Tuesday, March 22, 2016

#1627: Neal Frey

Remember the Texas Board of Education antics a couple of years back? One of the central, uh, grassroots players on the side of abysmally fundamentalist crazy was the organization Educational Research Analysts (ERA), founded a long time ago by Mel and Norma Gabler to campaign against public school textbooks that the Gablers regarded as “anti-family” or “anti-Christian”, which would be pretty much everything this side of Tertullian, including those that contain “statements about religions other than Christianity, statements emphasizing contributions by minorities, and statements critical of slave owners.” Those “religions other than Christianity” would include humanism, which the Gablers claimed were a “religion” that taught ideas such as evolution, sex education, internationalism and an optimistic view of human nature. Given the time and age of their campaigns, ERA managed – despite having no education – to achieve an impressive level of clout with the State Board of Education (who adopted many of their suggestions), and were, by the 2000s, major players.

When they died, ERA was taken over by their long time coworker Neal Frey, who continued their work (“[r]eplacing stan­dard algorithms with haphazard searches for personal meaning unconstitutionally establishes New Age relig­ious behavior in public school Math instruction” is a 2007 example) and, in particular, tried to use it to affect the outcomes of the Texas textbook wars.

As of 2014 he was still trying to combat the teaching of evolution in Texas schools, and did for instance file a formal complaint with the Texas Education Agency alleging that Pearson Education’s high school biology textbook was wrong in explaining the close similarities between chimpanzee and human DNA and saying that scientific evidence shows that chimps are the closest living genetic relatives of humans. Pearson responded by pointing out that Frey doesn’t have the faintest clue what he is talking about, but the State Board of Education Chairwoman Barbara Cargill backed the complaint, ostensibly because she doesn’t have the faintest clue either. Frey also wanted history textbooks to portray white people in the former Confederate states as victims of oppression after the Civil War, but it is unclear whether he found any support for that one.


Diagnosis: Oh, they won’t give up, even though the movement has been intellectually more or less dead since the Middle Ages. Frey still continues to fight bitterly against sanity, truth and reason, but his influence seems to have waned a bit the last couple of years but the Texas Taliban anti-science campaign is certainly not dead. He’s still dangerous.

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