George E. Lowe Helps Save Public Education, Pt. 2
Bruce Wilson printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Sun Jun 15, 2008 at 10:23:31 AM EST
[here's part 1] George E. Lowe describes the genesis of "A Nation a Risk", which Lowe describes as a successful bureaucratic infighting attempt, on the part of public education's supporters in the Reagan Administration's Department of Education, to prevent Christian right movement conservatives within the Reagan Administration from implementing their plans to destroy public education in America. Lowe served in the first Reagan Administration as T. H. Bell's "nonpolitical" speech writer. The term "nonpolitical" meant that Lowe was not a Republican appointee - in fact Lowe was secretly a Democrat who had gotten into the administration due to being registered as a political independent and being vouched for by a moderate Republican from the Nixon Administration.

In the first two minutes George Lowe describes the cancellation, which Lowe suspects came from James Baker's office, of a planned T. H. Bell speech at Bob Jones University (which at the time had a ban on interracial dating) that Lowe had written - at the last minute, as Lowe describes, "STOP STOP STOP.. The White House has decided Bell shouldn't go... CANCEL CANCEL".

As Lowe describes how his speech, never given, was based around a core of values that Lowe, trained as an historian, identified as what had formed the core of "traditional American values" and according to Lowe his speech, which was shelved, was appropriated by the Christian right.

"The speech was canceled, I put it away and it was forgotten. Except, the Christian right discovered it and said 'Oh, this is great - we're now going to now use and organize around Traditional American Values, and let anyone contradict us and they'll be un-American. And we're in the glory, the great glory now because we can use American history against our enemies."

At approximately 2:00 into this 7-minute segment, part 2 of my interview with Lowe which I did in May, 2008, George E. Lowe explains the genesis of "A Nation at Risk" as an internecine ideological fightback, under T.H. Bell, to save American Public Education from the Christian right.

As Lowe narrates, Bell instructed Lowe to add material, into the speech Bell was to give - in which the "A Nation at Risk" was to be announced, that was not cleared by the Reagan Christian right movement conservatives. In fact, explains Lowe, he and Bell hid the speech from its would-be enemies in the Reagan administration, and Lowe personally supervised printing of a only very limited numbers of copies of the speech, after which T. H. Bell was hustled onto a plane, to fly off to his appointed speech before hostile members of the administration could get their hands on the final speech version.

According to George Lowe, he personally wrote the speech that launched A Nation at Risk", which effectively committed the Reagan Administration to strong support of public education.

James Baker plays a key role as one of the heroes in this tale, backing T. H. Bell's covert battle against Reagan's Christian right conservatives:

"We then put out "America at Risk", the great pamphlet that changed the whole name of the game - and we even convinced Jim Baker to let Ronald Reagan run, in his second term, on education!... What happened was, before it was formally announced, Bell was called over to the White House [by] Jim Baker, [who] said 'Well, let's see this report, let's see the speech', and so i wrote the speech launching it - I made a very tough speech, because I wanted to save American Public Education - and so I put in stuff that I knew the White House would knock out. You always do that as a speech writer - you want to see what you can get through the system. In fact, that's the only satisfaction you get, because you get no respect as a speech writer. You get no respect at all.

But, anyway, Bell went over there and Jim Baker made a few changes [to Lowe's speech]. Now, Bell comes back, gives me the changes and says 'Put these in' and then Anne Graham, from [The White House Office of] Public Affairs says, 'We want to see the completed speech'. [as Lowe has previously described, Graham was one of the Christian right movement conservatives who had been tasked with keeping an eye on Bell's Dept. of Education, which the Christian right was plotting to do away with eventually]

And what I did was, I made the changes immediately with Bell over my shoulder and we ran them off, 50 copies, and didn't put it on the wire and kept them only to Bell and we put Bell on the speech with the speeches so that he could officially launch "A Nation at Risk" with the blessings of the Reagan Administration and right then and there Secretary Bell saved education from the Christian right. Because it then was given out, becomes a tremendous hit, everyone thinks it was a great report - which it was and it should be followed today - and Jim Baker was so pleased, that he said 'Well, we're going to have Reagan run around the country now speaking about education!'. Which he did and that was how we got 'Morning in America' and the great landslide in 1984."




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