Georgia Democrats, led by former president Jimmy Carter, spoke out yesterday on Superintendent Kathy Cox’s proposal to eliminate all mention of evolution from biology courses. Carter minced no words:
“As a Christian, a trained engineer and scientist, and a professor at Emory University, I am embarrassed by Superintendent Kathy Cox’s attempt to censor and distort the education of Georgia’s students,” the former president declared. “Nationwide ridicule of Georgia’s public education system will be inevitable if this proposal is adopted.”
No kidding. But Carter was not the only Georgia Democrat to offer an opinion.
At the state Capitol, some lawmakers denounced the proposal Friday.”You’re talking about a major change in public education in Georgia,” said Lt. Gov. Mark Taylor, a Democrat. “It appears Superintendent Cox finds the word ‘evolution’ too controversial to be discussed. She prefers a more nebulous term.”
State Rep. Bob Holmes (D-Atlanta), chairman of the House Education Committee, said the proposal will make Georgia look foolish on a national scale. “We have one black eye from the flag. This will give us another black eye,” he said.
Holmes said he couldn’t understand why the argument over evolution is continuing. “It seems to me this thing had been resolved 70 years ago during the Scopes monkey trial,” he said. In that landmark trial, in Tennessee in 1925, Clarence Darrow defended high school teacher John Scopes in the first court case to pit the theory of evolution against the biblical story of creation.
Although legislators may get no vote on whether Cox’s decision stands, Holmes noted that the House and Senate “provide funds for everything they do.”
Is that a threat, Bob?
Republican legislators, however, have been strangely silent. All Gov Sonny Perdue would say is that it’s not his place to get involved but that he “trust[s] the Superintendent…[who] is perfectly capable of making those kinds of curriculum decisions.” Not from where the 21st century is sitting, Sonny. From there it looks like she don’t know the difference between the Inquisition and an electron microscope. But then, you don’t either, probably.
Not satisfied with scrapping biology, Cox is also in the process of trying to “skip” the history of the Civil War as taught in Georgia’s high schools.
A proposal to all but skip the Civil War in high school history classes has state Superintendent Kathy Cox defending her views again.
The excuse they’re using–and there may be some validity to it–is that there just isn’t time to teach everything. Cox’s proposal suggests cutting the study into two parts:
Georgia teachers have complained for years that the state’s standards are a mile wide and an inch deep. Cox’s proposal — which includes changes such as placing the bulk of Civil War instruction in the fifth and eighth grades — is designed to free up time to cover topics in more depth, while meeting national standards that encourage hands-on activities in place of rote learning.But to free up more time, topics get introduced in earlier grades, a move Cox defends.
“We don’t need to dumb down expectations for our younger students and leave challenging material for the high school years alone,” Cox said in a statement released last week.
There are, of course, drawbacks to this arrangement.
[Andy] Preston, who teaches U.S. history at Ware County Magnet School and is president of the Georgia Council for the Social Studies, does not dispute the intention of the new standards. He sometimes has “trouble getting beyond World War II, you get bogged down.”But he worries whether fifth- or even eighth-graders have the maturity to deal with a topic as complex as the Civil War. So does Darrell Huckaby, a 29-year teaching veteran who teaches advanced-placement U.S. history at Heritage High School in Rockdale County.
“It just doesn’t make sense to learn half of history,” said Huckaby…
Under the proposed standards, Georgia’s high-schoolers would pretty much start at Reconstruction and move onward.
“It’s kind of sad we need to teach less to do better,” said Nathan Kumar, a junior at Marietta High School in Cobb County. “We live in America, not just the South, and the Civil War is a huge deal.”
Several legislators also have criticized the idea that the Civil War would not be a mandatory topic for high schoolers.
Lt. Gov. Mark Taylor said he is concerned about the proposed changes.
“I would urge you . . . to insist that educators in your districts, who you trust, review this,” Taylor said from the rostrum late last week. “These are very, very important changes.”
Sen. Steve Thompson (D-Powder Springs) also spoke out from the floor.
“How can we talk about today and the future if we don’t know about the past?” Thompson said. “We need to learn something about world history.”
Maybe it’s a matter of making choices, and sure, you can’t include everything, but sneaking the study of the Civil War–often called “The War of Northern Aggression” in the South and still a controversial topic after 150 years–into the lower, less demanding grades is a move that seems designed to allow (or even force) Georgian educators to soft-peddle the intricate and complex battles between Southern slave-owners and Northern Abolitionists, leaving a hole you could run a train through that is perfect for channeling the simple-minded “state’s rights” explanation that conservatives like Cox prefer, and down-playing the slavery aspect to the point of invisibility.
I wouldn’t assume that that is the intent if it weren’t for Cox’s attempt to eliminate evolution from the curriculum. Finding a way to turn the Civil War from a war over slavery into a war over state’s rights has been on the radcon agenda for years, just like dumping evolution, and it appears that Cox thinks she’s found a way to slip it into the curriculum under the radar with the excuse “we don’t have time to teach it.”
What this suggests, along with the evolution change, is that the radcons are using Cox to move their education agenda forward another step. Look for Cox to start showing up on wingnut radio and tv shows where she will be fawned over like a war hero, after which similar “proposals” will raise their ugly heads in other Southern states.
Cox represents the tip of the radcon iceberg, and it’s sailing mighty close to home.