Election Coverage: Evolution Skeptic Wins Seat on Texas State School Board

Education-watchers have long focused on the politics of education in the Lone Star State.  From The Revisionaries to Rod Paige’s skewed statistics, Texas education often serves as a harbinger of education trends nationwide.

Nowhere is this more true than in the touchy issues of education culture wars.

Yesterday’s election put one more conservative voice on Texas’ 15-member State Board of Education.

Marty Fowler of Amarillo won a resounding victory over Steven Schafersman.  The politics of the two candidates demonstrate what Texas voters in district 15 want out of their public schools.

Schafersman went down to defeat with his pro-mainstream science, pro-sex ed platform.  According to mywesttexas.com, Schafersman, “a practicing scientist in the petroleum industry with 23 years of college  teaching experience, said he ran for the board because he wants students to have  unbiased, factual and scientific textbooks and increase[d] knowledge about  contraception.”

Schafersman won a measly 20% of the vote with these positions.  Earlier this year, Fowler explained his support for teaching multiple scientific approaches–intelligent design along with evolution–in Texas’ public schools.  As Fowler put it in an interview with an Amarillo newspaper:

“Evolutionists would say that we progressed to this point through a series of unplanned, random circumstances and random events.  I don’t believe that tells the whole story. I think there is more to our creation that indicates an intelligent being that has played a significant role.”

Beyond the issue of evolution/creation, Rowley won support as the more consistently conservative candidate, with opinions on issues from standardized testing to vocational education that more closely matched the conservative district.

As fence-sitting observers like me have pointed out, this is the real crux of the issue in educational culture wars.  Schools prohibit sex ed and teach creationism not because teachers are ignorant, not because administrators are prudes, but rather because those educational policies are often the clear mandate from large electoral majorities.

Much as it pains me to admit it, Marty Rowley would be acting in an irresponsible fashion if he did not go to work to promote multiple scientific theories in Texas textbooks and schools.  That, after all, is what the voters seem to be demanding.

God and the Battlefield States

At Religion News Service Mark Silk offers a sketch religious breakdown of important battleground states for Tuesday’s election.

Of course, the broad categories of “Mainline Protestants,” “Evangelicals,” “Catholics,” “Nones,” and “Mormons” do not offer a nuanced portrait of religious life in America.  Nor does it tell us enough to see various percentages.  Among every category, there are important differences.  Catholics, for instance, break in many different directions electorally.  Some Catholic groups, such as Latinos, tend to vote Democratic.  But other Catholic groups, such as pro-life voters, tend to vote Republican.

Nevertheless, even with all those caveats, Silk’s sketch is worth looking at.  It must make a significant difference, for instance, to have religious make-ups as broadly different as those of North Carolina and New Hampshire:

“North Carolina

  • Mainliners: 32%
  • Evangelicals: 44%
  • Catholics: 9%
  • Nones: 6%

“New Hampshire

  • Mainliners: 27%
  • Evangelicals: 10%
  • Catholics: 38%
  • Nones: 16%”

For each of the 12 battleground states, Silk offers a brief commentary on the trends suggested by the data.  For those interested in religion and politics, Silk’s article is certainly worth a read.