Why Is Gail Lowe Attacking Teachers?

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.

29 thoughts on “Why Is Gail Lowe Attacking Teachers?

  1. Does anyone find this amusing? Whenever something goes wrong in there narrow little world, the far right blames it on the “liberal” news media and the “liberal” education establishment. Why? Because these are the main societal organizations that we trust for seeking out factual truth. They are the flashlight that cuts through the darkness to reveal the truth or lies that are present in one place or another. Those who deal in darkness are always afraid of the light. When that darkness is revealed, the problem is never the darkness itself. It’s always the fault of the light that shone upon it. Sermon over, and we will close with a hymn:


  2. Like I have said before, Gail Lowe is the dumbest woman I have ever tried to have a conversation with.

    The only opinions she has are the ones that McLeroy and Bradley give her. She would vote against women’s rights if her preacher told her to do so.

    I’m sure she is a really good grandmother and bakes delicious cookies. That is something she can do well.

    She is rather simple-minded, so use small words and speak slowly when communicating with her.

  3. It might be interesting to ask publicly why the Texas SBOE hates Easter. As far as Christian holidays are concerned, Easter is far more significant than Christmas. In point of fact, Christmas as a holiday was pretty much on its way out until Dickens wrote that emotional sop of a story with the old miser and some kid on crutches.

  4. Still trying to figure out where the “Judo” part of “Judo-Christian” comes in when considering Christmas or Easter. Seems unlikely that the birth and death of the founder of the Christian religion is a significant part of Jewish tradition.

    As I understand it, Judo-Christian typically refers to those elements that the religions hold in common (such as the books of what Christians call the Old Testament), not the events that marked the divergence of the religions.

  5. “Still trying to figure out where the “Judo” part of “Judo-Christian” comes in when considering Christmas or Easter.”

    What does Chuck Norris have to do with the Texas SBOE?

  6. Sorry, Peter P. I just couldn’t resist. You are right, the term Judeo-Christian is a made-up craptastic phrase.

    Dan, wow, this really needs to be seen by everyone in Texas, and the lege should step in before these fundie nutjobs really screw things up.

  7. Charles, that’s a winner! From their site:

    “However, many Christians also worry about the possible influence of Eastern religions. The GMAU is a Christ-based alternative to secular martial arts academies and their philosophies.”

    Yeah, none of that sissy Bruce Lee stuff; We teach only Chucky Norris’ ideologically approved butt-whoopin’!

  8. @ all the above: 🙂

    Why is Gail Lowe attacking teachers? Simple: because she’s a lyin’ idiot, that’s why.

  9. Love the hymn, Charles.

    As a religion major and seminary grad, I do recall a distinction was made between the Jewish and Christian religions. The “Religious Wrong” could use some education:

    The Constitution prohibits “religious” tests (Article 6) and establishment of “religion” (First Amendment), i.e., the whole subject “thereof,” to be distinguished from “church.” As Glenn Beck clearly points out about the words “church and state” in the Constitution, “They’re not there,” Arguing with Idiots, page 287.

    “It is the religion commandments in the Constitution which should be hung on every court room wall, posted and taught in every American public school, and monumentalized throughout America, not the religion commandments of Moses or of any religion,” p. 19, The Religion Commandments in the Constitution: A Primer.

  10. Hi Gene. Just out of curiosity, how do you feel about the more recent Religious Right claims that its members and loosely associated churches are being prevented from the “free exercise” of their own religion. Having been a Southern Baptist at one time, I believe they mean that their evangelicalism/fundamentalism requires them to witness to everyone they meet no matter where they might meet them. To them, this means that they cannot stand in a publlic school classroom with 20 students for 270 days out of the year without witnessing to them. They view it as an oppression that is just too great bear—like maybe putting a starving dog in a pet taxi and ringing it with open Alpo cans.

    Now, on several occasions, I have told them that they do not have the right to crawl in the window of my bedroom at 3:00 a.m. to witness to my wife and me in bed. The First Amendment doesn’t cover that. However, I have never really received an answer back to that inquiry, so I suppose they must think that this too is a constitutional right for them. What do you think?

