Gail Lowe's Revenge? Defeated Texas Education Board Member Helped Stack Textbook Review Panels with Creationists

by Dan Quinn

So how did at least six evolution deniers get placed on panels charged with reviewing proposed new biology textbooks for Texas public high schools? Look no further than the corrosive influence creationists have had over the Texas State Board of Education (SBOE) for years.

When Gail Lowe lost her bid for re-election to the state board in 2012, supporters of science education in Texas had good reason to cheer. During Lowe’s time on the board, the Lampasas Republican and other creationist board members helped turn debates over curriculum standards and textbooks for public school science classes into heated “culture war” battles. (See here, for example.) And that in turn helped make Texas appear to the rest of the country as a hotbed for anti-science fanaticism.

But even with Lowe no longer an SBOE member, she’s still influencing the board’s adoption of new science textbooks and other instructional materials this year. Before leaving the board at the end of 2012, Lowe nominated at least nine of 28 individuals whom the Texas Education Agency (TEA) invited to participate on the biology review panels this year. Of those nine, at least five are creationists: Raymond Bohlin of Probe Ministries; retired Baylor University engineering professor Walter Bradley; Texas A&M chemistry professor Daniel Romo; finance consultant and former Dallas Baptist University business school dean Ide Trotter; and Austin systems engineer Richard White. Bradley, who helped launch the “intelligent design” movement in the 1980s, and Bohlin are also fellows for the anti-evolution Discovery Institute in Seattle.

A sixth known creationist on the biology textbooks review panels, private school teacher David Zeiger, was nominated by creationist SBOE member David Bradley, R-BeaumontBuna. We’re still researching the science backgrounds and views of other reviewers nominated by SBOE creationists.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry appointed Lowe to serve as SBOE chair in 2009 after the state Senate failed to confirm the appointment of her predecessor, fellow creationist Don McLeroy, to that post. The Senate refused even to take a vote on Lowe’s nomination in 2011, forcing her to step down as board chair. She then lost the re-election race for her seat in the 2012 Republican Primary. But Lowe was still allowed to nominate individuals to serve as reviewers for this year’s adoption of new science textbooks. She used that opportunity to try to stack the textbook review teams with people who want Texas students to learn that modern science is wrong and evolution is a lie. What a legacy.

The state board is scheduled to hold its first public hearing on the textbooks at its September 17-20 meeting in Austin. The board has scheduled a final vote on which textbooks to adopt for November.

If you want students to learn real science in their science classrooms — not discredited creationist arguments that will leave them unprepared for college and the jobs of the 21st century — then join thousands of Texans who have signed our Stand Up for Science petition here. The Texas Freedom Network will keep you informed about the textbook adoption this year and what you can do to stop anti-science fanatics from undermining the education of Texas kids.