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The Brief: Oct. 12, 2010

Sex and dinosaurs (separately, that is) as debate topics?

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THE BIG CONVERSATION:

Sex and dinosaurs (separately, that is) as debate topics?

Not a surprise, perhaps, if it's a debate in the race for State Board of Education, that infamous cadre of mostly social conservatives that's drawn national attention in the past year for its debates over evolution and social studies curriculum.

The Texas Business and Education Coalition hosted the debate Monday for candidates in District 5, Republican incumbent Ken Mercer and Democrat Rebecca Bell-Metereau, and District 10, Republican Marsha Farney and Democrat Judy Jennings. Questions largely centered on the board's increasingly controversial role as a conservative-led curriculum-setter guided by a hard-right Republican faction.

Mercer and Bell-Metereau clashed over approaches to curriculum and the board's politics, with Bell-Metereau emphasizing the need for comprehensive sex ed and an end to politicization of education. “We are teaching you everything except how to prevent pregnancies and how to prevent sexually transmitted disease. That's not really teaching students very much,” she said. Mercer hit on the need for so-called back-to-basics math and, in response to critiques of the board's politics, said he originally ran for the position to correct ideological imbalances perceived by parents who wanted a "true and accurate" depiction of American history.

Farney and Jennings also clashed over board politics, but Farney, the Republican, was also able to cast herself as averse to any political grandstanding. The two, yes, also received a question of whether or not they believed humans and dinosaurs walked the earth at the same time.

“No, I don't believe that dinosaurs and humans walked the Earth at the same time. That's outrageous,” Jennings said. Farney agreed, but said parents should be responsible for teaching the subject.

CULLED:

  • A court of review on Monday threw out an ethics rebuke against Presiding Judge Sharon Keller, who in 2007 denied an 11th-hour appeal execution appeal to an inmate by closing the Court of Criminal Appeals at 5 p.m. In dismissing the reprimand, the review court cited the State Commission on Judicial Conduct's mishandling of the case rather than the charges against Keller, saying the commissioners weren't allowed by state law to issue their "public warning" against Keller. “This is the end of the road, and it’s been a long road,” said Keller's lawyer, Chip Babcock.
  • The Fort Hood shooter gets his day in (military) court today.
  • Stepping into the gay rights debate, U.S. Rep. Lamar Smith, R-San Antonio, has asked a federal court to let him appeal a federal ruling that in July struck down a portion of the Defense of Marriage Act barring same-sex couples from receiving federal benefits.

"We just never caught it."Janice Ruple, elections administrator for Atascosa County, which has for years been sending out absentee ballots with a picture of the Chilean flag

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