Texas SBOE Election: Beauty & the Beast

Rebecca Bell-Metereau & Ken “Dog-Cat” Mercer

YOU all know that in the November general election there are some contests for the Texas State Board of Education in which we’ve been very interested. In District 5, the creationist-theocrat incumbent, Ken Mercer (pictured above facing far to the right) easily survived a GOP primary challenge back in March, and is now running against Rebecca Bell-Metereau — who won big in the contested Democrat primary.

Therefore, November promises us a blow-out election pitting the gracious and intelligent Rebecca Bell-Metereau against Ken“Dog-Cat” Mercer (he dismisses evolution by asking: “Have you ever seen a dog-cat, or a cat-rat?”). We wrote about this match-up last year. See Rebecca Bell-Metereau vs Ken Mercer.

In the Community Impact Newspaper, which publishes local newspapers in eight locations around Texas, they have two articles, one about Rebecca and another about “Dog-Cat” Mercer. The articles are far more extensive than we can deal with here. We’ll give you a few excerpts from each, with bold font added by us.

First let’s look at Q&A | Rebecca Bell-Metereau, Democratic Nominee for State Board of Education, District 5. It starts with her background:

Rebecca Bell-Metereau, Democrat
* Education: Indiana University (Ph.D.)
* Experience: Professor of English and film, Texas State University (1981–present); former special assistant to the President at TSU; French interpreter for the U.S. Air Force
* Campaign website: Rebecca Bell-Metereau

This is her answer to: What is your position on the teaching of evolution?

Evolution is the accepted scientific theory that should be taught in the science classroom. People who want to include other philosophies and beliefs and theories should place those in other subject areas like religious studies or philosophy. Science is what can be observed and measured, and the theories of evolution are based on what we can find in the fossil records and what we understand of the physical universe. It doesn’t really have anything to do with people’s beliefs about origins or causes. So we need a board that understands what science is. If we do not teach students what scientific method is, they will be ill prepared for any number of jobs in medicine, biology, geology and engineering. It’s very worrisome to the business community to see that Texas is perceived as being anti-science. That’s not good for the economy, and it’s not good for the health and wellbeing of society.

This is part of her response to: What is your position on the current social studies standards?

Also, the current board has gone so far to the extreme right that they’ve kind of fallen off the edge of the flat earth. They’ve made decisions that even their own party does not understand. When I tell people that they’ve removed the word ‘democracy’ or the word ‘capitalism,’ they don’t understand that at all. When they hear they’ve taken Thomas Jefferson out as an Enlightenment thinker, they just shake their heads and think, “Well, I thought conservative values would teach our Constitution and teach us about our Founding Fathers.” But the ideologues on the board have decided that they don’t like some of the Founding Fathers, and so they are trying to rewrite history and rewrite them out of history …

And in response to: What is your view on the current conflicts over social studies standards?

What I think has happened in this last round of social studies curriculum is that they can see the writing on the wall, and they know this is their last chance to get their political views inserted into the curriculum, and so they are doing everything they can to rewrite the history, rewrite the curriculum to fit their own particular worldview.

Now let’s look at Q&A | Ken Mercer, Republican Nominee for State Board of Education, District 5 , starting with his background:

Ken Mercer, Republican (incumbent)
* Education: University of Texas; UT–San Antonio; St. Mary’s University (MBA)
* Experience: Project manager and senior software engineer; Texas House of Representatives (2003–04)
* Campaign website: Re-elect Ken Mercer

This is his answer to: What is your position on the teaching of evolution?