  11. Yeah, she is, George. The problem is that she is absolutely positive that she is right, and because she feels that she is doing the Lord’s will, nothing will divert her from the course. As PHarvey mentions, she has her marching orders, so there’s no need for her to think.

  12. Hey, Charles, nice to see you’re an Elton John fan too.

    Oh, here we go again with the old “religion” vs “church and state” argument. It’s getting old. Ancient, in fact.

    To be clear, I have copied and pasted Article VI below:

    “All Debts contracted and Engagements entered into, before the Adoption of this Constitution, shall be as valid against the United States under this Constitution, as under the Confederation.

    This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof; and all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land; and the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby, any Thing in the Constitution or Laws of any State to the Contrary notwithstanding.

    The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the Members of the several State Legislatures, and all executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.”

    So what is Glenn Beck’s beef? That there SHOULD be a religious test. Of course, we ALL know what his test would consist of: how ‘good’ a Christian are you, i.e. how CONSERVATIVE is your Christianity, i.e. meaning that it’s OK to lie and deceive as long as it’s for the benefit of Conservative Christianity, that it’s OK to treat the stranger as a criminal, that it’s good to shoot abortion providers. And hell, why allow any contraceptives at all? That would give power to women and families, and we sure can’t have that now, can we?

    Note the Constitution also says the Constitution shall be the supreme law of the land; not the Christian Bible, the Jewish Bible, or any other religious document. Maybe that too is Beck’s beef.

    Yeah, arguing with Glenn Beck IS arguing with an idiot.

  13. And while we’re at it:

    “Article the third [Amendment I]

    Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

    Note the RR is no respector of this Article. They WANT Congress to establish a religion: THEIRS! They’re doing everything they can to bring it about. One way is by sneaking – no, forcing! – it into public schools – cleverly masking it by using the freedom of speech phrase.

    And under Pres. Bush and now Pres. Obama, religious institutions are being paid MILLIONS of TAX DOLLARS to proselytize.

    Articles III and VI are well on their way to abandonment.

  14. Hey Charles,

    The “free exercise” commandment: “Congress shall make no law … prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” Briefly, the word “thereof,” relates to “religion,” as in “the free exercise” of religion, not “church,” which word is not in the Constitution and should not be used as if it is. So, how do you determine the meaning of what “Congress shall make no law … prohibiting”? Obviously, that which is not to be prohibited by Congress is the “free exercise” of religion, as in the voluntary exercise of religion. In the USA, “religion” is to be voluntary, not established by law or Congress or government (the essence of coercion) at any level.

    Then, what about the “free exercise,” of which Congress shall make no law “prohibiting”? The answer is as simple as the “Websters'” definition of “prohibiting,” which is, totally forbidding. In the USA the voluntary exercise of religion shall not be prohibited, i.e., totally forbidden. The point? Everyone has the right to exercise their religion, within the laws of the land. All actions are subject to law, including in public schools. The Free Exercise commandment is not a license for anarchy, e.g., polygamy–see Reynolds v. U.S., 1878.

    If interested, The Religion Commandments in the Constitution: A Primer is available from Amazon or the Baylor University bookstore.

  15. So, Gene, aren’t you being just a little insulting and evasive by writing out long definitions of words everyone understands without getting to your point? Are you protesting something? What is it that you are protesting?

    You sound like you’re saying two different things: that “the voluntary exercise of religion shall not be prohibited,” but then you wrote “all actions are subject to law.” How is that not a contradiction?

    And you did not answer Charles’ question: Are you saying proselytizers have the right to stand at our windows with a megaphone and endlessly witness? Do they have the right to stand at my desk and witness to me all day while I’m working? Do they have the right to interrupt any legal assembly – such as at cinemas and in synagogue and temple and mosque worship services – to march up to the stage or bimah or pulpit to witness? How about in business meetings? Am I to assume your answer to these questions is Yes?

