Fact-Checking Barbara Cargill

Barbara Cargill, the creationist former chair of the Texas State Board of Education (SBOE), sent supporters an email today announcing her 2016 bid for re-election to the 15-member body. The Republican from The Woodlands near Houston has been one of the leading right-wing culture warriors on the board, helping to politicize the state’s curriculum standards and trying to censor textbook content that doesn’t pass her ideological litmus test. So we thought it would be good to fact-check Cargill’s email announcement. Following are some of what Cargill calls highlights of her 11 years on the SBOE:

“Served on the Governor-appointed Commission for College Ready Texas to improve students’ college readiness”

Well, she might have served on the commission, but she has actually helped undermine college readiness for Texas students. She played a leading role in the disastrous and deeply divisive political battle over new social studies curriculum standards the state board approved in 2010. Cargill and her colleagues were so focused on making sure that the standards reflected their personal and political biases that they paid scant attention to whether the standards aligned with the state’s college readiness standards. In fact, even her creationist ally and predecessor as board chair, Gail Lowe, has admitted as much.

“Worked tirelessly to develop state curriculum standards that are concise, measurable and rigorous”

If only that were true. In fact, the SBOE members have decided to spend the next two years “streamlining” curriculum standards for science (in 2016) and social studies (2017). They are doing so because teachers and independent analysts have loudly criticized the standards adopted by the board in 2009 (science) and 2010 (social studies) as far too numerous and detailed as well as convoluted. TFN and other observers pointed out that SBOE members were creating such a problem when they revised the standards, but Cargill and her colleagues pressed forward to adopt them anyway. Now Cargill and her colleagues will try to fix the problem the board created itself.

“Voted for textbooks which provide teachers and students with accurate, academically sound instructional materials”

Really? Does Cargill mean the same textbooks that say African slaves were brought to America simply as “workers”? The same textbooks that leading scholars have ridiculed for promoting falsehoods like Moses influencing the writing of the Constitution and the roots of democracy being found in the Old Testament? And those are just some of the most glaring problems caused by the absurd curriculum standards forced on publishers and the failure of the board to develop an efficient and credible review process.

“History curriculum standards and textbooks that emphasize our Founding Fathers, founding documents like the U.S. Constitution, our rich religious heritage, the service of our military, the free enterprise system and American exceptionalism”

Not quite. These are the same standards that the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, a conservative think-tank,” has sharply criticized as “a politicized distortion of history” filled with “misrepresentations at every turn.” Fordham’s 2011 scathing review laid the blame for those deeply flawed standards largely at the feet of Cargill and her right-wing colleagues.

“Science standards and textbooks that encourage students to think, ask, and predict, have increased lab time and that present evolution as a theory, not as fact”

In fact, Cargill and her creationist colleagues on the board did succeed in passing standards they hoped would force publishers to include anti-evolution arguments in their new science textbooks. But publishers refused to do so. In fact, the new science textbooks present evolution as factual science backed by an abundance of research and evidence. Cargill tried to pressure publishers to make changes that would introduce doubt about evolution. They didn’t.

All of this seems like a terrible record to run on for re-election, but Cargill is hoping voters in her heavily gerrymandered, pro-GOP district will believe the distortions she’s selling. Maybe they will. Or maybe they will decide that Texas schoolchildren deserve a 21st-century education based on facts and sound scholarship, not the political agenda of board members like Cargill.

6 thoughts on “Fact-Checking Barbara Cargill

  1. When are Texans going to get all of those crazed individuals OUT of the SBOE? They are making us into being the laughing stock of the nation if not the world.
    Anyone who calls Evolution “just a theory” have no comprehension of what a scientific theory means. But TRY telling those people anything and they will come back with the most screwed up books available–the bible.

  2. Funny-mentalists should have to pass a psychologist test. Anyone who belives that the bible was written by God is mentally ill. This is the 21st century, but they totally ignore the truth about everything.
    This is something that has been kicking around since the early ’70s. The “Silent Majority” aimed to take over various goverernmental offices and influential positions such as the SCOE. IT is very much a CONSPIRACY. Their goal is to drag all people to accept their brand of Christianity and to hell with things like science, history, and banning books that do not fit their sick religioni.
    Somehow the people of this backward state have to take control of what our children and grandchildren are learning. They are a dangerous bunch of anti-Americans who still think that thsi is a Christian nation despite what our Constitution says.

  3. Minor error in your article: In the paragraph on African slaves, I don’t think you meant to say “…the Christian Old Testament”

    1. Edwin: You’re right — that sounds clunky. Since Old Testament is a Christian term, it probably doesn’t need the qualifier.

  4. C’mon Babs. Cease from delusions and tell the truth. You do remember what Jesus said, do you not:

    “But for the cowardly and unbelieving and abominable and murderers and immoral persons and sorcerers and idolaters and all liars, their part will be in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.” (Revelation 21:8)

  5. Dan makes several good points about Barbara Cargill. Good educators know that, for curriculum standards and classroom instructional topics, less is more. The ratio between teaching and learning discipline content and non-discipline educational skills and habits (reading and writing abilities, critical thinking skills, note-taking skills, study habits, classroom social interaction and teamwork, etc.) needs to be equal. It is impossible for this to happen with Texas’s inordinately detailed, numerous, and complex curriculum standards which would take all available classroom time to cover. I and others complained about this problem with the science standards and especially the social studies standards.

    As Dan relates, the problem came about because the State Board members, especially the reactionary religious right extremists, wanted to require students to learn about many specific highly-politicized topics: alleged problems and inadequacies of evolutionary and geological science to explain the origin of species, diversification and biodiversity, age of the Earth, evolution of fossil organisms, origin of the universe, solar system, and Earth, and the origin of life; the superiority of only the free enterprise system over other economic systems; the concept of American exceptionalism; the true causes of the Civil War; the role of slavery in the history of America; the supreme role of the Christian religion in the founding of the United States; the necessity for abstinence-only sexual health education; and similar bogus claims, myths, and fantasies. To get in all their radical and wacko right-wing beliefs, the members took the excellent and concise standards written by professional curriculum experts and teachers and added their personal ones from long lists. I was in the hearing room and witnessed this effort personally. The standards grew quite large to a size that it is impossible to teach them all. Feedback from education experts, actual teachers, academic achievement test results, and the business community has convinced Cargill and her fellow reactionaries that something is wrong and it might be the bulky and poorly-conceived standards. So now they want to “streamline” them! Good luck with that. It would be better to simply adopt the state consortium-created English, math, and science standards which have become, in effect, national standards.

    The news reports about the radical religious-right Republicans on the State Board to distort and debase instruction about evolutionary biology, the age of the Earth, the history of the U.S., the causes of pollution, and both the positive and negative results of American capitalism, militarism, imperialism, and social welfare programs are so well-known by now that I don’t have to repeat them here. Cargill is running on her foul record of attempting to corrupt and politicize Texas students’ curriculum standards and instructional materials to align with her Christian Fundamentalist, Young Earth Creationist, laissez-faire capitalist, anti-Muslim, American Exceptionalist, pro-Confederacy revisionist, and pro-natality/anti-contraception beliefs. The horrendous results of this effort for the proper education of Texas students are so well-known by now that I don’t have to repeat them here.