Today Rick Perry appointed a Republican from Lampasas to chair the State Board of Education; Gail Lowe. Ms. Lowe calls herself a creationist and votes with the social conservative block of this education board. She is, though, according to some reputable sources the “most moderate of remaining conservatives.”
So, those who wanted Governor Perry to appoint someone better than Don McLeroy can thank him for that. Actually, unless he appointed Cynthia Dunbar, I don't think it could have gotten worse. So Rick Perry made an easy choice that is meant to appease those who complained about Mr. McLeroy. And in some ways, he succeeded. Already, there are some who are applauding him for selecting a more moderate choice.
But where is Ms. Lowe more moderate? It seems, I think, her rhetoric. From the Denton Record-Chronicle:
Ms. Lowe, who called herself a creationist, said the study of evolution is important to the teaching of biology. At the same time, she added, “Kids ought to be able to hold religious beliefs and still study science without any conflict.”
And when she exerts her creationist ideas at Board meetings (for surely all members of the social conservative block do), she does so with subtlety.
But she is not so moderate in her rhetoric regarding sex education, where she has said, “I think parents have overwhelmingly shown that they want abstinence to be taught,” although I strongly doubt a majority of parents really think that. Her words aren't so subtle regarding environmental science or the make-up of families, either.
So, when looking at the new Chairwoman's words, we see that she is really only significantly better than Mr. McLeroy in one area of policy: evolution. She might not be as bad with her devotion to conservative principles that hold Texas schools back, but her website claims she is “Committed to excellence and conservative Republican principles,” including “traditional values in education.”
Now, though, I want to take another look at that one policy area where she is “better” than her predecessor; evolution. See, her rhetoric there is encouraging, but a look at her votes make it look like her words might only be a mask. Let's look at her record. In 2003, she voted against biology textbooks that did not explain the “weaknesses” of the theory of evolution. In 2009 she was still at that position, voting to reintroduce the “strengths and weaknesses” clause to the state curriculum. Overall, she has “strongly favored” creationism through her time on the State Board of Education, despite her tricky rhetoric that might suggest otherwise.
The Texas Freedom Network sees the Lowe appointment as the minute improvement that it really is. The organization's president Kathy Miller released the following statement:
It's disappointing that instead of choosing a mainstream conservative who could heal the divisions on the board, the governor once again appointed someone who repeatedly has put political agendas ahead of the education of Texas schoolchildren. Ms. Lowe has marched in lockstep with a faction of board members who believe that their personal beliefs are more important than the experience and expertise of teachers and academics who have dedicated their careers to educating our children and helping them succeed. We can only hope that she will rise above her history on the board and as chair keep the board from continuing to hold the education of our children hostage to divisive 'culture war' battles.
I think the Governor appointed someone with the same agenda as Don McLeroy, he simply appointed someone who is a bit quieter about her views. In doing so, I believe he hopes the Texas Freedom Network and everyone else who wants a world-class education in this state will not notice the Board's continued mismanagement.
In this political maneuver, though, he appointed a chairwoman not known for her management skills. She has already fought for at least a couple bad appointments to different committees. Her appointment David Barton (to the Social Studies Curriculum Panel) argued for removing César Chavez from our curriculums. She also co-nominated Charles Charner to the Science Curriculum Expert Review Panel, a scientist who has said, “The problem is, the conclusive evidence is really hard to get on evolution.”
I really don't know why Rick Perry is trying to bring back a social war into our schools that was fought on that field decades ago (and won by the scientists/evolutionists). For those of you who did not see it, The Economist recently released a Special Report on Texas that was complimentary in many ways. The report, however, gave some warnings, and the biggest warning regarded the state's education. In a write-up on the “state's best and worst sides,” the magazine quotes a sociologist who states bluntly, “If we fail to turn our education system around, we will find that a whole generation has been locked out of the jobs market.” The problem is, though, we can't turn our education around into a globally competitive 21st century system if we continue to dwell on issues of the past. With the appointment of Gail Lowe, Failure Governor Perry is doing just that — continuing to dwell on a slate of issues from the past.