Secular Right | Reality & Reason

Mar/10

13

It must come back into balance…eventually

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Conservatives in Texas won a curriculum change battle. But another event also occurred which was of note:

The Religious Right suffered a surprise setback in Texas when incumbent Don McLeroy—a creationist and critic of church-state separation—narrowly lost his re-election bid for the powerful State Board of Education to challenger Thomas Ratliff in the March 2 Republican primary.

McLeroy, a dentist from Bryan, lost by fewer than 900 votes. Since no Democrat filed for the race, Ratliff will assume the seat next year. Ratliff, a legislative consultant and lobbyist from Mt. Pleasant, is the son of former Lt. Gov. Bill Ratliff.

I have pointed out before that Republican elites are split on evolution. One dynamic which has played out repeatedly since the 1980s is that the Religious Right has taken over school boards and attempted to push Creationism, which usually results in a successful reaction by those in the Republican establishment who mobilize to “take back their schools” and the like. Eventually with the victory the motivation for turnout and organization for these generally low publicity positions declines, at which point the Religious Right can move back in again. And so the cycle begins anew.

It might seem strange that Republicans who aren’t core members of the Religious Right would repeatedly rise up and work to oust fellow partisans based around such academic topics. But I recall in 1999 when Kansas was dominated by Religious Right school board members who were attempting to push Creationism there were loud complaints from businesses. When engineering firms were trying to recruit talent apparently one issue which came up from prospective employees was school quality, in particular the science curriculum. This is a classic case where business and social conservatism will always be at cross-purposes periodically. Resolution can only come if the Religious Right manages to capture the cultural commanding heights and make their beliefs normative, at which point they would be good for business. I am skeptical that this will happen.

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6 comments

  • Tragger · March 13, 2010 at 7:43 am

    Perhaps I’m missing the point of this post, but I simply do not believe that creationism should be taught in schools. There’s a reason we have a separation between church and state. Personally, there are more important matter that need attending, such as the economic crisis: http://lawblog.legalmatch.com/2010/03/01/an-emerging-poor-may-mean-an-emerging-need-to-walk-away-from-your-home-mortgage/

  • John · March 13, 2010 at 9:51 am

    Businesses are against creationism in schools, and so are a lot of parents. I would be livid if my kids were taught creationism as fact in school. I wish evolution were taught more in school, not less. During middle school, kids are taught a fair amount about chemistry, geology, health, and zoology, but evolution almost never comes up. Teachers and administrators are too scared to teach it. My dream of high school students studying both genetic and environmental differences in behavior and intelligence is a long way off.

    PS: Hats off to Texas. AP and the like have portrayed the curriculum changes as a religious issue, but in fact the stakes were far broader. The conservatives managed to roll back a lot of political correctness that had seeped into the curriculum. For instance, they deleted a textbook question that make students discuss “institutional racism” in America. They also cut out some of the parade of minority “historical figures” that were thrown in books to achieve numerical balance regardless of their actual impact on history.

  • Susan · March 13, 2010 at 12:27 pm

    Ratliff is a believer in theistic evolution; McLeroy is a full-bore Young Earth Creationist: the earth is only six thousand years old, and humans and dinosaurs co-existed.

  • The Texas Curriculum · Secular Right · March 13, 2010 at 10:14 pm

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  • Sharif · March 14, 2010 at 9:12 am

    Just wait until we have Muslims on the textbook committees. Sharia school for everyone! Don’t forget your Burkha, Heather! Teacher won’t like it if you’re the only girl in the all-girl class without it. They may even close your all-girl school if you provoke them in that way.

  • gene berman · March 14, 2010 at 5:46 pm

    There’s no equivalence or symmetry between evolutionary theory and creationism. On the one hand, evolutionary theory offers an understandable process: genetic changes against envioronmental pressure. The particulars may not be entirely “nailed down” and there are many improvements possible, not only in evidence gathered but in appreciation of processes.

    Creationism is a different animal altogether. There is no “creation” theory–or at least not one in any ordinary sense of “theory.” Rather, there are an infinite potential number of creation theories, among which McLeroy’s is but the one favored by some particular (and even differing from denomination to denomination, preacher to preacher, etc.) Protestant denomination; Catholics have another, Jews, Muslims, Zoarastrians, Hindus, Sikhs, Wiccans, etc., yet others (and all with further subdivisions within each). Greek, Roman, and Norse mythologies bring us yet additional creation “theories.” While there is significant “meat” worthy of being imparted with respect to the prevailing theory of evolution, nearly all of the “creation” side could be summed in a few declarative sentences which would occupy no more than a couple minutes (and, in another couple, the untenability of the chance for any one of the myriad being “right” could be explained as well).

    The idea is, literally, insane.

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