General Assembly approves book-banning Franklin Graham employee for State Board of Ed

Image: Franklin Graham's Facebook page

Image: Franklin Graham’s Facebook page

The North Carolina House and Senate gave final approval this morning to Gov. Pat McCrory’s controversial 2015 appointment of Todd Chasteen to the State Board of Education. As N.C. Policy Watch reported last April, at the time of the nomination, Chasteen — an employee of the controversial right-wing preacher Franklin Graham’s Samartian’s Purse organization — is not the kind of person who should be allowed anywhere near the decision-making process when it comes to the state’s public education system.

“Governor Pat McCrory’s recent nomination  of J. Todd Chasteen to serve on the State Board of Education has raised the eyebrows of some western North Carolinians.

A Boone resident who appears to have a thin record of experience with public education, Chasteen was deeply involved last year in efforts to ban a book from a public high school English classroom in Watauga County.

‘We should reject Governor McCrory’s recent nomination of Wataugan J. Todd Chasteen to the North Carolina Board of Education,’ said Appalachian State University English professor Craig Fischer at a public forum at the university earlier this week, objecting to Chasteen’s lack of experience in public education.

Todd Chasteen

State Board of Education nominee Todd Chasteen sits with book challenger Chastity Lesesne at hearing on Isabel Allende’s The House of the Spirits. (Photo credit: Lonnie Webster)

‘Chasteen sided with would-be censors during last year’s battle over keeping Isabel Allende’s The House of the Spirits in the sophomore English Honors curriculum at Watauga High,’ Fischer added. ‘He spoke on behalf of banning the book at a February 10, 2014 school board local forum about the controversy, claiming–inaccurately–that Allende’s book is full of ‘deviancy’ and child pornography.’

Chasteen, an attorney and executive with Boone-based international aid organization Samaritan’s Purse, not only spoke publicly for removing The House of the Spirits from the classroom, but also lobbied the eventual tie-breaking board of education member, Ron Henries, in person and via email in an effort to persuade him to vote for banning the book, according to emails obtained by N.C. Policy Watch.”

Yesterday, Forsyth County English teacher and occasional N.C. Policy Watch contributor Stuart Egan put it this way on his blog:

“For this English teacher, this nomination spells censorship and more governmental control over what is read by students in North Carolina. His track record screams that free thought, interaction with unknown ideas, and expressions of differing viewpoints should not be allowed in high schools.”

Egan went on to juxtapose Chasteen’s absurd pro-censorship stance with the numerous passages in the Bible, Huckleberry Finn and the works of Shakespeare that would, presumably, fail to meet the new Board of Ed member’s espoused standards.

The bottom line: The Right’s ongoing effort to dismantle public education in our state continues. One can only hope that the damage won’t be irreparable when caring and thinking state people regain control of the state.

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