I get upset when the newspapers say we put religion in the textbooks. It’s a lie. I challenge every editorial board to go online — the standards are online — and find religion in astronomy, chemistry, biology. It is not there. I firmly believe kids in America have the right to raise their hands in the classroom and ask honest questions. I was rather shocked that the opposition didn’t want that. It wasn’t just evolution; it was global warming. I was shocked that in America if you’re either for or against those things, the biggest thing is they didn’t want kids to raise their hands and ask honest questions. There is not any religion in our books. I challenge anyone to go online and look for Jesus or Muhammad or Buddha or Moses or whatever, it’s not in the science books. What we do have is the right for our kids to raise their hands in class and ask honest questions, especially in the areas of evolution and global warming. … You can call it strengths and weaknesses, but we won the right for kids to ask questions in class, and that was the battle. It wasn’t religion. It was just a right to ask questions.

And in response to: What is your position on the current social studies standards?

It’s very clear to me that the people who have been arguing the standards haven’t read them. The [Thomas] Jefferson thing is a lie. Jefferson is everywhere in our history book standards. In fact he is found stronger than in any other time in our history. I think it’s a great set of standards. …

Lastly, his response to this rather long question: With mounting state and national controversy and criticism over recent social studies curriculum and allegations of ideological extremism, how will you help moderate or change the board’s image?

The biggest controversy has come from statewide editorial boards who choose to read press releases from the far left rather than coming to talk to us. Jefferson, for example, my editorial board didn’t call me. My editorial board in San Antonio wrote that Jefferson was deleted from the history books — erased — that’s a lie. Anybody can go online and see Jefferson, the Declaration of Independence, the Founding Fathers. … I always say this; I’m going to give a political comment, “The far left is scared to death of a place called Texas.”

Amazing, isn’t it? Everyone is lying except Mercer. In our humble opinion, either “Dog-Cat” Mercer is the one doing the lying, or else he has no clue about what he and the Board have done. It seems that he knows nothing about anything in the science curriculum, and we think the Board would be well rid of him.

As we’ve said before, if we were voting in District 5, we’d choose a road-kill armadillo instead of Mercer, and Rebecca is far better than a road-kill armadillo. She’s the easy choice in this election.

Copyright © 2010. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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18 responses to “Texas SBOE Election: Beauty & the Beast

  1. It wasn’t religion. It was just a right to ask questions.

    Wedge Document. Next.

    Although Mr. Mercer either doesn’t understand or refuses to admit the connection.

  2. waldteufel

    Thanks for the “heads up” on this important race.

    I went to Dr. Bell-Metereau’s website and kicked in some money for her campaign.

  3. Mercer never really did answer the question, “What is your position on the teaching of evolution?” And he throws in global warming? He says, “It was just a right to ask questions.” Yeah, sure. Students in Texas were previously prevented from asking questions in class?

  4. Gabriel Hanna

    It’s not just Mercer. Ann Althouse, who voted for Obama, didn’t think the Washington Post coverage of the SBOE standards was fair (she’s not defending the standards themselves):


    If you’re going to criticize the new social studies curriculum adopted by the Texas Board of Education, you’d better quote it. Or at least link to the text. And if you choose to paraphrase and not even link, and I have to look up the text myself, and your paraphrase is not accurate, it is my job to embarrass you by pointing that out….

    I have not been defending the Texas standards, only attacking the quality of the journalism that fails to quote or link to a text that is referred to. Birnbaum’s Friday article contains some useful quotes (though still not a link to the whole text). The Saturday article was unanchored to text and forced me to look for what I could find on line. I’m also criticizing inaccurate paraphrasing, like the use of the words “vindicating” and “equivalency.” Birnbaum’s take on the standards might be true, but in an article that refers to a text, I do need to see the text. Paraphrasing, without the text, raises suspicions, and I don’t apologize for having those suspicions.

  5. Gabriel Hanna

    For example, when I was going to school we learned that “McCarthyism” was when innocent people of a leftist persuasion were accused of being Communists. Usually it was compared to “witch hunts”. The difference between witches and Communist agents being that witches are not real and Communist agents most definitely were; people knew this at the time and the Verona decrypts should have put any remaining uncertainty to rest. Doesn’t justify Joe McCarthy’s unjustified accusations–but there was a lot more going on then, than just Joe McCarthy’s unsupported word (hence “McCarthyISM”). Newer textbooks, some of them, have revised their sections on “McCarthyism” since the Verona decrypts, but not all of them have.

