I’m not sure what the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) did to get on Don McLeroy’s bad side, but the deposed chair of the Texas State Board of Education has renewed his assault on the most prestigious science academy in the world. Only this time, he’s trying to insert his grievance in the state’s social studies curriculum.
Several groups of “writing teams” — made up primarily of Texas classroom teachers — were appointed by the state board earlier this year to draft revisions to Texas’ social studies curriculum standards. These groups met in Austin last week, continuing their work on a new draft of the standards, which the state board will vote on next spring. When these teachers arrived to begin their work last Thursday, they were given a hand-scribbled memo with some instructions from Dr. McLeroy. He had this surprising piece of advice for the team working on the “United States Government” standards:
“Science The importance of the National Academy of Science [sic] in scientific research — pros and cons!”
Didn’t see that one coming. The state board finished its revision to science standards more than six months ago, but it appears McLeroy just can’t let go of his beef with mainstream science.
Exactly what “cons” of the National Academy of Sciences does McLeroy want students to study? We put the question to Dr. David Hillis, who teaches in the Section of Integrative Biology at the University of Texas at Austin and is a member of the NAS. Dr. Hillis speculates:
“Despite the fact that the U.S. NAS is the most highly regarded and prestigious science academy in the world, some members of the Texas SBOE think that they know more about science (because they read articles on the Internet) than do members of this scientific body, which results in a weaker science curriculum for Texas students.”
Dr. Hillis is no doubt correct in his characterization, but careful readers of TFN Insider will remember that this is not McLeroy’s first run-in with the NAS. Back in March of this year, McLeroy raised eyebrows around the state when he penned a positive recommendation of an obscure book by Robert Bowie Johnson, Jr. entitled Sowing Atheism: The National Academy of Sciences’ Sinister Scheme to Teach Our Children They’re Descended from Reptiles . In his review, McLeroy gushed:
In critiquing the National Academy of Science’s (NAS) missionary evolution tract—Science, Evolution and Creationism, 2008, [Johnson] identifies their theft of true science by their intentional neglect of other valid scientific possibilities. Then, using NAS’s own statements, he demonstrates that the great “process” of evolution—natural selection—is nothing more than a figure of speech. These chapters alone are worth the reading of this book.
As a reminder, this book doesn’t just claim that the NAS is “sacrificing our children to their atheism, and at the same time, destroying our children’s faith in God.” As TFN Insider reported back in March, the book also portrays parents who want their children to learn about evolution as “monsters” and pastors who accept the science of evolution as “morons.” And yet McLeroy told reporters that he stood by his opinion that the the book
“shows how the NAS attempts to seduce the unwitting reader by providing scanty empirical evidence but presented with great intellectual bullying—both secular and religious.”
In any case, McLeroy now carries his misguided anti-science campaign into social studies classrooms. It’s not enough, apparently, that the national and international science community is still laughing at Texas because of the flawed science standards the board passed under McLeroy’s leadership this spring. Now he can’t even spare us his amateur science lessons in the social studies curriculum. Sigh.
Here’s hoping that the social studies teachers follow the lead of their science colleagues and listen to the real experts, not the fringe opinions of board members who apparently won’t be satisfied until their anti-science ideology is jammed into every subject area in the Texas curriculum.
(By the way, there is plenty of other head-scratching advice in McLeroy’s handwritten memo to curriculum writers. TFN Insider will be exploring his sage wisdom in the days ahead. More crazy to come…)