Occasionally, when my delusions of societal progress get too far ahead of reality, I find something that reminds me that there is still work to be done. And as usual, this swift drop kick to the chest comes from the Bible Belt. I live here, and I’ve seen my share of things live and in person. But sometimes, this place finds a way to keep the surprises fresh and the plot twists coming.
It starts out in familiar territory: science denying church groups that are angry about evolution and climate change being taught in public schools. Really, no new developments on that front. That is still happening. The case that I’ve seen most recently is Kentucky public schools, where religious groups are outraged that new school curriculum will treat evolution as fact and talk about humans playing a role in climate change, two things that are pretty much in complete consensus in the scientific community. The New Generation Science Curriculum is a national program that is being adopted to standardize the teaching of science across the different states, and I have to believe that this was done so people in the Bible Belt can’t teach kids that the Flintstones is a documentary and that Al Gore made up global warming because he was mad that he lost the presidency.
As expected, ignorance was out in force in opposition to this, and as expected, the media found the most outlandish people to get quotes from. Don’t worry, Kentucky. I’ve visited your state and I know that you all are not this crazy. The same applies to all states. We all have our crazy people. Parents and even college professors in Kentucky came out to say that the reason this needs to be adopted by Kentucky schools is because they are getting smoked by other states in getting students hired by biotechnology companies in surrounding states. But brace yourselves because this is gonna hurt a little bit.
The critics included parent Valerie O’Rear, who said the standards promote an “atheistic world view” and a political agenda that pushes government control.
Hang on, it’s not over yet.
Matt Singleton, a Baptist minister in Louisville who runs an Internet talk-radio program, called teachings on evolution a lie that has led to drug abuse, suicide and other social afflictions.
“Outsiders are telling public school families that we must follow the rich man’s elitist religion of evolution, that we no longer have what the Kentucky Constitution says is the right to worship almighty God,” Singleton said. “Instead, this fascist method teaches that our children are the property of the state.”
Another opponent, Dena Stewart-Gore, suggested that the standards will make religious students feel ostracized. “The way socialism works is it takes anybody that doesn’t fit the mold and discards them,” she said, per the The Courier-Journal. “We are even talking genocide and murder here, folks.”
Now, on a good day, that would be all I had to write about. Couple of jokes about why their behind the curve, laugh at the fact that they don’t know what fascism or socialism mean, and say that they are paranoid that the government is trying to brainwash their children to stop going to church and eat babies and euthanize the elderly, then a do bit about the actual problems with the government and the public education system. Submit this article to my editor, call it a day, and see you guys at the bar. But today was not a good day. Today, Tennessee and one of their publishing companies just had to be involved too. Today, I found this.
I raged so hard when I saw that article that my dog is still hiding under the bed. I raged harder than when I found out “Finding Bigfoot” was getting a show on Animal Planet. I raged harder than I did when Tim Hudson broke his ankle against the Mets and when the Yankees beat the Braves in the World Series in 1999 combined. I took my biology degree off the wall because if this made a text book, even to be removed, none of my work means anything. I left my house after a 45 minute sulk and jogged in 100 degree Georgia heat until I felt that I had sweat the stupidity out of my pores and cleansed my tormented soul. I regret that decision deeply because now I’m dehydrated, but we all have our ways of coping and that is a lot healthier than a lot of other vices. The only joy gaining this knowledge has brought me is imagining the salesperson who sold the school these books asking for “tree fiddy” for the books like Chef’s parents from South Park.
Now here’s the kicker as to why this made me as angry as it did. Not just through the incredible stupidity of believing in the Loch Ness Monster or even putting it in a text book. We’ve all heard of the Creationist Museum in Kentucky. This is not the stupidest thing that has been called “science” by people who are defiling that word. And removing Nessie from the text book is a slight improvement, I guess, on this book, but that still is not the issue. Here’s the issue, and for the trifecta of scientific ignorance, we welcome Louisiana to the stage.
While the announcement pertains to Europe, controversy over ACE’s textbooks hit American shores last year when a Louisiana private school was found to be using the recently edited textbook.
“Eternity Christian Academy in Westlake, uses a ‘science’ book that contains some unusual ideas – one of them the assertion that dinosaurs might still be roaming our planet,” wrote Rob Boston of Americans United on the group’s blog.
Known as Biology 1099, it garnered criticism from the group Americans United for Separation of Church and State due to the school in question receiving taxpayer voucher dollars.
That’s right folks. Even though this is being taught at a private school, it is being paid for with tax dollars, meaning we footed the bill for this. Now, I’m all for people going to private schools if that is actually a better school option for them. In my home state, Georgia, private school students regularly outperform public school students in college. I’m even okay with home schooling if that is the best environment available to the child for learning. But by definition, if you receive tax payer funding for this, that makes you a public school, which means that you don’t get to teach “Christian science” under the First Amendment. So their options are 1) stop taking our money, keep shoveling this crap, and watch people from other states and other schools take the jobs that your children are not going to be equipped to get, thus continuing the cycle of Bible Belt poverty for another generation, or 2) keep taking our money, teach actual science, and let the kids study the Bible at home.
I write that last paragraph like I have some control over what they do, which is itself laughable. Those are the options that they should face. I don’t actually know what the Louisiana officials are doing about this. I know that in Georgia last year our state voted for charter schools. I was among those who voted for it. Before I get called a hypocrite, I voted for it because I know that public schools here are not regulated at all, and evolution is still a “controversy” in my public school alma mater among some of the faculty. Also in my alma mater, atheist students were made to sit in the hall during certain classes for refusing to pray. Local pastors were allowed to come on school campus, harass gay and Jewish students, and eat lunch with students to talk about Jesus. Military recruiters were there daily and college recruiters were only allowed certain visitation days. This year they are facing a lawsuit from the NAACP for refusing to let an African American student graduate with honors. Let’s not pretend that the public schools are much better than the private ones. The private ones at least have the proper resources to teach students some things that are useful later on. Like I said earlier, in Georgia, they do much better in college even in they went to a religious private school. I would rather have my choice of charter schools than have no choice and go to a public school basically operated by the same people running the religious private schools.
The creationist movement and the religious right are not winning this fight, but they are still throwing punches left and right. The result of this is funny or tragic depending on your perspective, as the people who are doing this are hurting themselves and their own children the most. While we lament unemployment being high, biotech and engineering companies are searching pretty desperately for qualified workers, which they are not finding in high number in Bible Bet job markets due to lack of proper education. It’s hard to get people to work on astrophysics when they were raised to believe that the big bang theory is a trick of the Devil. It’s hard to get them to study biology when “embryology and evolution are lies from the pit of Hell”. It’s hard to work on green energy projects when you learned in school that “God made the Earth warmer and who are we to question.” And I would be fine leaving these people alone to eventually realize their mistakes or just let the world move on without them, except I came from this. And I know that there are millions of younger Jordan Logues somewhere down here that are being raised in churches by the snake handlers and the creationists and the racists and the bigots, and they deserve better.