October 31, 2003
I received a message from a Texas Citizens for Science supporter about an email message from SBOE member Don McLeroy that he received on October 30:
As an educator, I strongly dislike this trend. Are you doing things to combat this? Here is the email...
I replied as follows:
I share your disdain for McLeroy's irrationality and contempt for science. I didn't elect him. I am doing everything I can to prevent him from accomplishing his goals. Many other scientists and science educators are also involved in this effort.
In a perfect world, individuals such as McLeroy would not be elected to the State Board of Education. But we don't live in a perfect world. We live in Texas.
I can assure you that many people organized months ago to oppose this nonsense. McLeroy is not even the worst one on the board.
If we fail in the vote, a court suit will surely follow.
I reprint McLeroy's recent letter below. It apparently was sent to his fellow SBOE members. It is mindboggling in its ignorance and contempt for science. McLeroy's ranting deserves the widest possible exposure and publicity. Citizens should realize what kind of individuals they elect to an important public official position. I won't bother to comment on his ignorant misrepresentation of scientific methods knowledge, since I have done so elsewhere at great length. Instead, I want to discuss his newest and latest excess.
It is clear that McLeroy's strategy is to play one publisher against the others, hoping that if the others see that one biology book will be put on the conforming list, they will quickly agree to revise their books to also be adopted to that list. The reason for this is because adoption on the nonconforming list greatly reduces sales. This is the insidious power that the SBOE possesses to compel publishers to censor their books.
His statements that, "This action would approve all the books up for adoption, plus reward the book that most closely follows our standards. It does not negatively single out any book but fulfills our responsibility of standards conformity," are untrue. It approves all the biology texts--except one--for the nonconforming list, thus negatively singling them out for ultimate rejection. The lucky one (Glencoe) on the conforming list will garner most of the sales due to widespread adoption by the state's school districts.
Nonconforming books--while often perfectly good and scientifically accurate--will nevertheless be chosen far, far less than conforming books by the school districts. Putting textbooks on the nonconforming list greatly reduces their sales There are two reasons for this:
1. The adoption of nonconforming books by districts requires that every parent must be informed by letter that such books are being used. This obligation is SBOE policy that has been communicated to all Texas school districts. The only reason for this paperwork policy is to make it extra tiresome and difficult for school districts to adopt books that the SBOE decides do not meet its standards (such as scientifically-accurate biology textbooks).
2. Books adopted as conforming by the SBOE are completely free to requesting school districts. Nonconforming books, however, are not totally free. School districts must pay a percentage of their cost (I believe this is 20%, but I will have to research this to confirm).
The difference is certainly worth many tens of millions of dollars to a publisher on the conforming list, especially if you are the only one on the conforming list. Adopting only one textbook as conforming would be extremely unfair to the other texts, especially when they are just as scientifically accurate--perhaps more so--as the lucky book and the reason for their nonconforming adoption is due completely to the personal ideology and politics of the SBOE members. Remember, the TEA textbook review panel found that all the biology books were 100% conforming to the TEKS. If McLeroy's motions were to pass, all the publishers whose books were adopted on the nonconforming list would have major grounds for litigation.
Don McLeroy's strategy--to succeed in his aims by using a publisher's legitimate desire to make the highest profit and attempt to play one off against the others--is cynical and contemptible. Such conduct is completely unsuitable for an elected public official who is supposed to place the education of Texas students above his own personal agenda. Don McLeroy's conduct should be condemned by all rational and ethical Texas citizens who value the education and welfare of their children.
October 30, 2003
The Glencoe Motion
My Personal Confession
Given all the time in the world, I don't think I could make a spider out of a rock. However, most of the books we are considering adopting, claim that Nothing made a spider out of a rock.
I don't think I share a common ancestor with a tree. However, most of the books we are considering adopting, claim as a fact that we all share a common ancestor with a tree.
Has science made its case that Nothing made a spider out of a rock and that we share a common ancestor with a tree? I say NO, there are too many difficulties with their case, therefore, I am making these motions.
Evolution science is predominantly historical science; it is not observable or testable empirically, it must be inferred. For example, even the empirical research on embryology and the sequences of proteins and DNA only give rise to historical speculations. Thus, the argument for evolution is not deductive, but inductive; in an inductive argument, scientists weigh evidence to see what is most probable to have occurred. On this basis, most scientists hypothesize that Nothing made a spider out of a rock and that we share a common ancestor with a tree. However, other scientists find serious flaws with those hypotheses.
In most of the books we are considering adopting, our students are not being presented both sides; the minority viewpoint is being withheld. This means that these books do not conform to our standards.
In fact, most of the books assert the majority view as a fait accompli. While all the books contain some "qualifiers", Glencoe's Biology, the Dynamics of Life comes the closest to meeting Texas' high standards and is the most "qualified" book up for adoption.
Therefore, I plan to make the following motions at our November board meeting.
First, I will move that we separate out the regular biology books from the commissioner's recommendation.
Second, I will move that we adopt Glencoe's Biology, the Dynamics of Life as conforming and adopt the rest of the regular biology books as non-conforming.
This action would approve all the books up for adoption, plus reward the book that most closely follows our standards. It does not negatively single out any book but fulfills our responsibility of standards conformity.