Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Revisionaries: How a group of Texas conservatives is rewriting your kids' textbooks

Texas has long been a leader in textbook adoptions. Owing to their impact on the textbook economy, many smaller states, like Kentucky, have found themselves the recipients of decisions made in other places. That has not changed. Publishers will do whatever it takes to get on the Texas textbook adoption list.

Don McLeroy is a balding, paunchy man with a thick broom-handle mustache
who lives in a rambling two-story brick home in a suburb near Bryan, Texas. When he greeted me at the door one evening last October, he was clutching a thin paperback with the skeleton of a seahorse on its cover, a primer on natural selection penned by famed evolutionary biologist Ernst Mayr.

We sat down at his dining table, which was piled high with three-ring binders, and his wife, Nancy, brought us ice water in cut-crystal glasses with matching coasters. Then McLeroy cracked the book open. The margins were littered with stars, exclamation points, and hundreds of yellow Post-its that were brimming with notes scrawled in a microscopic hand.

With childlike glee, McLeroy flipped through the pages and explained what he saw as the gaping holes in Darwin’s theory. “I don’t care what the educational political lobby and their allies on the left say,” he declared at one point. “Evolution is hooey.”

This bled into a rant about American history.

“The secular humanists may argue that we are a secular nation,” McLeroy said, jabbing his finger in the air for emphasis. “But we are a Christian nation founded on Christian principles.

The way I evaluate history textbooks is first I see how they cover Christianity and Israel. Then I see how they treat Ronald Reagan—he needs to get credit for saving the world from communism and for the good economy over the last twenty years because he lowered taxes.”

Views like these are relatively common in East Texas, a region that prides itself on being the buckle of the Bible Belt. But McLeroy is no ordinary citizen. The jovial creationist sits on the Texas State Board of Education, where he is one of the leaders of an activist bloc that holds enormous sway over the body’s decisions.

As the state goes through the once-in-a-decade process of rewriting the standards for its textbooks, the faction is using its clout to infuse them with ultraconservative ideals. Among other things, they aim to rehabilitate Joseph McCarthy, bring global-warming denial into science class, and downplay the contributions of the civil rights movement...

“Remember Superman?
The never-ending battle for truth, justice, and the American way?
Well, that fight is still going on.
There are people out there who want to
replace truth with political correctness.
Instead of the American way they want multiculturalism.
We plan to fight back—and, when it comes to textbooks,
we have the power to do it.
Sometimes it boggles my mind the kind of power we have.”

---Don McLeroy

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

McLeroy sounds positively frightening. A true anti-intellectual! How could the sole factor for textbook adoption be the treatment of Ronald Reagan and Christianity and Israel? Who hired him in the first place? Was it, be chance, Martin Cothran?

Thank goodness most kids don't remember what they read in textbooks.