Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Texas' Religious Right: Ideology vs. Knowledge

The Texas Freedom Network has released its latest report on the state of the religious right in Texas. (You can download a copy for yourself there.) The focus in this report is on the State Board of Education (SBOE). It charts the rise of the religious right on the SBOE over the past two decades, and its most recent gains in the 2006 election. Christian groups on the far right targeted moderate Republicans in the primaries, and now 7 of the 15 board members are of this very conservative faction. Last summer, Governor Perry appointed Don McLeroy to be the chair of the board. He is an outspoken creationist, and the first representative of this right-wing faction to chair the board.

The Board was in the news recently, because one of the agencies it oversees, the Texas Education Agency, 
fired its science curriculum director for forwarding an email.

Four members of this fundamentalist Christian coalition are up for re-election this fall: Terri Leo (District 6), David Bradley (District 7), Barbara Cargill (District 8), and Gail Lowe (District 14). This is a crucial time for the Board, as they will be reviewing Texas science curriculum standards this year.

It is clear that this group of board members is more concerned with ideological purity than they are with ensuring that students have the best knowledge available. They want to withhold accurate medical and scientific information from students regarding prevention of pregnancy and STDs, ignoring evidence that "abstinence-only" approaches do not work. They want to withhold a robust presentation of biological evolution from students by muddling the curriculum with dubious discussion of "weaknesses" of the theory. They are queasy about too many pictures of minorities, the term "married people," and discussions of environmental issues like pollution and conservation.

Many of these board members who have children send them to private schools or home school them. It's not enough for them to want to protect their children from the evils of science, toleration, and non-sectarianism. They want to impose their own theological vision of America on the public. At stake is a knowledge of the world our kids need to meet the challenges of their lives.

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