Texas agency defies history

A fruitful way to understand the fanatical efforts of America’s right wing is to realize that they want to turn back the clock and the calendar. Their efforts are clearest within the Texas Education Agency, where crazy scandals are epidemic.

On July 2, former state science curriculum director Christina Comer announced her lawsuit against the agency for having terminated her on charges of favoring science over superstition. Specifically, she is accused of forwarding an e-mail favoring scientific evolution over religious “creationism.” TEA claims that it has established an employee policy of “neutrality” on this fact-versus-myth issue, and that Ms. Comer was not sufficiently neutral.

Comer’s lawsuit correctly says that such “neutrality” violates the “establishment clause” of the U.S. Constitution by effectively endorsing religion. According to the Dallas newspaper, the agency intends to rewrite the standards for science classes for all Texas schoolchildren. Presently, it includes the scientific fact that humans evolved from lower forms of life.

Christina Comer’s brave battle for reality isn’t likely to create much of a stir in Texas, because it’s only one of a long string of battles in which the right wing tries to impose its unscientific nonsense on Texas children. As far back as the 1960s, Texas textbook hearings have produced shameful attempts to conceal the truth in all types of textbooks. Texas is one of the largest and most influential textbook buyers in the world, so the stakes are high.

Another ongoing scandal from the Texas Education Agency has to do with school vouchers. By a narrow vote, the Texas Legislature decided to stop trying to undermine the public schools in this particular manner, but TEA went ahead with a program to use tax money to pay for private schools enrolling older dropouts. The teachers’ unions and progressive state legislators are fighting the effort to bring in a voucher system “by the back door.”

Several times in 2008, scandals have broken concerning charter schools that get tax money to help them undermine public education. Even though the highly vaunted state testing system has revealed the failure of such schools as compared to public education, our “experts” at the TEA continue to advocate them. Even when some charter schools have been revealed to have cheated on their recordkeeping in order to keep getting state funding, the right-wingers keep endorsing them.

In the Texas election system, TEA officials are usually far down on an overcrowded ballot; consequently, “stealth campaigns” have been successful in getting religious nuts elected to positions of influence during the ascendancy of G.W. Bush and the rest of the right wing. It will take a reversal of previous election trends to change the situation. Fortunately, help is nigh in 2008!

Jim Lane (flittle7 @yahoo.com) is a labor activist in North Texas.