Sure enough, just like clockwork, Governor Rick Perry (R-Texas) has appointed yet another activist religious fanatic to head the State Board of Education. The rumor going around was that he’d pick Cynthia Dunbar, who considers public education a “subtly deceptive tool of perversion,” but apparently that was a little much even for Perry to swallow.
So instead Gail Lowe will be the woman in charge of overseeing the education of Texas children — a Republican who recently appointed extreme right-wing theocratic preacher David Barton as an “expert reviewer” of the state’s social studies curriculum.
“There was a lot of speculation that it would be Dunbar, but personally I found it very hard to imagine the governor would appoint somebody who has been so vocal about her hatred for public schools,” said Dan Quinn of the Texas Freedom Network.
The group issued a statement Friday morning condemning Lowe’s appointment. “Gail Lowe is hardly an improvement,” Quinn said, pointing to her recent appointment of conservative minister David Barton of Aledo as an expert reviewer of the social studies curriculum.
“The Barton thing just jumps out at me as an indication of where we go from here,” Quinn said. “It’s clear that the direction of the board is not going to change.”
Other groups praised the appointment. “Gail Lowe is a strong conservative, representing Texas values, and has long been a leader in the field of education,” the Free Market Foundation said in a news release. “We hope that the usual critics will rise above their religious discrimination of the past and allow Mrs. Lowe to focus on the important educational issues of our state.”
David Barton heads the fundamentalist organization Wallbuilders, and is opposed to the separation of church and state. In 1991, he twice attended and spoke at meetings of front groups for the white supremacist “Christian Identity” movement, then claimed he was unaware he was speaking to neo-Nazis.
And now he’s influencing the social studies curriculum in Texas. Lovely! As any Texan will tell you, the state is enormous — and that means the textbook market is so huge that books recommended for public schools in Texas often influence publisher’s choices of which books they produce and sell to the rest of the country. So in a very real sense, Barton’s influence on education goes beyond Texas.
Barton isn’t the only extremist on the social studies panel, either; he has a partner in theocracy, Peter Marshall (no, not the “Hollywood Squares” guy), and together they’re already pushing the agenda: Gail Lowe, Politics and Social Studies:
It didn’t take long. Gail Lowe is already showing why the Texas Freedom Network is concerned about Gov. Rick Perry’s appointment of her as chair of the Texas State Board of Education.
Lowe appointed David Barton — head of WallBuilders, a far-right organization that opposes separation of church and state — to a panel of so-called “experts” helping guide the revision of social studies curriculum standards. Barton has already joined with a fellow “expert” on the panel, far-right evangelical minister Peter Marshall, in calling for the removal of progressive historical figures like César Chavez and former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall from the standards. (Never mind that Barton and Peter Marshall are absurdly unqualified to be considered social studies “experts.”)
The Texas Freedom Network has more details on the efforts by Lowe and previous Perry appointee Don McLeroy to pack the social studies review panel with creationists and far right ideologues: A Look at the Texas Social Studies ‘Experts’.
UPDATE at 7/12/09 1:15:40 pm:
Note that Gail Lowe will not have to face a confirmation hearing until the 2011 legislative session, unless there is a special session before then. So she’s in charge for at least two years by fiat.