Posts Tagged “curriculum”

A historical event that Jefferson County schools would not be able to teach kids (In case you were taught by Jefferson County schools, or for some other reason don't recognize it, this was the fall of the Berlin Wall) / PsiCop modification of Sue Ream photo, via Wikimedia CommonsConservatives have strange ideas about how teaching works. For instance, a lot of them think teaching evolution in science classes — which is currently the only known scientific explanation for our planet’s diverse life forms — is a form of persecution against Christianity and part of an effort to abolish that religion. Also, a lot of them think teaching kids things like slavery will cause kids to hate their country or something. They also worry that teaching kids about things will somehow force them to do them; e.g. teaching kids about communism will convert them to communism.

That the teaching of history, in particular, doesn’t work the way conservatives think it does, should be rather obvious. For instance, my 4 years in university learning medieval history didn’t make me into a crossbowman, swordsman or jouster, even though I learned about medieval military methods and read about a lot of tournaments.

An example of the outright-fucking insanity that erupts when conservatives get their hands on history curricula can be seen in this report by the New York Times on recent actions by the Jefferson County, Colorado school board (WebCite cached article):

A new conservative school board majority here in the Denver suburbs recently proposed a curriculum-review committee to promote patriotism, respect for authority and free enterprise and to guard against educational materials that “encourage or condone civil disorder.” In response, hundreds of students, teachers and parents gave the board their own lesson in civil disobedience.

On Tuesday, hundreds of students from high schools across the Jefferson County school district, the second largest in Colorado, streamed out of school and along busy thoroughfares, waving signs and championing the value of learning about the fractious and tumultuous chapters of American history.

“It’s gotten bad,” said Griffin Guttormsson, a junior at Arvada High School who wants to become a teacher and spent the school day soliciting honks from passing cars. “The school board is insane. You can’t erase our history. It’s not patriotic. It’s stupid.”

The Times article explains that the board’s conservative majority (3 to 2) has been stirring up trouble for several months, including driving out a 12-year superintendent. They’re really angry, and appear to have fallen for the prevailing conservative myth that public schools are nothing more than Marxist indoctrination camps.

In addition to the false notion that teaching kids about civil disobedience will force them all to become perpetually “civilly disobedient,” they appear to forget that civil disobedience has been used to promote conservative ideals and even to bring about changes that American conservatives approve of. Have they forgotten so soon about things like a western Rightist’s decades-long unrepentant refusal to obey federal law (cached) — a sterling example of civil disobedience if ever there was one? Or about the “Brooks Brothers riot” (in which Rightists working for G.W. Bush campaign used civil disobedience to try to derail the 2000 election recount in Florida)? Or have they forgotten about protests around the world, especially in eastern Europe, that toppled many communist regimes in 1989? Or even that many of their own number want the incumbent president removed from office, and wouldn’t object to civil disobedience or even revolt in order to make that happen?

My guess is, they’re blissfully unaware of this. They tend to be authoritarian, and demand unthinking adherence to authority. That they sometimes, themselves, object to some authority figures just doesn’t register with them all that often. In other words, they’re hypocrites — fiercely decrying civil disobedience if they find it inconvenient, but using it like a tool whenever they feel as though they can. Wah wah wah, little babies.

Photo credit: PsiCop modification of Sue Ream photo, via Wikimedia Commons.

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Gustave Doré (1832-1883), The Crusaders war machineryThe belt-buckle of the Bible Belt, Texas, is acting up again. And it’s the same people — the state’s Board of Education — as I’ve blogged about previously (e.g. here, and here, and here). This time they’ve fallen in behind the vast hosts of the nation’s Neocrusaders, and are laying siege to textbooks. The New York Times reports on the Texas BoE’s continuing effort to proselytize to public school children (WebCite cached article):

Some conservative members of the Texas Board of Education assert that the history books used in this state have a pro-Islamic bias, and they are upset about it.

Never shy about wading into the culture wars, they are planning to vote Friday for a resolution that would send a blunt message to textbook publishers: Do not present a pro-Islamic, anti-Christian version of history if you want to sell books in one of the nation’s largest markets.

