Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Mariah Blake on Texas

Mariah Blake, writing for the Washington Monthly, has an article on Don McLeroy and the history of the creation/evolution controversy in Texas. She sheds some light on the subject that often gets buried during the struggle for the science:
Battles over textbooks are nothing new, especially in Texas, where bitter skirmishes regularly erupt over everything from sex education to phonics and new math. But never before has the board’s right wing wielded so much power over the writing of the state’s standards. And when it comes to textbooks, what happens in Texas rarely stays in Texas. The reasons for this are economic: Texas is the nation’s second-largest textbook market and one of the few biggies where the state picks what books schools can buy rather than leaving it up to the whims of local districts, which means publishers that get their books approved can count on millions of dollars in sales. As a result, the Lone Star State has outsized influence over the reading material used in classrooms nationwide, since publishers craft their standard textbooks based on the specs of the biggest buyers. As one senior industry executive told me, “Publishers will do whatever it takes to get on the Texas list.”

Until recently, Texas’s influence was balanced to some degree by the more-liberal pull of California, the nation’s largest textbook market. But its economy is in such shambles that California has put off buying new books until at least 2014. This means that McLeroy and his ultraconservative crew have unparalleled power to shape the textbooks that children around the country read for years to come.
While not being as objective as one would hope from an historical account such as this, it is a good read.

Hat tip to the NCSE.

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  1. DSDan9:14 AM

    I wanted to like this piece. But I lost interest when it described the school board side as a "balding, paunchy man" and a "lanky man with a silver pompadour" who "rewrite books willy-nilly" with "childlike glee", and described the opposing side as "soft-spoken professor with a halo of fine white hair." Ms. Blake, a halo, really?

  2. What sort of bothered me was the whole "right wing nutjob" air that the author took. Lots of interesting information, which could have been objectively disseminated to greater effect.