The Revisionaries

If you haven’t seen The Revisionaries from the PBS series Independent Lens, find an hour soon to watch it.* The one-hour program documents the 2010 proceedings of the Texas School Board where a small group of conservatives inserted requirements into the state science and social studies curriculums that fit their religious and political beliefs.

A professor lobbying against the changes in science describes the problem.

There are not many board members who say ‘I am an expert in string theory’ or ‘I am an expert in gravitational theory and I will talk to you about that’. But they’ll sure talk to you about evolution. And that is a mixture of ignorance and arrogance that’s a flammable mixture.

Adding even more to the atmosphere of anti-intellectualism surrounding this process, the former chair of the board and a centerpiece of this film, declared that “someone has to stand up to experts”, like scientists, and he was leading the charge against facts he disagrees with. I don’t envy the people in Texas who have chosen to battle back against that kind of thinking (if you can apply that term here).

To say that “the schoolboard in Texas has been a mess” is an understatement. Unfortunately, that mess slops over into other parts of the country since textbook publishers write to satisfy the largest customers, and in the process they dumb down the materials used by tens of thousands of students. One more reason to support the open textbook movement.

* It’s only free online until February 27th. After that it will probably be available for purchase from iTunes and other outlets.

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