    And yes, there is a wide gulf between Judaism and Christianity, on just about every major criteria. That’s why I’ve never understood the phrase “Judeo-Christian.” What the hell does that mean? It can’t refer to our Bibles; our Bibles are very different. The Jewish Bible stands on its own while the Christian Bible is an amendment to the Jewish Bible, an amendment that is often contradictory to the Jewish scripture that came before. Then is ‘Judeo-Christian’ a reference to the Abrahamic faiths? Then you’ll have to include Islam too, and all the off-shoots of the three major Abrahamic faiths.

  16. Mr. Garman, I like the video-plug for your book @Amazon.com. Very stirring music.~Don’t mind me; I’m just the local chain-jerker. 🙂

    The book Gene Garman references is his own creation, his education background is impressive, and he sounds like he’s very much on our side in this battle, according to his post @OpEdNews.com, so I look forward to his response.

  17. Two issues:

    1. The question from Charles: “Just out of curiosity, how do you feel about the more recent Religious Right claims that its members and loosely associated churches are being prevented from the “free exercise” of their own religion?” Reply: “All actions are subject to law.” See 1878 Supreme Court ruling against polygamy in Reynolds v. U.S.

    The issue: Unlike the Religious Right, the 1789 six-member joint Senate-House Conference Committee which drafted the First Amendment understood the difference in meaning between “prohibiting” and “abridging”:

    Prohibit: totally forbid–applies to the “exercise” of religion.

    Abridge: reduce–applies to speech, press, peaceable assembly, and petition.

    Response: therefore, in answer to the question from Charles about the “religious right” claim in respect to “free exercise,” the First Amendment does not say the exercise of religion shall not be abridged, only that free exercise shall not be totally forbidden.

    While speech, press, peaceable assembly, and petition are constitutionally protected by “abridging,” the exercise of religion does not get the same level of protection, which is the constitutional response to the “religious right” in regard to the exercise of religion. Religion exercise can be abridged, just not totally prohibited. Not one word of the Constitution authorizes anarchy.

    2. Judeo-Christian: Oxymoron.

  18. Oh, thanks for the Webster definitions, Mr. Garman. I’d always been under the impression that ‘prohibit’ meant to be in favor of ‘hibits,’ as in anti-hibit and pro-hibit. And I’d always thought ‘abridge’ was a reference to an indefinite bridge: ‘a bridge’ (as opposed to ‘the bridge.’)

    So I take it that it IS legal for Christians to megaphone their witness into my bedroom window all night, and that it IS legal for Christians to stand at my desk all day and witness at me. To prohibit them from doing so would be….well,… a prohibition.

    Glad we got that cleared up. I see now that it’s time to get my house ready for sale and get my passport and all my documentation ready for emigration. (To where is the next item to complete).

  19. I am not sure what Mr. Garman’s purpose is or that I am understanding what he is saying with regard to that purpose. However, for the moment at least, I am willing to hear what he has to say until all of his cards are on the table.

    However, intuitvely between his lines, I am reading a fine parsing of words that suggests some agenda. Moreover, its appears to be the same type of word manipulation that I see in screeds written by tax protesters who are nursing some wild theory that the federal government has no constitutional right to levy a national income tax. The truth of the matter often lies not in the legal words that are being parsed upfront but rather in the past U.S. Supreme Court rulings and lower court rulings that resolved the issue, which are conveniently never discussed when the proponent’s explanations are being presented. And of course, the response is ALWAYS that the court rulings were themselves wrong and a violation of the constitution and basic human rights or some other such contrived malarkey.

    Just for the record: I don’t think James Dobson has the “free exercise” right to witness to me through my bedroom window at 3:00 a.m. If he tries it, i’m calling the cops.

    Mr. Garman. Our constitutional rights are among our most precious possessions as a people. For teachers and school administrators who violate student and parental rights in public schools by willfully engaging in teacher-led religious activities (that have been beaten to death in federal courst), I think there should be a mandatory 10-year term in federal prison. What do you think?

