McLeroy Gets a Dressing Down
SBOE chair called on the carpet
"You've created a hornet's nest like I've never seen here."
That was El Paso Sen. Eliot Shapleigh's none-too-subtle way of suggesting to State Board of Education Chair Don McLeroy that his renomination to the position may be in jeopardy. Shapleigh pointed out that there are at least 15 bills currently before the Legislature to strip the SBOE of some of its policy-making powers. And predictably, McLeroy – testifying before the Senate Nominations Committee last week – didn't take the hint.
"I would say that the hornet's nest is over the fact that we have actually gotten into this distinct debate in education ... the passions that have risen, is over the fact that we've been willing to take that debate and make things happen," McLeroy replied. "I don't mind having a hornet's nest."
There's nothing Shapleigh can do to actually get McLeroy off the SBOE – the College Station dentist is one of 15 elected members – but which of those members chairs the board is up to a nomination by the governor and confirmation by the Senate. While nomination confirmations are generally routine and uncontroversial, it's been impossible of late to utter a sentence about the SBOE without including the word "controversy." A seven-member bloc of religious fundamentalists on the board, including McLeroy, has made few friends in the education community by repeatedly rejecting the advice of experts and trying to insert its agenda into classrooms.
Last month, the board drew nationwide attention when it ignored the recommendations of a board-appointed panel of experts and changed curriculum standards to water down science education. Although one of the most controversial changes – to teach "strengths and weaknesses" of evolutionary theory – narrowly lost, other amendments questioning the big-bang theory and pushing the notion of "stasis" in the fossil record passed.
Mainstream scientists generally consider evolutionary theory to be without major weaknesses and stasis as a pseudoscientific questioning of the theory; McLeroy is an avowed creationist who believes the Earth is only 6,000 years old. At that March board meeting, McLeroy famously said: "I disagree with these experts. Somebody's gotta stand up to experts."
Despite these fights, "I don't see any way I'm imposing my religious views in anything that I've done on the state board," McLeroy told the committee.
At one point, McLeroy said he had confirmed some of his beliefs questioning evolution by discussing them with his "second cousin in a master's degree program at Harvard." (He didn't specify what kind of program.) "And you're relying on her as you make up the curriculum as opposed to Nobel laureates and scientists that might be working at the University of Texas?" asked Austin Sen. Kirk Watson.
McLeroy and his allies have consistently argued that they are promoting freedom of speech in the classroom and only looking for debate. "I think you're gonna get your wish," said Shapleigh in conclusion. "I think we will make that happen."
Fri., Feb. 15, 2013
Lee Nichols, Fri., May 28, 2010
Lee Nichols, Fri., March 5, 2010
Lee Nichols, Fri., July 17, 2009
Lee Nichols, Jordan Smith, Fri., June 12, 2009
Richard Whittaker, Fri., May 17, 2013
Fri., May 17, 2013
Fri., May 17, 2013
Amy Smith, Fri., May 17, 2013
Mike Kanin, Fri., May 17, 2013
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