Texas’ textbook standards might not dictate the market like they used to, but the state still has a bigger public school system than just about any other state, so it’s a pretty big deal when those standards encourage the teaching of, say, intelligent design or the collected works of Jefferson Davis. And for the last 12 years, the man who’s done the most to lead the State Board of Education’s rightward shift has been Don McLeroy, a dentist, Sunday school teacher, and board member who thinks liberals have taken the America out of American history and the God out of science.
Last spring McLeroy lost his primary and was thought to be just about done with public education. This week, McLeroy told the Texas Tribune, somewhat ominously, that he’ll be back:
“I mean, golly, I love this stuff. You haven’t seen the last of Don McLeroy,” he says, noting that while he’ll watch to see what happens during this legislative session’s redistricting process, he’ll likely run for his old spot on the board in two years.
Emphasis mine, obviously. But don’t expect any fireworks from the Board’s final lame-duck meetings. Members are set to discuss mathematics and fine arts, and while math has been subject of controvery in the past, McLeroy expects that debate to be “pretty blah,” because—creeping Islamification of our textbooks notwithstanding—how can you politicize algebra?*
The larger point, though, is that with McLeroy and a few of his conservative colleagues gone at least temporarily, there are some signs that the Texas State Board of Education is finally moving forward. But that hinges on just how moderate the incoming group is. Newcomer Charlie Garza, for instance, believes “there should be a good mix” of creationism and evolution in the science curriculum, and when asked to comment on whether Thomas Jefferson warranted a spot in the world history standards, announced somewhat brilliantly that Jefferson was a “historian,” not a philosopher (Garza, evidently, is not a historian).
Anyways, implementing new textbook standards is contingent upon actually being able to buy new textbooks. Texas faces a $20 billion budget gap (Rick Perry presidential prognosticators, take note) so there’s already speculation that money for new books might be diverted elsewhere. Something to watch.
*Actually, this is how you politicize algebra.