Randy Rives has a new campaign Web site, but he’s got an awful fact-checker. Rives is the former Ector County Independent School District (Odessa) board chair. He’s challenging District 15 State Board of Education incumbent Bob Craig in the March 2 Republican Primary — a race providing the far right’s best chance to win another seat on the heavily politicized board that oversees Texas public schools.
Two things are clear right away from looking at his Web site: Rives promotes the same kind of faith-bashing and smear tactics already employed by current far-right board members, and his grasp of facts isn’t any better.
Check out the “Issues” page of his Web site to see what we mean.
First, the Web site reposts an article from an anti-evolution fringe group called Texans for Better Science Education. (We got the impression that TBSE actually created and runs the Web site. Clicking on the “Print Media” link took us to a page clearly created by TBSE.) The TBSE article attacks Craig for refusing to dumb down the state’s 21st-century science curriculum with creationist, junk-science arguments against evolution. Craig and seven other board members, the article charges, “voted with Darwinists, atheists, ACLU members, and at least one bona fide signer of the infamous Humanist Manifesto III, in an attempt to promote indoctrination over critical thinking skills.”
So all supporters of sound science education are Darwinists, atheists, ACLU members and humanists? To people like Rives and the ideologues at TBSE, faith and science are always at war, and “good Christians” can’t possibly support a sound science education for students. That kind of faith-bashing has been a common tactic of the board’s far-right faction, especially during last year’s debate over what Texas students should learn about evolution.
Rives’ Web site also accusingly reproduces a photo of Craig and fellow board member Geraldine “Tincy” Miller, R-Dallas, talking to TFN President Kathy Miller and so-called “arch-Darwinist” Eugenie Scott of the National Center for Science Education during the science curriculum debate. We might publish a similar photo of Craig and Miller talking with evolution deniers, but why? We think elected officials should listen to people with different opinions. It seems, however, that Rives is a rigid ideologue who believes officeholders should listen only to those who agree with them. That’s certainly something voters will want to know.
Next, Rives’ Web site reproduces part of a TFN Insider post about his challenge to Craig. That’s when the distortions and falsehoods really start flowing from Rives. He accuses TFN of not noting in the post who conducted research showing that the Bible course curriculum Rives forced through the Ector County ISD school board in 2005 was plagued with factual errors. Actually, our post did better than that: we linked to the report itself, which was authored by Dr. Mark Chancey, a religious studies professor at Southern Methodist University in Dallas.
Rives then charges that TFN was wrong in saying that the lawsuit against the district for adopting that deeply flawed, religiously biased curriculum was brought by local parents. “Parents did not sue the ACLU sued and it had some parents on the ACLU,” he writes. Well, yes, the ACLU represented the parents — but the case needed local parents with standing to sue, and plenty of parents who care about religious freedom wanted to sue. He also denies that the district agreed to stop using the flawed, unconstitutional curriculum: “did not happen,” he writes. But it did:
“As part of the settlement, the district agreed to use a new curriculum developed by a committee of local educators.”
The Texas Freedom Network and local community leaders had urged the Ector County ISD board not to adopt that particular curriculum. We pleaded that they not put local taxpayers at risk of a lawsuit at a time of especially tight budgets for public education. Moreover, there were a variety of far better options on how the course would teach students about the influence of the Bible in history and literature. But Rives and a majority of board members ignored all of those concerns. The result was a lawsuit on behalf of local parents.
Rives then goes after our statement that he supported the adoption of an abstinence-only curriculum in a county with a teen pregnancy rate that’s twice the national average. “Once again inaccurate,” he writes. “There is no data showing this, this was 2004 data that was extrapolated to 2009.” Actually, we were relying on information reported in September 2009 and attributed to doctors at the Permian Basin campus of the Texas Tech University health Sciences Center:
“(T)he county’s rate of births to teenage parents between the ages of 14 and 19 years is more than twice the national average at about 108 births per 1,000 people — the highest rate across a state that for the past decade has ranked either at or near dead last in the United States, which itself has the highest rate of teen pregnancy in the developed world.”
If Rives has problems with that data, he can take it up with health professionals. But we suspect he would simply ignore what he’s told. The same article (linked above) includes this quote:
“It’s a big, big problem for all of Texas,” said Dr. Moss Hampton, regional chairman of the local TTUHSC obstetrics and gynecology program. “It’s a big, big, big problem for West Texas.”
To Rives, apparently, pushing an ideological agenda is more important than solving a problem like the epidemic of teen pregnancy in his own community. Voters have a right to ask: will you take the same rigid, ideological agenda with you if elected to the State Board of Education?