The newly appointed chairman of the Texas school board, makes no secret of his views on the theory of evolution. In fact, he states his opinions on that topic and others on his Web site, http://donmcleroy.com.
Dr. Don McLeroy, a 61-year-old dentist from College Station who was named to head the panel by Gov. Rick Perry, a Republican, on July 17, says in one posting that common ancestry of organisms, a core concept of evolutionary theory, is a “hypothesis, and a shaky one at that,” despite its broad acceptance among scientists.
His appointment has worried some groups that keep tabs on the board’s activities, such as the Texas Freedom Network, in Austin. They fear he may try to weaken public schools’ teaching that humans and other living things have evolved through natural selection and random mutation.
The Freedom Network worries that Dr. McLeroy will be an “ideologue who pushes his own personal and political agenda,” said Dan Quinn, a spokesman for the organization, whose goal is to counter the influence of religious conservatives. It says Dr. McLeroy, a board member for eight years, has followed a politically conservative agenda during past reviews of health and environmental-science textbooks.
But Dr. McLeroy says such concerns are unwarranted. He acknowledges believing that school curricula don’t do enough to discuss what he sees as weaknesses in evolutionary theory—a shortcoming that allows for “dogmatism in science,” he said.
Yet he also said he does not plan to seek changes to evolution’s treatment in state science standards, scheduled to be revised next year, because he believes that document allows for some discussion of the “strengths and weaknesses” of the theory.
“I like the standards the way they are,” he said.
State board chairmen in Texas generally have authority to set agendas for meetings and control discussions, a spokeswoman for the Texas Education Agency said. The 15-member Texas board’s decisions about textbook adoptions and standards are influential nationwide because publishers try to tailor their materials to states that make up the largest share of the market.
Dr. McLeroy vows to wear the board crown responsibly, without shutting out opposing views.
“I am excited,” he said of his appointment. “I’m also humbled.”