Texas School Board Showdown
Frederick Clarkson printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Mon Feb 25, 2008 at 02:16:47 PM EST
The religious right has long coveted control of the Texas State Board of Education. There are many reasons, but one of them is the disproportionate influence of Texas in purchasing textbooks. For decades, Texas-based religious right activists have wielded national influence in because of the sheer purchasing power of the Texas schools. The state board has say over what books will be approved for use in the state's public schools, and the religious right has been a powerful lobby.  Now, however, the religious right is within striking distance of outright control of the 15 member board.  

At stake is control over billions of dollars of the state education budget and trust fund, and how such subjects as history, science, and religion are taught in Texas, and possibly, around the country. In the wake of this year's elections, the state science curriculum is up for review, and there is legitimate concern that creationism and or its kissin' cousin, "intelligent design" will be shoe-horned into the curriculum.

Democratic incumbent Mary Helen Berlanga is being challenged by a proponent of intelligent design, Lupe Gonzalez in the general election in November. According to the Associated Press:  
Gonzalez said he believes intelligent design -- a recent theory that the universe is so complex that science alone cannot explain the origins of life -- should be included in textbooks as an alternative to evolution.

"The ... issue can be minimized to a large extent if we present alternatives to the theory of evolution, give both of them equal weight and that's it," he said.

Dr. Barney Maddox, a urologist, is challenging incumbent Pat Hardy in the March 4th  GOP primary.

Maddox is the author of the "biological science" course for long distance learning of the Institute for Creation Research. This is significant in part because IRC recently moved its headquarters from Calfornia to Dallas, and is seeking accreditation from the state of Texas as a legitimate graduate school providing online degrees.

He also leads the "creation science team" at Cleburne Bible Church.  Last year he published an  
article on the IRC web site that argues for the biblical version of creation.

Meanwhile, the Ft. Worth Star Telegrram reports

AUSTIN -- Although little noticed by the public, the race for a local seat on the State Board of Education could lead to a dramatic ideological shift on the panel and -- by extension -- in Texas school policy.

That's the word from several board observers, who say a March 4 primary victory by challenger Barney Maddox over incumbent Pat Hardy for the Fort Worth-area District 11 seat would give social conservatives their first majority on the board.

According to some, that could mean changes in policies on sex education and the teaching of history.

"This one vote would give a majority to a faction that is determined to censor information for their own political and personal beliefs," said Dan Quinn, a spokesman for the Texas Freedom Network...  

However, some of Maddox's views have emerged through his public testimony and published writings. In 2003, for instance, the Cleburne urologist testified against evolution at the State Board of Education with his characterization of Charles Darwin's theories as "pre-Civil War fairy tales." He urged board members at the meeting to reject new biology textbooks.

In published voters guides, Maddox has reported strong opposition to replacing abstinence-only education with more comprehensive sex education, strong opposition to providing school counseling or teaching about homosexuality, and strong support for displaying the Ten Commandments in public schools.

The 15-member elected state board reviews textbooks, debates school curriculum and sets education policy. Of the 10 Republicans on the board, seven are considered social or religious conservatives, including the chairman. The remaining five are Democrats.


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