Something is Rotten in the State of Texas

The Texas Education Agency’s director of science cirriculum is resigning. Check this out:

In documents obtained Wednesday through the Texas Public Information Act, agency officials said they recommended firing Comer for repeated acts of misconduct and insubordination. But Comer said she thinks political concerns about the teaching of creationism in schools were behind what she describes as a forced resignation.Agency officials declined to comment, saying it was a personnel issue.[source]

This is being discussed in the blogosphere here and here.Here’s the deal. Chris Comer, who has been the director of the agency for nine years, was put on 30 days administrative leave after, and apparently because, she faorwared an email announcing a talk being given by Barbara Forrest. Forrest is the author of Inside Creationisms’s Trojan Horse, which addresses creationists tactics such as the Wedge Strategy. She also gave testamony in the Dover trial.

Agency officials cited the e-mail in a memo recommending her termination. They said forwarding the e-mail not only violated a directive for her not to communicate in writing or otherwise with anyone outside the agency regarding an upcoming science curriculum review, “it directly conflicts with her responsibilities as the Director of Science.”The memo adds, “Ms. Comer’s e-mail implies endorsement of the speaker and implies that TEA endorses the speaker’s position on a subject on which the agency must remain neutral.”

Now, you have to understand, that “Neutral” here means “Creationist” since the tactic of the Intelligent Design movement is to insist that the preponderance of evidence supporting Darwinian Evolutionary Theory and the pissant excuse for evidence supporting Intelligent Design are somehow on equal footing. Neutral like if you are a zoologist you should be neutral on the existence of bigfoot. Neutral like if you are an astronomer you are netural on the issue of little green men from Mars. And so on.

In addition to the e-mail, the memo lists other reasons for recommending termination, including Comer’s failure to get prior approval to give a presentation and attend an off-site meeting after she was told in writing this year that there were concerns about her involvement with work outside the agency.It also criticized Comer for allegedly saying that then-acting Commissioner Robert Scott was “only acting commissioner and that there was no real leadership at the agency.”Comer, who hadn’t spoken about her resignation publicly until Wednesday, said she thinks politics about evolution were behind her firing.”None of the other reasons they gave are, in and of themselves, firing offenses,” she said. Comer said her comments about Scott, who eventually received the commissioner appointment, were misconstrued. “I don’t remember saying that. But even if I did, is that so horrible?” she said. “He was, after all, acting commissioner at the time.”

In a few months from now Texas will begin to review its statewide science curriculum. Expect a fight.

Agency spokeswoman Debbie Ratcliffe said the issue of teaching creationism in schools has not been debated by the board in some time.”There’s been a long-standing policy that the pros and cons of scientific theory must be taught. And while we’ve had a great deal of public comment about evolution and creationism at state board meetings, it’s not been a controversial issue with the board.”

Uffda.I’m psyched. Texas has deep pockets and a well entrenched right wing. They are unlikley to back down on this, like the Discovery Institute backed down in Dover. They are likley to go to the mat. And there, on the mat, they will bleed out for the last time.

The call to fire Comer came from Lizzette Reynolds, who previously worked in the U.S. Department of Education. She also served as deputy legislative director for Gov. George W. Bush. She joined the Texas Education Agency as the senior adviser on statewide initiatives in January.Reynolds, who was out sick the day Comer forwarded the e-mail, received a copy from an unnamed source and forwarded it to Comer’s bosses less than two hours after Comer sent it.”This is highly inappropriate,” Reynolds said in an e-mail to Comer’s supervisors. “I believe this is an offense that calls for termination or, at the very least, reassignment of responsibilities.

You see the pattern, yes? Get the soldiers lined up in key places, displace those who would generate internal disagreement. Its a Busy strategy, and it pretty much works.

Eugenie Scott, executive director of the National Center for Science Education, which sent the original e-mail to Comer announcing the event, said Comer’s situation seems to be a warning to agency employees.”This just underscores the politicization of science education in Texas,” Scott said. “In most states, the department of education takes a leadership role in fostering sound science education. Apparently TEA employees are supposed to be kept in the closet and only let out to do the bidding of the board.”

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4 thoughts on “Something is Rotten in the State of Texas

  1. I’m psyched. Texas has deep pockets and a well entrenched right wing. They are unlikley to back down on this, like the Discover Institute backed down in Dover. They are likley to go to the mat. And there, on the mat, they will bleed out for the last time.

    Jesus H. Christ, that sounds intense…. I’ll be looking forward to it. Take it from me, though, these people are driven, and they’re sure not going to go down without a fight.

  2. And much of the Texas public has been conditioned by their churches and socialized by their neighbors over the past 20 years to be viscerally opposed to the teaching of evolution. (Those of you with some historical memory will recognize that 20 years ago was during the Reagan presidency, the first administration to give right-wing evangelical Christians political power.) Y’all have probably read recent reports from the US that, even in places where teaching evolution is not officially discouraged, teachers often won’t teach it simply for fear of a hostile public response and professional ostracism. And there are unfortunately many US teachers who are themselves opposed to the teaching of evolution, just like there are “scientists” employed by the Institute for Creation Research. I think it’s even worse now than at the time of the Scopes trial in the 1920s, because a frighteningly large portion of the US public has now been persuaded by 20 years of right-wing TV and radio to be not just wary of but aggressively hostile to the teaching of evolution. And many of these Americans, including some of the “teachers” involved, don’t even believe there are such things as facts (everything to them is a belief or a point of view) and don’t know the fundamentals of logic and proof.

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