    It would be a lot more accurate to portray McCarthyism as an exaggerated response to a real thret, much like pedophiles in the UK, rather than as something made up to discredit political opponents.

    I don’t have any of my high school textbooks , but I do have my history textbook from my freshman year at WSU. McCarthyism was a witch hunt. No mention of boat people from Vietnam or human rights abuses in Cuba, and the Tet Offensive mysteriously becomes an American military defeat at the hands of the Viet Cong guerillas, rather than an American military victory over Chinese and Russian supported North Vietnamese military forces.

    I know all about these guys in Texas and their motives, thanks to SC. There is a reason why their ideas gain traction and it is not necessarily due to cretardation.

  6. Gabriel Hanna says:

    There is a reason why their ideas gain traction and it is not necessarily due to cretardation.

    I don’t disagree with everything the conservative faction did. I focused on the lunacy of creationism last year, of course. This year, in the realm of social studies, my concern was the Enlightenment and theocracy; so my focus was on Jefferson’s place in the textbooks, and also the issue of separation of church and state.

  7. Gabriel Hanna

    so my focus was on Jefferson’s place in the textbooks, and also the issue of separation of church and state.

    Sure. I just wished to point out that the reporting on the standards is not necessarily accurate.

    For example the Washington Post had:

    The new standards say that the McCarthyism of the 1950s was later vindicated — something most historians deny –…

    but the actual text was

    “describe how McCarthyism, the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC), the arms race, and the space race increased Cold War tensions and how the later release of the Venona Papers confirmed suspicions of communist infiltration in U.S. government…”

  8. Gabriel Hanna says:

    I just wished to point out that the reporting on the standards is not necessarily accurate.

    Agreed. A lot of reporting has been terrible. Liberal newspapers focused on McCarthyism and their obligatory list of minorities, Fox news focused on free enterprise and a few other issues I couldn’t object to. It was tricky, because I couldn’t trust what the press said. But I learned that lesson years ago. It helps to stay on message, and to verify everything.

  9. I disagree with everything the conservative faction did on the SBOE.

    They’re supposed to oversee and manage the process, not do the process. They’re simply not qualified. They should have marked up the standards if they had questions, and sent it back to the writing committee for review.

    To make changes to the standards on the fly and vote on them is lunacy.

  10. Doc Bill says:

    They should have marked up the standards if they had questions, and sent it back to the writing committee for review.

    Maybe so. But you’re talking about the process, and I was talking about the substance. Apples and oranges.

  11. Curmie, as you probably remember, I live in the Austin area (District 5)… and the Republicans have gerry-mandered this district to dilute the vote of any liberal thinker here. What that means is that the right-wingnuts (which constitute the GOP in Texas now) have disenfranchised me. I will gladly vote for Miss Bell-Metereau, but it may not make a difference.


  12. LRA says:

    I will gladly vote for Miss Bell-Metereau, but it may not make a difference.

    Just do whatcha can.

  13. Yes sir! 😀

  14. I’m in Cynthia Dunbar’s district. Oddly enough, this is one of the most fossil-rich places I’ve ever lived. Came home today with bucketfuls of Upper Cretaceous mollusks.

  15. @ SY– 😀 yup! Lotsa limestone here, beautiful!



  16. What’s nice too is that, locally, there’s a nice chalk layer which acts as an age marker.

    Being a Creationist here is like being a teetotaler in Burgundy.

  17. Thanks for the feedback on this election. I’ve known Mercer was either crazy or corrupt for several years now. I’m concerned that the GOP can’t clean their own house.
    This guy is horrible. Adios Ken.
    Will Fraser Oil and Gas Geoscientist Austin Texas

  18. Be careful, Will Fraser. A Flood geologist may put you out of business. They know things.