Texas Education Board Chair Kicks Off Hearings: There Is No War On Christmas

September 17, 2009 7:43 a.m.

As we told you yesterday, the Texas State Board of Education is meeting in Austin today for the first public discussion of new history textbook standards, which include a controversial section that would require knowledge of Newt Gingrich, Phyllis Schlafly, et al.

Before the board turned to social studies, the hearing got to an odd start when an animated member of the public testifying about the importance of health education declared, “I’m 56 years old and I’m a virgin.” The chair promptly warned her to stay on topic.On the substantive front, chair Gail Lowe kicked off the social studies discussion by seeking to tamp down the outrage over the deletion of Christmas in a 6th grade world culture curriculum. It was replaced by Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights, and Easter was to represent Christian holidays.

“I recognize a 6th grade work group has recommended the removal of Christmas,” Lowe said. “Before we proceed any farther, I am very doubtful that that recommendation will stand.”

After some talk of the place of Thurgood Marshall and Cesar Chavez in the standards, the president of the Texas Freedom Network, which is opposing right-wing influence on the new standards, got up and slammed the outside experts appointed by the GOP-controlled board.

“It looks like on the one hand you have appointed accomplished academics,” said Kathy Miller. And “on the other hand you have appointed what can only be considered political advocates. Giving them equal weight demonstrates a deep flaw in the process.”

As we noted yesterday, two of the six experts, who guide the standards writing process, are Rev. Peter Marshall, an evangelical minister, and David Barton, president of WallBuilders, which pushes Christian-oriented interpretations of history. In his review of the proposed standards, Barton declared the deletion of Christmas an affront to “the Free-Market nature of America.”

Miller added, in an apparent reference to Barton, whose degree is in religious education: “I do have a bachelors degree in the social sciences, unlike a couple of your experts.”

Barton is expected to testify later — we’ll let you know if he responds.

Late Update: Here’s the video of the remarks by Lowe and Miller:

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