‘Tempest in a textbook’

Look for “Independent Lens” on Google and you’ll find a website with the following item previewing an upcoming PBS program: “There is an ongoing culture war raging in Texas, and it is a tempest in a textbook. The state’s Board of Education has been engaged in a pitched, years-long battle over what belongs in public school textbooks.”

And there you have a succinct summary of one of the more interesting political dramas anywhere in the United States.

The next “Independent Lens” program, which airs tonight at 9 on KACV-TV, is titled “The Revisionaries,” and will take a look at the battle among the 15 members of the elected Texas State Board of Education.

Every decade, the SBOE reviews the state’s textbooks, deciding which to keep and which to toss aside. It’s that curriculum that at times has been at the center of a pitched ideological battle on the board.

The board is split into essentially two camps: social conservatives vs. so-called “moderates.” The social conservatives argue on behalf of curriculum that gives preference to socially conservative thinkers. The moderates argue for less-conservative authors. The two sides have at times fought with open hostility toward the other’s point of view.

District 15 — which includes the Panhandle and South Plains region Texas — is represented by newly elected Marty Rowley of Amarillo. Rowley brings an interesting perspective to the board. Rowley is the former pastor of an Amarillo mega-church; he’s also a lawyer whose emphasis is in mediation. So, Rowley balances his deep Christian faith with his professional skill and training at settling disputes between parties. Are these backgrounds mutually exclusive or can Rowley meld them into a philosophy that has yet to be defined?

The next textbook review may provide a clue as to what develops in our new SBOE representative.

Accordingly, “Independent Lens,” which features documentaries produced by independent filmmakers, will provide a glimpse into what to expect from the State Board of Education.


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