The Next Texas Board Chair: Let the Speculation Begin

By Sean Cavanagh — July 06, 2009 1 min read
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State legislators had hoped that the Texas state board of education could move past some of the rancor and controversy that has come to define it, when they decided not to reappoint Don McLeroy as the chairman earlier this year. But tensions are rising once again amid speculation that Gov. Rick Perry, a Republican, is thinking of appointing current board member Cynthia Dunbar, a Republican who has drawn criticism for her strong views on evolution and other topics, as McLeroy’s replacement, according to the San Antonio Express-News.

Earlier this year, the Texas board approved state science standards that disappointed scientists by seeming to encourage criticism of evolution and invite discussion of non-scientific ideas in science classes. During that battle, which loosed a flood of media attention upon Texas, Dunbar argued that the standards should be written in a way that allowed for students and teachers to challenge certain aspects of the foundational scientific theory. No one is expecting the issue to go away anytime soon. In the coming months, the board is expected to begin reviewing science textbooks for approval, based on those standards.

Critics of Dunbar cite, among other things, last year’s publication of a book authored by her, One Nation Under God. According to the Express-News’ story, Dunbar’s book states that the country’s founding fathers created “an emphatically Christian government” and that government should be guided by a “biblical litmus test.” The story also reports that the book calls public education a “subtly deceptive tool of perversion.” For a general summary of the book’s main themes, see Dunbar’s personal Web site.

Dunbar tells the Express-News that she wrote the book as a way of communicating her views openly with her constituents, and that she believes she is being “boldly transparent.” She also says that, if named chair, she would lead the board in a fair and even-handed way. Others quoted in the story, however, are asking Perry to consider alternatives to Dunbar, such as current Republican board members Gail Lowe or Bob Craig.

A version of this news article first appeared in the Curriculum Matters blog.