Dispatches from the Creation Wars

Texas BOE Bans Children’s Book Author

Just how utterly clueless are the religious right intelli-phobes on the Texas State Board of Education? They banned a children’s book author with a very common name because one of the dolts on the board did an Amazon search and found a different author with the same name had written a book about Marxism.

What do the authors of the children’s book Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? and a 2008 book called Ethical Marxism: The Categorical Imperative of Liberation have in common?

Both are named Bill Martin and, for now, neither is being added to Texas schoolbooks.

In its haste to sort out the state’s social studies curriculum standards this month, the State Board of Education tossed children’s author Martin, who died in 2004, from a proposal for the third-grade section. Board member Pat Hardy, R-Weatherford, who made the motion, cited books he had written for adults that contain “very strong critiques of capitalism and the American system.”

Trouble is, the Bill Martin Jr. who wrote the Brown Bear series never wrote anything political, unless you count a book that taught kids how to say the Pledge of Allegiance, his friends said. The book on Marxism was written by Bill Martin, a philosophy professor at DePaul University in Chicago.

Here’s the best part – the explanation for how this crack board of researchers came to this point:

Hardy said she was trusting the research of another board member, Terri Leo, R-Spring, when she made her motion and comments about Martin’s writing. Leo had sent her an e-mail alerting her to Bill Martin Jr.’s listing on the Borders .com Web site as the author of Ethical Marxism. Leo’s note also said she hadn’t read the book.

“She said that that was what he wrote, and I said: ‘ … It’s a good enough reason for me to get rid of someone,’ ” said Hardy, who has complained vehemently about the volume of names being added to the curriculum standards.

In an e-mail exchange, Leo said she planned to make a motion to replace Bill Martin and sent Hardy a list of possible alternatives. Hardy said she thought she was doing what Leo wanted when she made the motion.

Leo, however, said she wasn’t asking Hardy to make any motions. She said she didn’t do any “research.”

“Since I didn’t check it out, I wasn’t about to make the motion,” Leo said, adding that she never meant for her “FYI” e-mail to Hardy to be spoken about in a public forum.

Hardy said that her interest was in paring down that list and she didn’t mean to offend anyone.

Okay, so here’s the obvious question for Terri Leo: If you didn’t intend to get Martin banned and you hadn’t done the research on it, why didn’t you object to the motion to ban him and point out that you hadn’t done any real research on the guy? I don’t have the minutes for the meeting (they aren’t available yet), but I spoke to someone who was there and he said the entire religious right block voted for the motion as a block, including Leo.

These people would be hilarious if they weren’t so dangerous.