Ousted Texas Textbooks Czar: I Shall Return

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

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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.

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You expect the big picture, and it's our job at Mother Jones to give it to you. And right now, so many of the troubles we face are the making not of a virus, but of the quest for profit, political or economic (and not just from the man in the White House who could have offered leadership and comfort but instead gave us bleach).

In "News Is Just Like Waste Management," we unpack what the coronavirus crisis has meant for journalism, including Mother Jones’, and how we can rise to the challenge. If you're able to, this is a critical moment to support our nonprofit journalism with a donation: We've scoured our budget and made the cuts we can without impairing our mission, and we hope to raise $400,000 from our community of online readers to help keep our big reporting projects going because this extraordinary pandemic-plus-election year is no time to pull back.

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