Controversy over at TFN and a brief conversation with Don McLeroy
As mentioned previously, the Texas Freedom Network and Tony Whitson of Curricublog have pointed out the seemingly contradictory statements of certain board members regarding their views on teaching evolution. Anyone following the conversation at the Texas Freedom Network over the Texas board of education’s views on teaching creationism and intelligent design has surely noted the controversy in the comments. One of the more pertinent questions raised by Larry Farfarman was basically thus:
How did the voter’s guide phrase the questions to candidates?
For instance, as Larry Farfarman stated over at TFN:
How do you know that the term “CREATIONISM” was included in the questionnaire that was sent to the candidates? How do you know that “CREATIONISM” was not just a title that was added afterwards to the question when the responses were published in the voter guide? You don’t know.
So…after much back and forth, I decided to ask the Free Market Foundation, who publishes the voter’s guides in question, myself. I sent them the following email on December 7, 2008:
Hello. I browsed through your voter’s guide for 2008 before the election this year and had a question about how the voter’s guide is created. At the top of the voter’s guide there are summaries of the questions that were asked to candidates. For example, for Sexual Orientation it said: Add a law protecting students from sexual orientation discrimination.
Is this exactly how the question was phrased to the candidates, or did the questions they received look or sound different in any way? This would be helpful to know in the future. Thank you!
Tonya Peterson from the Free Market Foundation responded quickly and concisely stating:
These are the exact wording the candidates received. They answered on the scale from strongly for to strongly against.
I hope this answered your question.
Many thanks to Tonya for a speedy reply.
Now, I could have stopped there, but since I was already online at the time (which is rare at home these days), I decided to investigate just a wee bit further. I emailed Don McLeroy, the head of our state board of education.
Here is the text of my email to Mr. McLeroy (also sent on December 7, 2008):
As a Texas citizen, I am concerned about the future of science education in our great state. Recently you made the statement that you are unaware of any board member (referring to the state board of education) that advocates or has ever advocated teaching creationism, intelligent design, or supernatural explanations in the science classroom.
Yet when perusing old news articles and more, it seems that you do support, or have supported creationism and intelligent design.
The 2006 Voter’s Guide from the Free Market Foundation stated that you support teaching intelligent design alongside evolution. You were not the only board member to respond in such a manner.
The 2002 Voter’s Guide also showed that you supported teaching intelligent design and not just evolution. Again, you were not the only board member to respond this way.
Can you please clarify? Do you, or do you not, support teaching intelligent design and/or creationism alongside evolution in Texas science classrooms?
Thank you very much for your time.
Mr. McLeroy also replied promptly stating the following:
Airtight: Good question. I had forgotten about those voter guides when I made my statement. My mistake. It is true, however, that I have never stated that I want to teach Creationism or Intelligent Design nor do I want to. Voter guides leave little wiggle room sometimes; they will put you in a box and you have to choose which box in which best represents your views.
While I am unsure how Mr. Mcleroy can claim that he has never wanted to teach creationism or intelligent design despite what he acknowledges answering in the voter’s guides, I do thank him for a speedy reply. I am not sure what position Mr. McLeroy does have that prompted him to answer in such a manner, even if he does not really feel that way. Plus, as one can tell by viewing old voter’s guides from the Free Market Foundation, candidates do have the opportunity to expand on their views or to decline answering certain questions. They can also explain why they are declining to answer certain questions.
Related links you may be interested in:
Creationist Evolution in Texas from The Panda’s Thumb