Journalism and Current Events Toolkit (Document)
Meet the Producer: Karla Murthy (Document)
DON MCLEROY: Mornin’
ALISON STEWART: Don Mcleroy has three jobs and he loves them all.
SECRETARY: Good morning, Dr. Mcleroy’s office…
ALISON STEWART: Job number one - dentist.
ALISON STEWART: Job number two - sunday school teacher.
ALISON STEWART: And job number three: member of the Texas State Board of Education… a seat he’s held for the last 12 years. But it’s that third job which has put this dentist and Sunday school teacher from Bryan, Texas - into a national debate over what kids are taught in school. Critics have accused Mcleroy of injecting his religious conservative beliefs into the curriculum.
ALISON STEWART: about every 10 years – the board revises the textbook standards for different subjects. Any books bought by the state must conform to these guidelines.
ALISON STEWART: The last big battle was over the science standards. This year – he’s tackling social studies. He says he and his like-minded board members are determined to correct a liberal bias they see in the books.
ALISON STEWART: According to publishing insiders – textbooks are often tailored to fit Texas’ standards… because Texas is the largest buyer of textbooks. That means the choices made here could determine books that other states will buy. And that’s led to a school fight that has the entire country looking on.
ALISON STEWART: So how does a dentist get on the state board of education anyway? He was elected – just like the insurance salesman from Beaumont, the real estate broker from El Paso and the lawyer from Lubbock. There are a few teachers on the board too. But it’s this group of conservatives including Don Mcleroy that have been getting all the attention.
ALISON STEWART: Their exhaustive debates all are captured on this web video. The board makes amendments to a draft of the standards produced by a group of experts, including educators.
ALISON STEWART: The conservative members on the board felt that some terms used in the textbooks portray America in a negative light. One of those words was “imperialism.” So Don Mcleroy made an amendment to delete the word and replace it with “expansionism.”
ALISON STEWART: Mcleroy also wanted to eliminate the word “propaganda” from a discussion of American involvement in the World War I. Pat Hardy, a history teacher on the board, noted America’s use of propaganda posters in the lead up to war and pleaded with members to leave the word in.
PAT HARDY: (SBOE webcast) Guys, you’re rewriting history now. I beg of you I’ll go a long with those other things but don’t mess with the propaganda thing.
ALISON STEWART: But they did mess with it – and “propaganda” was deleted. “capitalist” has also become a dirty word. One member associated it with “capitalist pig.” So – the board voted to get rid of it, and replace it with “free enterprise.” Again, pat hardy was miffed.
ALISON STEWART: hardy argued that words like capitalism are used at the college level and kids should know them. But the majority on the board disagreed.
ALISON STEWART: To further correct that liberal bias, Mcleroy added a requirement to study the rise of conservative icons like Phyllis Schlafly, the heritage foundation and the moral majority. There’s a new emphasis on the role religion played in the founding of the country. And on the constitutional right to bear arms. In all there were over 300 amendments proposed to the social studies standards.
KATHY MILLER:I think that Dr. McLeroy is very well meaning, and he believes that the curriculum is skewed in one direction or another, but just as I’m not an expert, and I can’t decide what every student in Texas should learn about American history and government, neither is he.
DON MCLEROY (SBOE WEBCAST): I believe that…
ALISON STEWART: Miller says she was troubled by Mcleroy’s amendments to the section on civil rights. He proposed changing the standard so it didn’t focus on how women and minorities fought to win their own civil and voting rights.
DON MCLEROY (SBOE webcast):It took the majority vote. It wasn’t the minorities that got the majority vote. I mean it wasn’t minorities that got the civil rights act. It was the majority that did it. Understand what I’m saying? (Yes sir.) Ok for instance the women’s right to vote. The women didn’t vote on it. The men did. The men passed it for the women.
KATHY MILLER: I do not necessarily believe that it was only because men just decided that day, “You know what? We’ve been messing around with those womenfolk. They need to vote.” I think that we struggled for a really long time to get that vote. And that notion is being lost in the way this Board is trying to erase challenges and struggles in American history.
KATHY MILLER: We need to find a way for academic experts at our colleges and universities who are going to get so many of these students when they graduate to say, “Yeah, this is what they need to know in order to be successful here.”
ALISON STEWART: Hundreds of historians from around the country signed this open letter to the Texas state board of education. It said quote “those of us who teach and conduct research in colleges and universities have grown concerned however, that social studies curriculum standards in Texas do not meet student needs.” Miller says - at the very least –the board should be required to have experts present while they are making their amendments.
ALISON STEWART: Thomas Ratliff lives in Mt Pleasant with his wife and 2 kids and works as a corporate lobbyist in Dallas. He decided to run against Don Mcloery in his districts state board election.
LIKE MCLEROY – He’s a republican and says – his Christian faith informs eveyrthing he does.
THOMAS RATLIFF: My faith is not threatened by the discussion of evolution. I don't think it's an either/or proposition. And why it has to be that if you believe in evolution, you don't believe that God created the heavens and the earth, it — it just; it's crazy.
ALISON STEWART: he believes it’s wrong to force his ideology onto others – and was disappointed that many of the board’s amendments seemed to do just that. He says amendments should be the exception -- not the rule.
THOMAS RATLIFF: We're lawyers, we're insurance salesmen, we're lobbyists, we're, you know, teachers. We're normal citizens. And for us to elevate ourselves to a point where we can take that work product and totally redo it, I don't think that's what the process is designed to do.
DON MCLEROY IN DEBATE: My goal is to win…
ALISON STEWART: On March 2nd, election day, the voters got to decide between the dentist from Bryan and the lobbyist from Mt Pleasant. In the end, Thomas Ratliff narrowly defeated Don Mcleroy.
THOMAS RATLIFF: I think my faith will give me a certain dose of humility. I'm not goin' down there because I think I have all the right ideas. I'm goin' down there because the people that do have the right ideas aren't being listened to.
ALISON STEWART: But Ratliff won’t take his seat on the board till next January. The current board – including Don Mcleroy, will be voting on the final social studies standards next week. It will likely be a decade before they are considered again.
Academic standards correlations on Teachers' Domain use the Achievement Standards Network (ASN) database of state and national standards, provided to NSDL projects courtesy of JES & Co.
We assign reference terms to each statement within a standards document and to each media resource, and correlations are based upon matches of these terms for a given grade band. If a particular standards document of interest to you is not displayed yet, it most likely has not yet been processed by ASN or by Teachers' Domain. We will be adding social studies and arts correlations over the coming year, and also will be increasing the specificity of alignment.