"The Revisionaries," a documentary about textbook standard-setting in Texas, recently debuted at the Tribeca Film Festival, and key subject Don McLeroy talked to Stephen Colbert Monday about the state's textbook debate.
McLeroy, former chair of the Texas Board of Education, is a dentist whose predominant classroom teaching experience is in Sunday School. During his two-year tenure for the state, the board examined guidelines for its science textbooks, considering revisions to standards that would encourage public schools to scrutinize "all sides" of scientific theory.
"When it gets to those good old evolutionists, they would have us believe so much that needs to be explained by unguided natural processes," McLeroy told Colbert Monday.
After the evolution debate in 2009, the Texas Senate rejected McLeroy's appointment by Republican Gov. Rick Perry amid complaints that the conservative advocated teaching creationism in public schools. But under new conservative chair Barbara Cargill, the board revisited the evolution education debate last summer, as she voted that the theory of evolution's weaknesses be taught in public classrooms.
The board in July gave final approval to supplemental high school science materials for labs on chimpanzee and human skulls as well as the fossil record while Education Commissioner Robert Scott continued to work on the controversial lessons with publisher Holt McDougal.
So, "how did the world begin?" Colbert asks McLeroy.
"In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth, and when I looked at the evidence for evolution, I found it unconvincing so I don't think he used evolution to do it, that's my big deal," McLeroy responded.
Texas is one of the country's largest purchasers of textbooks -- California is another -- so publishers often sought to offer texts that meet their standards. And those standards are voted on by the Board of Education.
"And what if what they write doesn't meet your standards, what happens?" Colbert asks.
"If they don't they, will not be adopted," McLeroy says.
"I have always been a fan of reality by majority vote," Colbert concludes.
But legislation passed last year unlinked the $792 million for school districts to buy teaching materials from the board's approval, and textbook publishers don't have to go to the State Board to get their license to sell any longer -- the money is controlled by the schools," lobbyist David Anderson told the Austin American-Statesman.
Watch the full interview with McLeroy above.