19 October 2010

Religious ignorance continues

to astound....

One of the more popular unknowns in the religious ignorance study was that public schools could study the bible in literature or historical contexts, as an example.

But the flipside of that question wasn't asked. Something like where in the Constitution does it say you can't teach creationism in a public school (or can/should you be able to)? And the answer is in the first amendment's establishment clause. A most inconvenient clause apparently to try to remember. That pesky first amendment with its respect for religious tolerance and freedom of speech, always messing up these candidates who we are told so greatly revere the constitution! What a shame. (Update: it gets worse. She blatantly asks a questioner to clarify what the 14th and 16th amendments are. Given that she's from the ultra conservative wing of the GOP, both of these ought to be second nature as they appear to be two of the lesser children on the amendment list for conservatives, particularly the 14th lately with its citizenship clauses. I might not agree with Kucinich on much of anything, but I expect he'd know which amendment says what at least before claiming some sort of fealty to what the Constitution says).

Perhaps a more interesting Constitutional question for both candidates might be why there is a federally funded department of education and hence why what schools are teaching on this is a matter of (federal) public policy in the first place. It should be a matter of empirical study of scientific theories for the most part and if people don't want their children to actually study scientific processes and theories, then I guess they don't have to do that. Just don't expect much from some kinds of employers or occupations that they may wish to pursue.

I personally get the impression that people who want their children to learn creationism instead of science will simply leave their children out of the public system through home schooling or find parochial schools and this happens all the time already. Since this is the educational outcome anyway, I'm not that concerned with the complaint that people usually voice over a broader school choice programme distributed through tax credits or educational vouchers (tax credits are better constitutionally, and vouchers are explicitly banned in some state constitutions anyway), namely that such a system would produce too many nutcases. I think we do quite an adequate job producing nutcases as it is, my actual concern is that we fail to provide an adequate job educating people or their children who aren't intending to be nutcases. If we do a better job overall, even if there are more nutcases, there might be more functional students emerging capable of pursuing a high tech degree or liberal arts education or whatever it is that we think is so important to promote at the higher levels of education. I'll take that as a win for one. And for another, those people trying to write Jefferson and Darwin out of our schools, they will get their wish, but only by writing them out of THEIR schools, where the rest of us may be left in peace to ignore these silly diversions making textbooks a matter of public policy in the first place. Shouldn't be a matter of public discourse. We've got better things to argue through politics than natural selection or punctuated equilibrium, or even the ideas and impact of the Enlightenment age.
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