Consider, for example, Terri Leo of the Texas state board of education. She has been on the forefront to get Texas schoolbooks to conform to far-right Christian ideals — and success here means that the texts in schools all around the nation will change. PZ Myers writes on her efforts to attack evolution:
She's a real piece of work. She's been working like a maniac to gut textbooks; she's even tried to get publishers to add little "facts", like "Opinions vary on why homosexuals, lesbians and bisexuals as a group are more prone to self-destructive behaviors like depression, illegal drug use, and suicide." She's a perfect example of anti-science, anti-intellectual, intolerant bigotry, and yet there she is, on the state board of education.
Brian Leiter writes:
Leo: “The only out-of-state people who came to the meeting to politicize the process and push their agenda were the ‘Darwinian thought police’ from California. They brought in CNN and have been very successful in misinforming every Texas media outlet. Californians may not like our TEKS, but that is the law in Texas.”
Leiter: Nice display of mindless Texas parochialism, Terri (and probably not politically prudent, given the huge number of ex-Californians now in Texas). The “thought police” she’s referring to are the actual scientists affiliated with the National Center for Science Education in California, who view it, for some reason, as their mission to try to make sure science textbooks reflect the best, current expert knowledge about science, and not stuff cooked up by amateurs with religious and political axes to grind. I actually appeared on the CNN episode Ms. Leo alludes to (its coverage was excellent, which is why she’s so incensed--indeed, much better than average for the Corporate News Network). CNN, in fact, tried to get some members of the Texas Taliban to speak, but they all declined. What a shame.
Leo: “If we censor scientific weaknesses to evolution, textbooks would not conform to the TEKS and we limit the best of our educators by directing them to avoid controversy. Those who would thwart the clear will of the State Board of Education in this regard, particularly in light of recent advances in science, can only be described as censors, no matter what their organizational name may say.”
Leiter: Goodness, the Texas Taliban really hate the Texas Freedom Network, to whom Ms. Leo alludes in her final sentence. As to the “scientific weaknesses to evolution,” they are apparently so grave that the Discovery [sic] Institute searched all of Texas and could find only one retired biologist, not even at a research university, who would sign their letter protesting the “censorship” of “scientific weaknesses” in the theory of evolution.
As I noted at the beginning, what is especially depressing is the way in which people like Leo acquire so much power that others feel it necessary to emulate here in order to succeed. Consider, for example, Bill Cork, author of the conservative Catholic blog "Ut Unum Sint." He's running for the Alief School Board and says:
I am committed to maintaining the traditional understanding of marriage as between one man and one woman, to protecting human life from conception to natural death, to "abstinence only" education, and to maintaining parental involvement in textbook review. I fully support the leadership shown by Terri Leo on these issues on the State Board of Education.
Leo's popularity is such that people are now running (in part) on the fact that they agree with her. How many feel it necessary to drop her name in advertisements even though they know that her "leadership" is not only worthless, but in fact has been hurting Texas immeasurably? Texas will only be worse off if people who want to emulate Leo are elected.