Sometimes politicians find it easier to point fingers at everybody else for the problems they helped create themselves. That certainly seems true for Gail Lowe, the Republican from Lampasas who chairs the Texas State Board of Education.
The state board has been bombarded with thousands of e-mails and letters from people concerned about the ongoing revision of social studies curriculum standards for Texas public schools. We obtained through a Texas Public Information Act request copies of those e-mails as well as replies from board members. In her replies Ms. Lowe tries to shift blame for problems to teachers and the news media, and her words are as insulting as they are disingenuous.
This was especially evident in her responses to writers concerned that astronaut Neil Armstrong — the first man to set foot on the moon — had been left out of the first draft of the curriculum standards. In replies to e-mails about Armstrong, Ms. Lowe blamed teachers (whom she derisively labels the “education establishment”) on the curriculum writing teams:
“You might have to ask the teachers of Texas to stop making such embarrassing recommendations to the elected board.”
Ms. Lowe knows — or should — that the curriculum writers were following a recommendation from Peter Marshall, one of the absurdly unqualified right-wing ideologues the board appointed to a panel of so-called “experts” to help guide the writing teams. But Ms. Lowe chose to criticize the teachers on the writing team anyway. (Maybe that’s because Ms. Lowe appointed the other unqualified ideologue, David Barton, who along with Marshall had also recommended dropping Cesar Chavez and Thurgood Marshall from the standards. She still ignores that fact.)
Ms. Lowe attacks teachers again regarding the bogus claim about evidence of a “war on Christmas” in the first drafts of the standards. As we have reported, curriculum writers simply chose Easter instead of Christmas as an example of a Christian holiday in a standard about world religions. One of the curriculum writers patiently explained to the board at a meeting in September that the suggestion was simply an attempt to streamline the standard and that they weren’t trying to keep students from learning about Christmas. But Ms. Lowe has her own agenda, telling one e-mailer:
“The Judeo-Christian foundations of our nation are not something that should be diminished or rejected from the history we teach in Texas classrooms. It certainly is disheartening to think that a panel of social studies teachers would recommend this type of ‘politically correct’ perspective. I believe it was Ronald Reagan who said if Americans ever forget we are one nation under God, we will become a nation gone under. I don’t intend that to happen on my watch.”
So these teachers are undermining “the Judeo-Christian foundations” of America? Does she realize how unhinged that sounds? And never mind how offensive that must sound to the Christian teachers who are working on the new standards for free. That’s what they get for volunteering.
A number of other e-mailers complained that the first drafts of the proposed new standards require students to learn about “significant conservative advocacy organizations and individuals, such as Newt Gingrich, Phyillis Schlafly, and the Moral Majority.” There is no comparable requirement that students learn about advocacy organizations and individuals because they’re liberal. Ms. Lowe suggests that the writers have their facts wrong and blames the news media for trying to “embarrass” the board:
“The news report seems not to be based in fact, but probably was written in an effort to embarrass or disparage the State Board of Education.”
In another e-mail from Ms. Lowe about the issue:
“I believe the media are not doing the people of Texas ‘the right thing’ by continuing to perpetuate their inaccurate reporting.”
Ms. Lowe ignores the fact that the person who pushed for requiring students to learn about people and groups simply because they’re conservative was a right-wing political activist placed by state board member Don McLeroy, R-College Station, on the curriculum writing team. She just finds it easier to blame “the media” for the ensuing controversy over such an absurd suggestion.
It’s shameful when far-right extremists divisively attack the faith and motivations of others while playing the “victim” in the “culture wars” they promote themselves. Ms. Lowe and her fellow board members should instead take responsibility for how their own unwise choices and overreactions are undermining the work of educators trying to develop solid standards for Texas students.