The top conservative activist on the powerful Texas Board of Education, who rejects evolution and has pushed for a revisionist right-wing U.S. history curriculum, is on the way out, after a moderate candidate defeated him in a tight primary last week.
For months now, TPMmuckraker has been covering Don McLeroy as a major player in the battle over the drafting of nationally influential history textbook standards by the Texas board.Lobbyist Thomas Ratliff edged out McLeroy 50.4%-49.6% in a GOP primary for the seat McLeroy has held since 1999.
Close as it was, Ratliff’s win is significant because he represented a clear alternative to McLeroy, and he pulled through in a deeply conservative district. McLeroy’s home county went 64-35 for McCain in ’08, and no Democrat is even running for the board seat.
Ratliff is younger, moderate, and emphasized listening “to teachers and superintendents in determining what students should know,” according to the endorsement column of the Dallas Morning News.
McLeroy led the fight against teaching evolution in recent years, a position which became an issue during the race.
“I believe God created the Heavens and the Earth millions and millions of years ago,” Ratliff says on his Web site. “I do not believe, as my opponent does, that the Earth is a mere few thousand years old, nor do I believe, as my opponent does, that dinosaurs and mankind lived at the same time.”
Among the highlights of McLeroy’s time on the board are:
* In 2008, he [objected](http://www.mysanantonio.com/news/MYSA032208_01A_curriculum_387c08a_html23885.html) to including Chinese literature in English classes: “[Y]ou really don’t want Chinese books with a bunch of crazy Chinese words in them. Why should you take a child’s time trying to learn a word that they’ll never ever use again?” He conceded some terms, such as “chow mein,” might be useful, the *San Antonio Express-News* reported.
* He [said](http://www.austinchronicle.com/gyrobase/Issue/Story?oid=oid:740136) during a 2008 debate over science standards: “Is understanding of evolution ‘vital’ to the understanding of biology? No.”
* Last year he [instructed](http://tpmmuckraker.talkingpointsmemo.com/2010/01/the_rehabilitation_of_joseph_mccarthy_texas_textbo.php) curriculum writers to “read the latest on [Joseph] McCarthy — he was basically vindicated.”
* He [described](http://www.washingtonmonthly.com/features/2010/1001.blake.html) his textbook evaluation process this way to the *Washington Monthly*: “The way I evaluate history textbooks is first I see how they cover Christianity and Israel. Then I see how they treat Ronald Reagan–he needs to get credit for saving the world from communism and for the good economy over the last twenty years because he lowered taxes.”
* He [explained](http://tpmmuckraker.talkingpointsmemo.com/2009/09/tx_board_ed_member_minorities_be_thankful.php) in this clip why minority groups should be thankful to the majority for civil rights:
* Finally, McLeroy successfully [offered](http://tpmmuckraker.talkingpointsmemo.com/2010/01/conservative_vision_ascendant_in_latest_texas_hist.php) an amendment to U.S. history standards to require students to be able to “describe the causes and key organizations and individuals of the conservative resurgence of the 1980s and 1990s, including Phyllis Schafly, the Contract with America, the Heritage Foundation, the Moral Majority, and the National Rifle Association.” There is no liberal counterpart clause in the current draft of the standards.
That last fight isn’t over — and McLeroy will remain in his seat for the remainder of this year. We’ll be following the debate over the history textbook standards, which is expected to [continue](http://tpmmuckraker.talkingpointsmemo.com/texas/) through May. Stay tuned.