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Don McLeroy, a dentist in Bryan-College Station, Texas, is a Republican representative to the Texas State Board of Education. (Katie Hayes/Katie Hayes/For The Globe and Mail)
Don McLeroy, a dentist in Bryan-College Station, Texas, is a Republican representative to the Texas State Board of Education. (Katie Hayes/Katie Hayes/For The Globe and Mail)

John Allemang

'They want to make it look like we are dumb morons' Add to ...

The Globe's John Allemang interviews Don McLeroy, a board member (and dentist).

You've been the leader in the campaign to introduce conservative values into the Texas school curriculum. What's your goal?

We're just trying to remove bias and get accurate history.

Where's the bias?

Here's an example: At the kindergarten level, the standards committee talked about the kids becoming global citizens instead of United States citizens. The bias is their idea that, 'Oh, we're just part of the world,' instead of emphasizing the uniqueness of being an American. Some of us don't have a problem with seeing America as being a little unique. Here's another example: In eighth-grade U.S. history, the committee deleted, "Describe how religion contributed to the growth of representative government in the colonies." Well, I was stunned. Our whole country was born out of Biblical ideals and principles.

Speaking of Biblical principles, didn't your committee delete reference to Thomas Jefferson, who actually talked about the separation of church and state?

That's not true. Look, down here there are these groups from the far left. Whatever we do, they want to make it look like we are dumb morons. They're very effective, dadgummit. Jefferson's name was taken out of a list of Enlightenment philosophers in world history because he didn't fit the period of the Enlightenment.

Did you have trouble with Jefferson's views about the separation of church and state?

No, that's wrong. We're not against the separation of church and state. But now we've gone so far to the other side you can't even have a prayer at a football game. You know, some schools barred the use of red and green at Christmas time because they don't want to be promoting religion. You see how ridiculous this is.

Why did you drop the word capitalism and instead label the American economic system as free enterprise?

It's the term actually required by state law, that we promote free enterprise in our standards. But to me, what allows us to grow and be great in a lot of ways is liberty and freedom. I like the emphasis on free market and free enterprise.

That's also where the word liberal comes from, meaning free man and free-thinking. But that's not a very popular word in Texas.

Well, I'm not so upset with liberals. But when you get way off to the left, that's what I don't like.

Can your students really have a critical discussion of free enterprise when it's a favourable term mandated by the government? How will that help them understand the causes of the 2008 economic meltdown?

Most people don't enjoy history for some reason, but a good teacher will ask those questions. Facts are pretty well facts: North Korea has so much GNP, South Korea has so much. But when you go to causation, that's where it gets exciting.

It surprised me that you dropped the word "democracy" as a description of the United States.

That's for accuracy: We're a republic, a constitutional republic. That's why a lot of states are challenging Obama's health-care legislation on a constitutional basis, not on a democratic basis. We're a constitutional republic, so those challenges are not on how many people voted one way or the other.

You've added Newt Gingrich, Phyllis Schlafly and other conservative figures to your curriculum. Why are they worthy of being studied?

It's an accurate reflection of history: There was this pushback against big government and it led to a bunch of prosperity. I see conservative values being much more Americam values while the left values about big government and taking care of everything to me is just kind of horrifying. America was founded on the idea of limited government and the importance of the individual. Our country started changing a lot with the New Deal and the Great Society.

But didn't the increase in government come about because free enterprise failed during the Depression?

If I weren't a dentist, I think I'd enjoy being a teacher, because that's a great question to examine in history class. I'm not an expert, but basically a lot of people think we would have come out of the Depression sooner had it not been for the government interventions.

Is the size of government really a left-versus-conservative issue? Didn't George W. Bush increase the size of government and national debt by waging the war in Iraq?

Does this put George W. Bush on the left? When it comes to how big government is, I would have to say yes.

Do you believe it's the role of schools to teach American pride or patriotism?

Well, we have added a statement about American exceptionalism. I think that's a good standard. United States values have made us different from most other countries. The American values I see in American exceptionalsim go back to the idea of limited government, importance of the individual, freedom of the individual and also just the sense of fair play. I think we've been very generous as a people. If we become like the rest of the world, and share the same world values, I think it would be a net loss to the world.

Can you see it being a problem when Texas students go out into the world and meet people with a different understanding of your country?

No, no. If they're taught good accurate history, what difference will that make? But if you're talking about being taught socialist ideas versus free-enterprise ideas, then kids in Texas who are taught free-enterprise ideas will be better citizens. Then, when someone wants to nationalize health care, maybe they wouldn't vote for it.

You like to say that the United States is based on Judeo-Christian principles. But wouldn't Jesus have real problems with the free-enterprise system?

I think the key thing with Jesus in history is his idea to render unto Caesar what is Caesar's and unto God what is God's. There you've got separation of church and state.

When I was a kid, I'd hear the statement by Jesus that it's easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God. And I'd think, boy, are we in trouble.

Yeah, anyway, you know what I think's a useful standard we've put into world history that hasn't got a lot of attention? We have a standard that says students should explain the Arab rejection of Israel as a cause for ongoing conflict. I don't think you'd hear President Bush or President Obama make that statement. But it's an accurate statement. I mean Israel tried to recognize Palestinians, but you've never seen any serious statement about that by Palestinian groups.

Do you think there's been a pro-Arab bias by the teachers in the schools?

Absolutely. Yeah. I see a real bias in our country all the time. I'm really disappointed by how a lot of world-history books don't emphasize the importance of the rise of monotheism going back to Abraham 4,000 years ago.

Do you think the changes you've made will lead to a rise in educational performance in Texas schools?

I think the key for getting better education is to have good teachers in the classroom. Whatever we can do to get good teachers, the better.

In the free-enterprise system, all you have to do is you pay them more. Is that going to happen?

I think that'd be good. But that's another conversation

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