Think Texas lawmakers forgot about the State Board of Education after this year’s legislative session came to a close on June 1? Don’t bet on it. Republican legislative leaders might have stopped efforts to reform the state board during the session, but the state board has done plenty since then to remind lawmakers why those reform efforts are so important.
Now state Sen. Eliot Shapleigh, D-El Paso, has written the board’s new chair — Gail Lowe, R-Lampasas — to express his dismay that the board is still playing politics with the education of Texas schoolchildren. In a letter to Ms. Lowe dated Sept. 8, Sen. Shapleigh recounted the contuining political nonsense that is dominating the board’s work. He noted, for example, that far-right board members had appointed unqualified ideologues to a curriculum panel and that those ideologues opposed teaching social studies students about important civil rights figures like Cesar Chavez and Thurgood Marshall. He also criticized suggestions that students learn about people and groups like Newt Gingrich, Phyllis Schlafly and the Moral Majority simply because they are politically conservative.
“In as clear a signal as Texas can send, the Senate stripped Don McLeroy of his chairmanship [of the state board] for precisely the unproductive, partisan behavior that now warrants delivery of this letter. Given the Legislature’s concerns, it is both alarming and disappointing to see that the Board feels comfortable continuing down the same path of politicization and gridlock.
On one issue we all agree: Texas’ future depends on how well we educate our most valuable resource—our children. Teaching children about our rich American legacy, where people from all walks, all ethnicities, and all regions of our great nation succeed by virtue of courage, hard work, honesty, and education—that is the story we ought to share with our next generation. Our children need to compete with the world using a working knowledge of real American history, not the results of the last primary.”
Texas parents should thank Sen. Shapleigh for his strong leadership in trying to rein in a state board that continues to put political agendas ahead of the education of Texas schoolchildren.
Sen. Shapleigh’s full letter to Ms. Lowe follows after the jump.
September 8, 2009
RE: Put Children First
Dear Chairwoman Lowe:
I write regarding the ongoing debate over new standards for social studies textbooks. Despite the strong rejection of an overly-politicized Board—and chairperson—by the Texas Legislature, it is becoming increasing clear that little seems to have changed since your appointment. Let us review some recent history:
- Political ideologues appointed by the far-right faction of the Board to the curriculum review panel stated that César Chavez should be removed from the standards because he is not the right kind of role model for Texas students. One panelist in particular stated that “Chavez is hardly the kind of role model that ought to be held up to our children as someone worthy of emulation.” That same member of the review panel also stated that U.S. Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall is not “a strong enough example” of an influential historical figure.
- You weighed in on this debate, surprisingly stating that Marshall and Chavez are “not particularly known for their citizenship.” Given these historical figures’ enormous accomplishments, I am curious as to your definition of “citizenship.” Perhaps you may not realize that Justice Marshall was the first African American to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court and the lawyer that argued Brown v. Board of Education, the landmark case that dismantled the legal basis for racial segregation in schools and other public facilities. Additionally, you may not realize that Chavez was the 20th century’s leading voice for migrant farm workers in the U.S. Through Chavez’s leadership, the formerly-marginalized group’s horrible working conditions were brought to the nation’s attention and thus dramatically improved. Regardless of your protestations, however, both Marshall and Chavez are included in the first draft of the high school U.S. history standards.
- Predictably, the first draft of the high school U.S. history standards requires Texas high school students to “identify significant conservative advocacy organizations and individuals, such as Newt Gingrich, Phyllis Schlafly, and the Moral Majority,” yet fails to balance this with any progressive figures or groups.
As you know, the Board’s rank partisanship has caught the Legislature’s attention. During the 81st Legislative Session, the Legislature responded in a bipartisan manner with at least a dozen bills that would either strip elements of the Board’s authority, subject the Board’s activities to heightened legislative scrutiny, or require more public disclosure of the Board’s activities. In as clear a signal as Texas can send, the Senate stripped Don McLeroy of his chairmanship for precisely the unproductive, partisan behavior that now warrants delivery of this letter. Given the Legislature’s concerns, it is both alarming and disappointing to see that the Board feels comfortable continuing down the same path of politicization and gridlock.
On one issue we all agree: Texas’ future depends on how well we educate our most valuable resource—our children. Teaching children about our rich American legacy, where people from all walks, all ethnicities, and all regions of our great nation succeed by virtue of courage, hard work, honesty, and education—that is the story we ought to share with our next generation. Our children need to compete with the world using a working knowledge of real American history, not the results of the last primary.
I ask that you keep these words in mind as you continue to shape the standards that will guide the next generation’s education. For once, do right by the students, not by your political ideology.
Very truly yours,
8 thoughts on “Sen. Shapleigh to SBOE: Skating on Thin Ice”
That might just get Ms Lowe’s attention – it’s a heck of a letter!
Unfortunately, he and his message will be disregarded as a slightly annoying housefly. As long as the conservative SBOE members are convinced that their quest is driven by loyalty to their far right ideology and the perceptive image of God that they have created, nothing will change. The only real hope in Texas is to vote them out of office or pray for God to impose some sort of deus ex machina ending to their service on the board. The former would be satisying. The latter would be a miracle.
Like I have said before, let the SBOE dig their hole wide and deep and it will serve as their grave.
There is no reasoning with Lowe and the rest of the wingnuts. The best thing to do is vote the morons out of office and strip the SBOE of its power.
And if the SBOE keeps up its current actions that will probably happen.
It is fortunate that we have Sen. Shapleigh riding herd on this tragic comedy of the SBOE as it now exists. The solution is indeed to replace those with a far right agenda with members who have only one agenda-excellence in education for our children. The opportunity will come in the off-year election which means we must get the word out to the public to question those who would replace members on the present Board. It means we must alert our citizens to the importance of the Board to our childrens education and the fact that the ballot places the vote at the bottom where many don’t bother to make a choice. Just as vigilance is the price of freedom, excelence in education is the insurance for vigilence.
I’m so happy that Sen. Shapleigh is once again speaking up against the SBOE. He’s one of the great things we have over here in El Paso.
I don’t think Lowe will give his letter any real consideration. She is the dumbest woman I have ever had the misfortune to talk to.
She is so obiedient to the wingnuts that she might as well be a follower of the Manson family. The only opinions she has are the ones they give her. And she isn’t smart enough to question them.
But you know, I bet Gail Lowe is a sweet grandmother. Now that is something she can do.
Thank you, Sen. Shapleigh! Too bad that I also agree with Charles and PHarvey; The religious right ideologues are situated right where they fought be. This is what they have been working towards and they have no intention of retreating now. If this iteration of the SBOE remains after the SS cirriculum fiasco comes to a close, I have no doubt that the relentless attacks on anything unChristian or not patriotic enough will continue.
Hey, that means you get to read my witty remarks for a loooong time to come. In fact I was just telling some friends that when I set my mind to commenting, I can go all d[+++++carrier lost+++++]
Dear Eliot Shapleigh,
Three words: Waste Of Time
Recall what McLeroy said. Two things. First, the strongest argument is the argument from authority. (This is ridiculous, of course, but that’s what he said, recorded on video.) Second, referring to the National Academy of Sciences, McLeroy said he disagreed with all these experts and that somebody had to stand up to these experts.
Makes no sense, but here you have Gail Lowe cut from the same cloth, babbling incoherently as the head of the state school board.
The creationists have no shame and, ironically, no sense of morality nor ethics. They will not respond to a reasonable rebuke. The legislature must intervene. Action must be taken to implement checks and balances on the Board.