Better late than never. Hit & Run, wading into the textbook wars, offers up this equivalent of a libertarian koan:
It is difficult to determine just what specific curriculum changes the Texas school board has in mind, though the ringleader of the revisionist faction, a creationist weirdo named Don McLeroy, strikes me as one who wants to impart ideology into the textbooks, not balance.
Ya think? It is difficult to determine what I should call the writer of this Hit & Run post: Sparky or Snarky. The thing about Reason is that it can’t simply call out McLeroy as a religous fanatic and leave it at that. The libertarian thing to do here is the Texas Two-Step: skip to the right, skip to the left. So in a post about theocrats rewriting American history, there has to be the obligatory discussion of ideological biases on both ends of the political spectrum. Sometimes I wonder if Reason does this just to pander to the liberal-hating conservatives who also consider themselves libertarians.
In the end, the writer, seemingly playing it straight, decides:
these people are not to be trusted to achieve some sort of “balancing” of the historical record.
Ya think, Sparky?
Last week, a superb NYT investigation pulled the curtain back on the shady details of a bad Everglades land deal. I guess the findings were so ugly that the Times editorial board (presumably, Robert Semple, Jr.) had to look away while writing this love letter in support of the deal.
I’d have grudging respect for the editorial if it at least acknowledged the investigative work of the two Times reporters who wrote last week’s blockbuster. Even more disappointing: Carl Hiaasen holds his nose and also can’t bring himself to mention the big Times scoop.
Michael Wilcox, a Stanford University archaeologist, has a new book that takes a fresh look at the Pueblo Revolt. A university press release captures some interesting themes of Wilcox’s post-colonial work in the Southwest, such as this quote directly from his book:
Archaeologists and anthropologists have imposed disease, demographic collapse and acculturation as explanations of discontinuity and cultural extinction. Almost universally written from a European perspective, the mythologies of conquest have helped render Native Americans invisible.
Part of what’s bugging Wilcox is also the focus of a new volume of essays (by a number of scholars, including Wilcox), that challenges the research behind Jared Diamond’s popular and influential tome, Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed. It so happens that just yesterday, Rex over at Savage Minds covered this renewed debate in a detailed post.
Not having read either of the newer books, it’s impossible for me to offer any informed comment on them. But the Stanford piece quotes some provocative Wilcox statements, such as this one at the end:
I may be critical of archaeology, but what I am saying is that it makes sense to do work that is responsive and includes the opinions of indigenous populations. The more that archeologists and Native communities work together, the better things get. I really want this field to do well, and I believe it can be much better. It has to because stories of the past matter.
On this, he’s likely to get little argument from southwestern archaeologists, as many have become increasingly receptive to Native American concerns and oral history. But there’s something about that last sentence–because stories of the past matter–that might set off alarm bells in some quarters. Because, in fact, there are points where science and tribal stories of the past collide.
It’ll be interesting to see how Wilcox and his colleagues reconcile the tension between science and oral tradition. As my recent piece on the contested Navajo history in the Southwest suggests, science can be trumped by the politics of this newfound, well-intentioned sensitivity.
Here’s a fact: university press releases that tout scientific studies are routinely vetted by the principal researcher(s). Assuming And that’s the case here, as I confirmed this morning in a phone call with Richard Taffe, who wrote the Boston Universtiy release. So why are Tobis et al playing this disingenuous game of gotcha with the messenger? It strikes me as yet another example of misdirected anger.