Science & Faith
2/15/13 at 08:49 PM 3 Comments

The Revisionaries: New Documentary Revises History of Texas Science Standards Debate

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The PBS-affiliated Independent Lens praised the new documentary The Revisionaries without bothering to investigate who is actually distorting the truth:

As recently as last year, the Texas State Board of Education had the power to rewrite history. The Revisionaries (airing Jan. 28 on Independent Lens) captures the scope of the board’s reign. ... The “pretty influential” board shoehorned ideas into national textbooks that changed the way we teach science and social studies, as The Revisionaries shows.

The Darwin-lobbying National Center for Science Education calls the film an "acclaimed documentary about the controversy over the Texas state board of education's efforts to undermine the scientific and historical integrity of the textbooks used in the state's public schools."

Discovery Institute's Casey Luskin has documented how the producers of The Revisionaries are the actual "revisionaries" of the recent history of the actions of the Texas State Board of Education. They have revised the history of the debate over science standards in Texas to the point of systematic distortion. Lusking writes:

Back in May 2012, I attended a screening at the Seattle International Film Festival (SIFF). Directed by Scott Thurman, the film is aptly named. It is quite "revisionary," in the sense that it tries to radically revise history by suggesting "intelligent design" and "creationism" were required in the 2009 Texas Science Standards (TEKS), and that these standards were pushed for by ignorant fundamentalist board members who ignored the advice of all qualified experts. In truth, this "documentary" is basically a movie version of the tired old talking points of the Texas Darwin lobby, emphasizing the private religious views of board members and giving the impression that the issue of Texas textbook standards is all about whether school kids will be taught there were dinosaurs on Noah's ark. [Read this rest of Luskin's written commentary here].

The 2009 TEKS (and current TEKS) do not have anything to do with creationism or with the scientific theory of intelligent design. The TEKS specify such educational outcomes such as:

In all fields of science, analyze, evaluate, and critique scientific explanations by using empirical evidence, logical reasoning, and experimental and observational testing, including examining all sides of scientific evidence of those scientific explanations, so as to encourage critical thinking by the student ... analyze and evaluate scientific explanations concerning any data of sudden appearance, stasis, and sequential nature of groups in the fossil record"... analyze and evaluate scientific explanations concerning the complexity of the cell"... analyze and evaluate the evidence regarding formation of simple organic molecules and their organization into long complex molecules having information such as the DNA molecule for self-replicating life"... analyze and evaluate a variety of fossil types such as transitional fossils, proposed transitional fossils, fossil lineages, and significant fossil deposits with regard to their appearance, completeness, and alignment with scientific explanations in light of this fossil data...."

This sounds like great science eduation to me. I've been teaching these very topics myself for two decades at the college level. You can either read more about the real TEKS vs. The Revisionaries here, or listen to a podcast about it. I will be using this whole episode as a case study in a college course I teach that includes a unit on the rhetoric of science and science education policy debates. The Revisionaries is a clever attempt to push a Darwin-only educational agenda at the expense of the truth about what has really happened at the Texas State Board of Education since 2009.

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