Friday, June 10, 2011


Ask any freshman state representative and he will assure you being elected makes you much smarter overnight.  I can assure you of this fact because of my personal experience.  As I went to Austin in 1963 freshly elected, there was hardly any problem too knotty for me to solve, or any question I didn’t know the answer to or couldn't quickly find out.  After 32 years in the state Legislature, I felt I got dumber each session.

The above may be somewhat facetious, but I am absolutely convinced of one cogent fact.  The Texas Legislature is a poor place to attempt to run institutions of education.  

The farsightedness of politicians was demonstrated in the early 1900's when several members of Congress proposed the patent office be closed.  They argued everything worth inventing had already been invented, so why spend money keeping the patent office open.  The fact is that since the time these forward-thinking politicians wanted to close the patent office, there have been more things invented than all things invented prior thereto.

Some of this same kind of mind set may be observed with our current governor who continues to meddle with our institutions of higher learning.  Perry has appointed his cronies to all the Boards of Regents, but what is worse, they have been pushed, by the governor, to listen to recommendations of the Texas Policy Foundation which is a right-wing think tank which would exert even more political control over the University of Texas and Texas A&M.  

Unfortunately, too many of Perry’s hand-picked regents have chosen to follow these wrong-headed moves and are rapidly destroying the efforts of the past several years to make higher education institutions in Texas world class.  They carp about educational institutions doing research.  They are proposing faculty members be compensated on the basis of how many students they have in their classes.  They would, if they had their way, be rid of professors who spend more time doing research than actual time spent in the classroom.  

Just how wrong-headed these so-called “know-it-alls” about education can be is demonstrated very poignantly by the story of research concerning the sex life of a fly.  Unless quickly treated and stopped the screw worm flies would literally eat the flesh off of livestock, costing Texas’ farmers and ranchers millions and millions of dollars.  

Through research scientists discovered that during the life span of a screw worm fly, which was relatively short, the female screw worm fly would only breed once during her life span.

As a result of the research which had been the object of politicians’ scorn, a program was created in an old Air Force hangar down in the Valley.  Trays and trays of freshly ground beef were provided, along with screw worm flies who would plant their eggs into the fresh ground meat which would eventually produce thousands of larvae.  As these larvae matured into pupa, they were gathered and radiated which caused them to produce sterile screw worm flies.  

Following this process, millions and millions of sterile screw worm flies were released via airplanes throughout the area of Texas where screw worms existed.  The sterile, male flies bred with the native wild screw worm flies, which caused them to lay their eggs which would never hatch.  The program resulted in complete eradication of screw worm flies in Texas, saving untold millions of dollars for ranchers and livestock producers in Texas.  

Imagine the results from just this one little vignette concerning research thought to be silly by non-visionary politicians.  Imagine what politicians may cost future generations of Texas if we allow them to impose their political will over the scholars and researchers of today. It’s as serious as the sex life of a tiny screw worm fly--and the consequences can be as costly as it gets.


  1. BTW, that's the head of a Cochliomyia hominivorax [screw worm fly]. You can go here to read more about it:

  2. These same fly-by-night politicians are now screwing with things like stem cell research, which could not only save lives, but be an incredible boon to the Texas economy.


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