Friday, December 14, 2007
Comer and Going
The Austin American-Statesman has published an interview with Texas Education Agency Deputy Commissioner Lizzette Gonzalez Reynolds, the former lobbyist and political appointee during George W. Bush's stint as Texas governor and then in the U.S. Department of Education, who touched off the ouster of Chris Comer, the TEA's science curriculum director. The following are some of the more ... um ... shall we say interesting parts, rearranged to make certain juxtapositions clearer:
Were you surprised she resigned?So, she was surprised Comer resigned rather than being terminated or reassigned?
Yes, because I had asked her supervisor to look into the e-mail issue. But I wasn't kept in the loop. I was at a meeting some time later when someone mentioned, "By the way, she (Chris Comer) is resigning today."
Knowing what you know now, what would you do differently?
I would have alerted the proper people that something was being sent on the state e-mail. I would have said, "Let's discuss this," instead of giving my opinion in the e-mail. … Should I have used the words "termination" or "reassignment"? I don't know.
The TEA has received a lot of criticism, especially from scientists, who note that evolution is not a relic or abstract theory, but an important plank in the study of modern sciences and in scientific research. Were you aware of the significance of evolution?Now let's see ... a high official in Texas' Education Agency has only just learned that evolution is real important in modern science and research? And she didn't realize the "termination" or "reassignment" of the science curriculum director for forwarding an e-mail about an appearance by a well-known opponent of creationism in public education might be "tagged" (whatever that might mean) as involving evolution education? And, furthermore, it never crossed her mind that a political struggle might be involved, despite the e-mail having something to do with the beliefs of Catholics, atheists (nice touch, that!), Jews, Christians, [and] Muslims," as well as with the elected and/or politically appointed State Board of Education, the head of which is a well-known creationist?
I didn't recognize the importance of the subject in terms of it being tagged "evolution." I know now that it has very real importance in modern science and research. I know that it is in our TEKS, and I've no reason to believe it won't continue that way. What I didn't think about was evolution in terms of a political struggle. That took me by surprise because the science is being utilized in all our schools.
Has this episode had a chilling effect on TEA employees?
I don't think there is a muzzle on anyone. Everyone can express their opinions — goodness knows I have many — but we are a state agency and must respect the beliefs of Catholics, atheists, Jews, Christians, Muslims, everyone. And we should all respect the fact that it is the bailiwick of the State Board of Education to write (curriculum) standards.
I'd ask who she thought she was kidding but she studied at the knee of one of the best practitioners of "the big lie" around.