissed anthropogenic global warming as "hooey." He lobbied for the inclusion of supernatural explanations in science classes. He endorsed the book, "Sowing Atheism: The National Academy of Sciences' Sinister Scheme to Teach Our Children They're Descended from Reptiles." The book calls scientists "atheists," parents who want their children to learn about evolution "monsters", and pastors who accept evolution "morons." McLeroy, a dentist, once used the example of how the upper and lower jaws of humans fit together well as evidence of intelligent design. He must not have seen my children's orthodontist's bills.

Thankfully, Thomas Ratliff, besides having a welcome focus on education, not religious ideology, is also qualified, but in this race I just might favor a random name in the phone book over Don McLeroy. Collin County, do your part to send Don McLeroy back to his College Station dentistry practice where he can't damage your children's education any more than he has already.

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