Monday, March 24, 2014


Politico's Stephanie Simon tells us today that tax dollars are supporting the teaching of creationism in private schools:
Taxpayers in 14 states will bankroll nearly $1 billion this year in tuition for private schools, including hundreds of religious schools that teach Earth is less than 10,000 years old, Adam and Eve strolled the garden with dinosaurs, and much of modern biology, geology and cosmology is a web of lies....

Decades of litigation have established that public schools cannot teach creationism or intelligent design. But private schools receiving public subsidies can -- and do. A POLITICO review of hundreds of pages of course outlines, textbooks and school websites found that many of these faith-based schools go beyond teaching the biblical story of the six days of creation as literal fact. Their course materials nurture disdain of the secular world, distrust of momentous discoveries and hostility toward mainstream scientists....
Ahh, but at National Review, Michael McShane of the American Enterprise Institute tells us not to worry our little heads over this -- sure, phony science is being taught in private schools, but it's being taught i public schools as well. So it's all good!
The implied belief [of Simon's article] is that because courts ruled that public schools cannot teach creationism or intelligent design, they don't. The only problem with this belief is that it is false (a little ironic in an article about false beliefs).

In a 2011 issue of Science magazine (summarized without a paywall here), Penn State political scientists Michael Berkman and Eric Plutzer surveyed a nationally representative sample of public high-school biology teachers and found that only 28 percent of them consistently implement National Research Council standards for the teaching of evolution. Thirteen percent of biology teachers explicitly teach creationism or intelligent design. Sixty percent hedge by neither strongly advocating for evolution or creationism.
And you were worried about private schools sneakily siphoning up your money to teach ignorance. Ignorance is being taught openly in the public sector! Don't you feel better now?

And really, it's only fair, according to McShane:
This makes a great deal of intuitive sense. The Politico article itself cites Gallup polling that consistently finds about 45 percent of the population of the United States believing in creationism....

It turns out that, in a big, diverse, pluralistic, and free nation like the one we live in, some folks are going to believe stuff that we don't like and will want to teach that to their children.
So it's inevitable that ignorance and superstition will be spread in the schools, because freedom!

Now, of course, in America, 18% of us think President Obama is a Muslim, while 20% of us think vaccines cause autism and 15% of us think the U.S. government was behind 9/11. In big, diverse, free, pluralistic America, all sorts of things are believed about Jews:

All these beliefs should be showing up in approximately every fifth school in America, shouldn't they? After all, we are a free people!

But if all this troubles you, Mr. McShane feels your pain -- and he's got just the remedy: even more freedom!
... the Politico article makes what I think is a great argument for vouchers.

Imagine yourself moving to a state where a majority of citizens believe in creationism. If you agree with the wealth of human knowledge that our world developed through the process of evolution, you might find yourself in a bit of a pickle. Because local school boards and state boards of education are elected or appointed by elected officials, it's most likely that they will represent the viewpoints of creationists, which will then be reflected in school curriculum....

If you're a poor person in Louisiana or Tennessee, or at times Texas or Kansas, a voucher might be your only way out of a school that teaches creationism. If creationists are set on taking over school boards or state legislatures, school-choice programs might also work as a release valve for creationists to inflict their teachings on only their own children, and not yours.
Or, y'know, we could, as a nation, actually enforce the ban we already have on teaching creationism in schools. Because maybe it's a bad idea to have a society in which other people's kids are taught sheer nonsense.

Nahhh. Then we wouldn't be free, would we?


Victor said...

Actually, there is a place for creationism in all schools.

And the class is called Comparing Religions - or, something to that effect.

Where EVERY major religion's, and varying minor ones - like Native Northern/South/and Central American - creation myths are presented to the students - and not just the Christians who think they're God's special snowflakes.

Joey Blau said...

oops .. looks like this New Yorker is an anti-semite!

but seriously, if you put "some" in front of those questions you get a lot of yesses living around here.

We have a strong orthodox community, of various flavors (Satmar, Chabad-Lubavitch, YI)
and they really do tend to keep apart, deal only with each other and treat outsiders as marks or intruders.

but what the rest of the country has to go on is unclear.