The Texas School Board has a huge amount of clout in determining the contents of high school textbooks. Because of the size of the public school system and its consequent purchasing power, textbook publishers nationwide tend to cater to Texas. Thus the Texas school board decides what is acceptable for textbooks not only for Texas students, but also for students nationwide.
This situation wouldn’t necessarily be bad, except that the Texas school board is controlled at times by hard right culture warriors, who have used their clout to advance their political agenda. The most familiar battleground is creationism, but the struggle has moved into social studies as well, as described in the recent New York Times magazine article, “How Christian Were The Founders?”
That Times article emphasized the role played by Don McLeroy, a school board member who has long championed the teaching of creationism in schools, and has recently tried to push a conservative social and religious agenda into history books.
Well guess what, Don McLeroy was defeated yesterday in his bid for reelection. The winner, Thomas Ratliff, had some encouraging things to say: “I think we need to spend more time utilizing Texas’ higher education experts and less time trying to find that ‘expert’ out there that also fits a particular political profile.” At least I think it is encouraging.