    It gets really annoying. At lunch today, I was reading the editorial page of our local paper. We have a bunch of repetitive tax whiners who write letters to the editor every other week to complain about how unfair or illegal their taxation is. If I were an IRS agent, my first act would be to do an annual tax audit on every letter writer. I figure people who do that are so far gone that they have probably bought into their on ridiculous theories like that creationist guy in Florida that went to the slammer for 10 years because the judge did not buy his tax theories.

  20. Mr. Garman does seem hung up on legalese [and copying Webster’s]. I still can’t tell what he’s protesting (if anything) or with what is he in accordance – or not. He seems to write a lot without saying much. He must be a very good attorney – or politician. (Actually, anymore they’re the same thing).

    I think tax protestors aren’t necessarily opposed to taxes in general; just taxes that don’t benefit THEM personally. For instance, a lot of tax protestors like to wrap themselves in the American flag and cheer Rah Rah to the troops while forgetting (or ignoring) that those troops are maintained by……taxes.

  21. Cytocop, that is one fact that makes my eyeballs hurt. Trillions for war, but those without health insurance, without a job, no prospects in the foreseeable, college tuition costs going through the roof, is someone else’s problem.

  22. As mentioned on too many occasions already, I once had a neighbor who was absolutely bitter that he had to pay taxes to send other peoples kids to K-12 school. Never mind the fact that other people had paid taxes to send his daughter through the same schools 30 years before.

    I think my neighbor would have like to see what I might call a “Pay Ony for What You Use Tax.” For example, if he did not use the public library, none of his tax dollars would be used to support public libraries. However, he would pay road taxes because he drives on the roads in the city, but because he never drove on county roads, he would be exempt from County highway taxes.

    And yeah, I am with you. The bureaucracy that would be required to keep up with all of that on three government levels for 307,000,000 people would alone probably eat the entire government budget, which is why it is a bad idea.

  23. Charles,

    Perhaps I need to post your question again: “Just out of curiosity, how do you feel about the more recent Religious Right claims that its members and loosely associated churches are being prevented from the ‘free exercise’ of their own religion?

    The Constitution is not a matter of how anyone feels, but of what it says, which makes understanding of its words important:

    1. The “exercise” of religion shall not be totally forbidden (prohibited) which means, religion “exercise” can be abridged, that is, reduced or prevented. There is no constitutional right for unlimited action, religion or not, which violates the laws of the land. The “free exercise” clause is not a license for anarchy. Neither individual zealots nor government public school teachers have any right to violate any law, disturb the peace, or otherwise claim any authority to “free exercise” which does not conform to law. The Free Exercise commandment limits and/or restricts actions to the laws of the land.

    2. “Religion” shall not be established by government at any level, whether by school teachers or community authorities. There shall be no law which gives religionists of the right or left to use their political office or their individual freedoms as a right to any action in violation of the public laws of any community or state, or to abuse the rights of individuals in their homes or schools. The exercise of religion is not above the law. Is harassment illegal? Then those persons who harass in the name of religion or free exercise are in violation of the law. There is no constitutional right to unrestricted freedom of religion action. Religion exercise simply may not be totally forbidden, that is, prohibited (see Webster’s).

    The men who drafted the wording of the First Amendment used their words precisely and unambiguously.

    Or, if you want to hear the opinion of President Thomas Jefferson, who was not at the Constitutional Convention or a member of the First Congress which drafted the First Amendment:
    “I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should ‘make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,’ thus, building a wall of separation … . Adhering to this expression of the supreme will of the nation in behalf of the rights of conscience, I shall see with sincere satisfaction the progress of those sentiments which tend to restore to man all his natural rights, convinced he has no natural right in opposition to his social duties,” p. 97, The Religion Commandments in the Constitution: A Primer–also found in Jefferson’s January 1, 1802, letter to the Danbury Baptist Association of Connecticut.

    Gene Garman, M.Div.

  24. This conversation has become so circular that I’m dizzy. It’s like Dr. Garman is a vinyl record and his needle is stuck in a groove. Yeah, doc, we get it: ‘prohibit’ means ‘forbidden.’ DUH! Are you always this obnoxious or do you work at it?

