Sunday, February 01, 2009

Don McLeroy, leading the SBOE and subverting science

The Texas State Board of Education (SBOE) last month finally voted to get rid of the controversial "strengths and weaknesses" language which was a vestige of a bygone time from the new science curriculum standards. The creationists on the SBOE (a near majority) and elsewhere implied that the language had served Texas well for 20 years, when it had done no such thing. A common attack on the removal was to claim censorship or a reduction in academic freedom, in line with the current Wedge strategy being promulgated by the Discovery Institute of Seattle, Washington. The fact is that these words have nothing to do with the questions students can ask in the science classroom, and were being subverted into a trojan horse for the introduction of creationist arguments into science classes.

In a last-ditch attempt to corrupt the new 21st Century science standards, the creationist bloc on the board proposed a series of amendments and succeeded in getting some of them passed. The tactic used by Dr. McLeroy (pronounced mackle-roy), a dentist from College Station, Texas, and chairman of the SBOE, to advance one of his amendments was to claim that he had read up on evolution "as a hobby" and he then proceeded to read a lot of out of context quotations (he admitted he was quote mining) distorting the positions of scientists and creating confusion among the board members. See "The collapse of a quote mine" for an analysis of Dr. McLeroy's quote mining effort and the true source of his information.

The amendment “makes no sense to me,” said David M. Hillis, a prominent professor of biology at the University of Texas, adding, “It’s a clear indication that the chairman of the state school board doesn’t understand the science.” He also said, "This new proposed language is absurd. It shows very clearly why the board should not be rewriting the science standards, especially when they introduce new language that has not even been reviewed by a single science expert."


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