TFN just sent the following alert to our members regarding SBOE Chair Barbara Cargill’s testimony before the Senate Committee on Nominations. To sign up to get these alerts, click here.
Senator Watson’s tough questions produce promises from Cargill. Will she keep them?
Barbara Cargill got tough questions and made some new commitments when the Senate Nominations Committee considered her reappointment as chair of the Texas State Board of Education on Monday. Under intense questioning from Sen. Kirk Watson, D-Austin, who had clearly done his homework, Cargill addressed a number of issues that have caused some of the biggest problems at the state board in recent years. We’ll know in real time if Ms. Cargill intends to keep the commitments she made:
- She promised to support requiring an advanced degree or significant work experience, such as 10 years, in a related field for individuals serving as “expert” advisers on curriculum matters. (Read below, however, for what Cargill said about David Barton.)
Will she introduce a rule to that effect at the April meeting of the state board?
- She agreed to consider changes to the board’s rules and processes that would allow additional time for the public to review amendments board members want to make to proposed curriculum standards.
Will she follow through on this important transparency commitment?
- She said she no longer asks educators and other individuals applying to serve on curriculum and textbook review teams whether they consider themselves “conservative.”
Will she be evenhanded in her appointments to review the science and social studies textbooks in 2013 and 2014?
- She acknowledged that she was wrong when, shortly after her first appointment as chair in 2011, she characterized the divisions on the board as between six “conservative Christians” and the rest of her board colleagues.
Will she refrain from making future divisive remarks about her board colleagues, even to tea party gatherings?
- She said she would not pressure publishers to force alternative “theories” to evolution in science instructional materials.
Will she also refrain from pressuring publishers to include discredited creationist arguments against evolution?
Texas parents should welcome these comments and commitments, which we have sought for years, but which Ms. Cargill has opposed in the past.
Other comments from Cargill, however, were less encouraging. Saying her comments two weeks ago about teaching “another side” of evolution had been taken out of context, Cargill assured senators that she opposes teaching creationism/“intelligent design” in public schools. But she said textbooks should include anti-evolution claims only creationists make — such as alleged evidence against evolution in the fossil record — and that scientists have made clear are simply wrong.
Moreover, in discussing her support for beefing up qualifications for experts, Cargill resisted committing to a rule that would preclude her from appointing David Barton — whom she called one of the nation’s “leading historians” — as an expert in the future. But Barton has no degree in history, and actual historians on both the left and the right have sharply criticized Barton’s historical claims. In fact, an evangelical Christian publishing company last year ceased publication of Barton’s book about Thomas Jefferson, The Jefferson Lies, after historians criticized the numerous inaccuracies throughout it.
Cargill’s confirmation is almost certain now to go to the full Senate for a final vote. TFN will keep you informed as her confirmation process moves forward. If she is confirmed, TFN will watch whether she follows through on the commitments she has made. And we will oppose any efforts to weaken science education with creationist junk science in textbooks or the appointment of phony “experts” who are more interested in politicizing our children’s classrooms than in giving them a 21st-century education.