    So the situation I posed before stands: people have the right to “freely exercise” their religion by standing at my window with a megaphone, blasting their witness at me. To prohibit them from doing so would be a prohibition of “the free exercise thereof.”

    Here’s a thought: Define “harassment.” What may be harassment to one person may be the “free exercise of religion” to another. ‘Course, it’s just a rhetorical question. I don’t expect our “expert” here to give it the time of day.

    Moreover, AS I’VE MENTIONED SEVERAL TIMES BEFORE, the legislature has violated the Constitution by the institution of the “faith-based initiative”: funneling TAX PAYER DOLLARS to religious institutions, thus “establishing a religion.” I’m just fascinated that nobody but ME (little ole me with nothing but a measly Associate degree) has noticed this.

    Additionally, religion IS being “established…..by school teachers or community authorities.” The Bible is or is going to be brought in to public schools to be taught. Let’s take a wild guess as to which Bible will be taught. Uh, my money’s on the CHRISTIAN Bible. My entire paycheck. What is anyone else willing to bet?

    Again, as in the faith-based initiative, Dr. Garman is silent on this too.

    Dr. Garman is free to exercise his right to his boilerplate circuitious postings. They seem to give him satisfaction. But I doubt we’re going to get anything more out of him than textbook material.

  25. Sorry Doc, but I have to agree with the others; You seem to like to hear yourself type rather than just answering the question.

  26. I went ahead and did the good professor’s work for him: I’ve already looked up the definition of ‘harassment.’ But it’s not Websters, it’s The American Heritage dictionary. I hope that’s good enough. Here is what the AH says (and I’m sure everyone is waiting with baited breath, wondering what ‘harassment’ means):

    1. To irritate or torment persistently, 2. To wear out; exhaust, 3. To exhaust (an enemy) by repeated attacks.

    That’s just the definition; how it would play out in the scenario I posed above is another question.

  27. Cytocop:

    Apparently, I have failed to keep up with this blog, and have just now taken time to catch up with your ending remarks, mainly because I have no time to explain every implication. Nonetheless, your assertion below :

    “Moreover, AS I’VE MENTIONED SEVERAL TIMES BEFORE, the legislature has violated the Constitution by the institution of the “faith-based initiative”: funneling TAX PAYER DOLLARS to religious institutions, thus “establishing a religion.” I’m just fascinated that nobody but ME (little ole me with nothing but a measly Associate degree) has noticed this.

    Additionally, religion IS being “established…..by school teachers or community authorities.” The Bible is or is going to be brought in to public schools to be taught. Let’s take a wild guess as to which Bible will be taught. Uh, my money’s on the CHRISTIAN Bible. My entire paycheck. What is anyone else willing to bet?

    Again, as in the faith-based initiative, Dr. Garman is silent on this too.”

    I am not silent about the Office of Faith Based Initiatives. You simply have apparently not read my website or my book, The Religion Commandments in the Constitution: A Primer. What part of “religion” do you fail to comprehend? Do I need to quote the dictionary again? Just because I have not mentioned, in this particular blog, every example of “religion” being established by Congress or law, does not negate the all inclusiveness of my position. Of course, the national government’s faith-based office is on its face unconstitutional, as well as is any misuse of “religion” in public schools or whatever public institution. Tax dollars and public institutions or public land are not to be used to establish or promote religion of any kind. How much more clearly do I need to state that “religion” means the whole subject “thereof” and is not to be established or funded, or promoted by government or its institutions or its property, etc., etc., etc. Thirty-five years ago I was lecturing on the same subject when on the staff of Americans United for Separation of Church and State. Hopefully, you are now brought up to speed in regard to my full response, but if you are serious about a fuller understanding, you can read my book, which is a reasonable request if you are sincere about a thorough presentation in respect to the constitutional principle of “separation between Religion and Government,” James Madison. I highly recommend it. Thanks for communicating.