We have already documented the contempt many Texas State Board of Education members have for expertise in making decisions on curriculum standards. We noted one example Thursday, when far-right board members rejected any more formal input from teachers and academics on proposed new social studies curriculum standards. On Friday Thursday the board also weakened the role of experts in textbooks adoptions.
The textbook approval process includes convening review teams (teachers, academics and other community members) that check proposed textbooks to make sure they conform to curriculum standards and are free of factual errors. The board also appoints “experts” to advise its own members. A proposed rule this week defined “experts” as “university professors but also public school teachers with a strong background in a particular discipline.” That made sense to us.
But that definition didn’t appear inclusive enough for Don McLeroy, R-College Station. So on his recommendation, the board on Friday voted to expand the criteria for the “expert” panel to include business and industry folks, parents and other community members. Essentially, then, anybody can be an expert, regardless of their credentials.
Of course, McLeroy made his contempt for expertise very clear this past spring, declaring that “somebody’s got to stand up to experts!” And this summer he explained the board’s standard for choosing experts to curriculum panels: “If two (board) members think they’re qualified, they’re qualified.” That’s how we got absurdly unqualified people like David Barton and Peter Marshall on a social studies “expert” panel (alongside real experts with real credentials).
Now at McLeroy’s insistence, the board is effectively dropping any real standards for choosing experts who will advise them on what textbooks our children use in their public schools. That doesn’t just make it easier for board members to politicize public school classrooms. It’s also another big step in dumbing down our kids’ education.