Stuff, sustainability, and students–facts or bias?

The board of trustees for the schools of Missoula County, Montana, recently banned a short film on sustainability from being shown in classrooms. Their reason? The film, according to the one parent who complained about it, is “biased and ill-suited” for biology class, according to the Missoula Independent.

Here are the details: Last October a high school biology teacher in Missoula showed her students the 20-minute video The Story of Stuff, which details the consumer cycle–how natural resources get turned into products, which are consumed and then thrown away. One parent complained about the showing of the film, and on January 29 his complaint was upheld by the schools’ board of trustees.

What is so troubling about their decision is that they judged the film’s worth on the issue of bias rather than accuracy–as if a good education is defined by presenting opposing points of view to students rather than by presenting the most accurate information possible. They took education, in other words, in the direction of politics–underscored by the fact that the parent who complained is reported (by the county Democrats) to have broadcast his victory the next day on right-wing talk radio.

Is the film biased? Absolutely–in favor of less consumption, less pollution, and greater public awareness about the human costs of consumer goods.

Are the facts wrong? That’s a different question entirely.

Watch the film, download its annotated script, and see what you think.


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