Despite the fact that we don’t get to see Texas Governor Rick Perry in the limelight as much anymore, we are still feeling the negative effects of his attempts to chip away at the wall of separation of church and state. Most recently, he nominated Barbara Cargill as the Chair of the Texas State Board of Education.
Apprehensive about Cargill’s ability to do the job well, Americans United submitted testimony prior to her Nominations Committee hearing today. Here are some causes for concern:
Her stance on evolution and science education. Perpetuating the false scientific controversy about evolution, Cargill has favored teaching the “strengths and weaknesses of evolution,” a euphemism used to sneak creationism into classrooms. Completely based on the Bible, creationism does not belong in public schools. Evolution is an accepted, vital part of science education and is not anti-religious, making any controversy regarding evolution artificial.
Her support of Bible classes in public schools. Cargill has also advocated for the inclusion of Bible classes in public schools, which, as previously discussed on AU’s blog, are problematic. Bible classes in public schools are rarely a secular, objective, historical and literary study as required by the constitution. Instead, they end up like the classes in Texas, which are filled with religious bias, evangelism, scientific inaccuracies, and racism.
Her politicization of school standards. Bible classes aren’t the only curriculum Cargill has attempted to alter. In the past, she has needlessly put her political agenda ahead of student learning by turning curriculum standards into a culture war. She has taken great pains to ensure others on the board and the curriculum writing team are “true conservative Christians”. Together this group has been known to impose religious and political beliefs on students in public schools, particularly in science, language arts, and social studies (for example, the board influenced the social studies curriculum so that slavery and segregation are hardly mentioned, and religious influences are widely embellished). These actions even led to a review by a conservative think tank concluding the Texas State Board of Education has a “politicized distortion of history”.
Texas students who don’t happen to share the beliefs of the State Board of Education should not have to feel excluded or wrong, and it is unconstitutional for a public school system to promote one belief over another. As a result, AU has encouraged the Nominations Committee to question Cargill on the issues mentioned above, and hopes they seriously consider her record before confirming her nomination.