Lawrence Krauss, a man I’ve oddly never met despite having a huge number of mutual friends and mutual interests, has an excellent op-ed at New Scientist about why school boards should not be allowed to determine the curriculum when they don’t have a knowledge base from which to operate. He begins with this example:
Say that you are in charge of developing a state-wide high-school curriculum in French-language studies, and that you need the advice of a group of experts on how to put together the ideal programme. Is it better for officials to appoint these people, or for the public to vote on who they regard as the most attractive candidates for the job?
To put it another way, should you need minimum qualifications to be eligible to serve? Should you be required to know some French? Should you be disqualified if you openly profess that French is not a useful language, and that the curriculum should focus on Italian instead?
“Yes” is surely the sensible answer to the last three questions. Yet in the US, we are taking exactly the opposite approach in allowing elected officials who are both ignorant and biased to define the science curricula for public-school students.
I’ve used the analogy of a medical licensing board or a board to determine the curriculum for a medical school. Is there anyone who would do anything but laugh if you suggested that such boards should be filled with people without any expertise in medicine? Why, then, do we think a biology or physics curriculum is any different? It takes specialized knowledge to write such a curriculum; it should not be left up to boards made up of busybody homemakers and indifferent real estate agents trying to play the role of Pillar of the Community.
The health of a modern society depends on the opportunities it provides its children through education. That’s too important to be left to amateurs, much less enemies of knowledge.