“Someone has to stand up to experts!”. This is what Don McLeroy would have you believe about scientists. We all espouse senseless rants once in a while, so we should give McLeroy the benefit of the doubt – perhaps he had slept poorly the night before this impassioned, irrational plea. On the other hand, when you learn that McLeroy’s statement came as chairman of the Texas State Board of Education (SBOE) in 2010, then you may wish to think again, especially if you have children in the school system of the Lone Star State.
McLeroy and his fellow young-Earth creationists including Cynthia Dunbar are the subject of a documentary out this week titled The Revisionaries. It looks at the messy and yet successful efforts of the SBOE to revise the curriculum standards and the contents of science and social studies textbooks in their favor. So, included in a list of over 100 significant amendments, the non-experts did the following: marginalized Thomas Jefferson for being a secular humanist; watered down the historically accepted rationale for separation of church and state; stressed the positive side of the McCarthyist witchhunts; removed references to Hispanics having fought against Santa Anna in the battle of the Alamo; added the National Rifle Association as a key element in the recent conservative resurgence; and of course, re-opened the entire debate over the validity of evolutionary theory.
While McLeroy and some of his fellow non-experts lost re-election bids, their influence on young minds is likely to be far-reaching — textbooks in Texas are next revised in 2020, and because of Texas’ market power many publishers across the nation tend to follow Texas standards.
[div class=attrib]Video clip courtesy of The Revisionaries, PBS.[end-div]