“The purpose of this resolution is to ensure there is balanced treatment of divergent groups,” Gail Lowe, the chairwoman of the board, said. “In the past, the textbooks have had some bias against Christianity.”

The resolution was written and submitted to the board this summer by, Randy Rives, who as a member of the school board in Odessa, Tex., pushed through a Bible study curriculum.

The Neocrusaders’ complaint is that textbooks are “biased” against Christianity and in favor of Islam. Unfortunately, they don’t bother to demonstrate this. They simply insinuate that it’s the case. The problem, of course, is that “bias” has a meaning … a statistical one, and it must be demonstrated using compelling, objective, statistical evidence. The Neocrusaders — to no one’s surprise — don’t offer any such thing. They simply assert “bias” and base it on a small selection of readings, as well as the fact that some Dubai royals had once attempted to invest in a textbook publishing company. (They no longer have any interest in it; showing once again that the Religious Right loves to ignore facts it finds inconvenient.)

In my experience, anytime someone whines about “bias” without offering evidence of it, what they really mean is, “This stuff isn’t exactly the way I, personally, want it to be.” Sadly, their own personal wishes — whatever they may be — are irrelevant. History is history … period! … and to bend it to suit one’s personal whim, makes it something other than history.

In any event, if anyone in Texas — or any other state — is concerned that his/her child may not get a “balanced” view of Christianity, the solution is rather obvious … teach it to your kids yourself, or in Sunday school. Forcing public school teachers to mouth the platitudes and dogmas you — personally — hold dear is not the solution. Unless, of course, your goal is to control other people’s kids rather than just your own. This is, in fact, precisely what Mr Rives and the rest of the furiously sanctimonious Neocrusaders want; he said so, himself:

“If you can control or influence our education system, you can start taking over the minds of the young people,” Mr. Rives said.

Thank you, Mr Rives, for confessing to your own game. It is to control people. I can’t possibly have asked for any more clear of an admission on your part.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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Dinosaurs and CavemenIt turns out that my home state of Connecticut’s regional school district 17 — made up of the towns of Killingworth and Haddam — has a creationist on its school board, named Chester Harris. The Hartford Courant recently profiled him (WebCite cached article):

Chester Harris, newly elected to the Region 17 school board, is a Republican with a standard conservative outlook: He distrusts government bureaucracy, believes in fiscal restraint and thinks kids today have too many advantages and too few responsibilities.

But it is his answer to fundamental questions about the origins of life that sets him apart.

Harris, 53, rejects evolution. To him, the idea that humans and apes share a common ancestor takes “a whole lot more faith than believing there was a creator who set all these things in motion and allows us to operate under free will.”

The idea that it takes “more faith” to believe in evolution than to believe in creationism, is — of course — pure bullshit, and always has been. Even though it’s a standard line that creationists always seem to like to use. (They do so because they are completely ignorant about the scientific method, about the details of evolution, and even about their own religion, because Christianity does not actually demand a complete rejection of evolution!)

The article mentions that he attempted to evangelize for his views with a few teachers and administrators:

About three weeks ago he met with several high school science teachers and school administrators in the district, which serves the woodsy, Connecticut Valley towns of Haddam and Killingworth.

Harris subscribes to the notion known as “teach the controversy,” which of course is also bullshit. There is no “controversy” about evolution. It is both a fact and a theory. There is nothing indefinite about it, and no credible scientific alternative to it exists. That said, if people like Harris really believe that science is “controversial,” I suggest that he test the “controversy” over whether a cinder block held above his foot, will fall and crush it, if someone lets go of it.

For that matter, fundies who believe everything is “controversial” should, therefore, be more than willing to “teach the controversy” that Jesus Christ actually lived … because the truth is, we don’t know that there was any such person, and even if there was, what exactly he did during his lifetime. If they were honest about their “everything is a controversy” position, they ought to be happy to do so. So … get to it, guys!

Hat tip: Skeptics & Heretics Forum on Delphi Forums

Photo credit: Orin Zebest.

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