Ken Mercer, who once said if evolution were true, we should have seen a dog-cat, was elected to serve another four years on the Texas Board of Education last week. Mercer, a San Antonio Republican, remains one of at least five far-right conservatives who will be reviewing new material over the next two years.
Nonetheless, the election results spell cautiously good news. The far-right Christian voting bloc on the 15-member board has dwindled. Voters have rejected several of them, including Don McLeroy, who was the chief architect behind the rewriting of the state’s science and social studies curriculum. He lost his primary race in May and the remaining board members are a combination of more mainstream Republicans and Democrats.
The timing is important because in the spring, the board will begin reviewing supplemental instructional materials about whether they meet the requirements laid out in the state’s biology curriculum. A more moderate board may ignore some of the anti-evolution parts, like those requiring students to “analyze and evaluate the scientific explanations concerning the complexity of the cell.” On the surface, the wording sounds reasonable, but “complexity of the cell” is coded language that, in practice, is a personal invitation for pro-intelligent design educational materials.
Also, in 2012, the board will begin reviewing new social studies textbooks and materials about whether they meet the new standards adopted this past spring. Let’s hope that board members take a skeptical view of such curriculum requirements like requiring students to learn that the U.S. was founded as a Christian nation and that the founding fathers didn’t intend for there to be separation of church and state.