Category Archives: Religious Right

Republicans Weaken Church/State Separation–Again

A relatively straightforward trade bill that’s coming up for a vote in the House has been used as a vehicle by the Republican majority to sneak a provision into it that would single out politically-active churches with special favors. It’s a blatantly political move to protect the Christian right from the consequences of mixing religion and politics.

Under the proposal, churches that venture too zealously into politics would be allowed three “unintentional violations” of the law governing nonprofit organizations without risking immediate loss of their tax-exempt status. Wouldn’t we all love such tax-code mercies? This transparent bridge across the church-state divide comes as hustings-tempted clergy are already being openly enlisted by White House campaigners as “friendly congregations” for the November elections. The House proposal mocks honest clergy as much as the tax code.

Instead of ‘Three Strikes and You’re Out’ laws, favorites of hard-core ‘law-and-order’ Pubs in years gone by, Republicans are suddenly offering their supporters a ‘The First Three Strikes Don’t Count’ law.

Comment Unnecessary

From This Week:

An American Christian group is lobbying to have the whale reclassified as a fish, because that is how the animal is described in the story of Jonah. “the Bible is God’s own words,” says a spokesman for Concerned Christians for Education Reform. “If the Lord says the whale is a ‘great fish’, it’s a fish. Period.”

(From Carol Avedon at The Sideshow)

Culture Wars

Frank Rich: How (and why) the right is blaming Abu Ghraib on Time/Warner:

It sounds laughable, but it’s not a joke. Some of our self-appointed moral leaders are defending the morally indefensible by annexing Abu Ghraib as another front in America’s election-year culture war. Charles Colson, the Watergate felon turned celebrity preacher, told a group of pastors convened by the Family Research Council that the prison guards had been corrupted by “a steady diet of MTV and pornography.” The Concerned Women for America site posted a screed by Robert Knight, of the Culture and Family Institute, calling the Abu Ghraib scandal the ” `Perfect Storm’ of American cultural depravity,” in which porn, especially gay porn, gave soldiers “the idea to engage in sadomasochistic activity and to videotape it in voyeuristic fashion.” (His chosen prophylactics to avert future Abu Ghraibs include abolishing sex education, outlawing same-sex marriage and banishing Howard Stern.) The vice president of the Heritage Foundation, Rebecca Hagelin, found a link between the prison scandal and how “our country permits Hollywood to put almost anything in a movie and still call it PG-13.”

Sometimes the Good Guys Win

John McKay at archy follows up on the students in Montana who struck their high school rather than see creationism taught side-by-side with evolution in their classrooms.

The short version: They won. Voters rejected the creationist school board candidates 2-to-1. Read the rest. It’ll do your heart good.

More Good News

And the good news just doesn’t stop today.
About effin’ time, I’d say.
–Perle Messda, Acclimated Poet of the Minnesota School for Regional Cookery, Specialty: Lemon Angels. “We do lutefisk!”John McKay over at archy links to a story about a student revolt at a Montana high school. What are they rebelling against, you ask? A new rule that forbids the wearing of t-shirts with the word “Britney” on them? the removal of pizza from the school lunch menu? a new requirement that seniors actually attend at least one class a day? Nope. They don’t want the school board to force them to learn creationism in their biology classes.

After the Darby School Board Tuesday made another move in the process of adopting an objective origins policy, students came out to express their opposition.About one-third of the high school’s 170 students Wednesday walked out of school 15 minutes before the bell rang and assembled between U.S. 93 and school property in protest of the school board’s decisions to question evolution.

Carrying signs criticizing the newly adopted policy, students walked the sidewalk and drew honks and yells from passers-by hoping school officials and trustees would take heed.

“Students really care what’s going on in the school,” said senior Aaron Lebowitz, who organized the protest. “(The school board) has been on their own track and haven’t really listened to us.”

Well, I’ll be damned.

What I particularly love is the new creationist label for justifying the injection of religion into science: the “objective origins policy.” That’s a good one, ay? They’re overturning scientific principles in order to be “objective.” As long as they’re being honest about it. The kids, however saw right through that bare-faced ploy and aren’t having any.

“Over the past few weeks, students have discussed the issue at length and formed opinions about intelligent design,” Lebowitz said.One sign read, “Creationism in a cheap tuxedo.” And others called on people to go to church for creationism.

Lebowitz walked down the row of students asking individuals why they were there. Students strongly voiced concern about creationism being in science class and encouraged people to vote in the upcoming school board election.

Currently, students touch on evolution in life science class in seventh grade and then again in 10th-grade biology.

“But evolution is not shoved down our throats,” he said. “I was pretty disturbed by the ignorance of our community about what we’re really being taught.”

Lebowitz carried a sign that read, “Strike against preaching pseudo science.”

Good for them. I have to admit that as a sometime teacher I have made my fair share–alright, more than fair–of disparaging comments concerning the knowledge-level of your average adolescent. Mentioning Afghanistan and being asked if that’s some kind of candy bar will do that to you. But for a third–a third!–of the entire student body to stage a walk-out over a threat to the quality of their education is, well, John says it best:

As long as the public schools can turn out kids like this, the school system is doing just fine. Don’t believe the far right propaganda about our schools being failures that need to be replaced by voucher supported private (religious) schools. And as long as we have kids like Aaron Lebowitz and his cohort, civilization isn’t doomed quite yet.

Amen.

Anti-Gay Religious Right Gets Knuckle Sandwich

Something’s happening out there that is as direct a slap-in-the-face to faux-Christian moralism as any legitimate human being could wish. Not only aren’t the masses rising up to denounce the godless blasphemy of gay marriage, they’re sending it flowers.

San Francisco’s florists have been overwhelmed by orders from people as far away as Australia who are paying for flowers to be delivered randomly to the gay and lesbian couples getting married at City Hall.The requests from same-sex marriage supporters have come from some surprising places — Minneapolis, Atlanta, Kalamazoo, Mich. Even Hong Kong.

“It has just exploded, skyrocketed, spread like wildfire,” said Thim Phan, owner of Flowers By the Bay. “We’ve been bombarded with phone calls, and we knew we couldn’t handle it alone, so I’ve been calling other florists in San Francisco like, ‘Please guys, help!”‘

Phan said he has processed nearly 200 orders from almost every state since the city began allowing the gay marriages.

Right-wing Christian zealots, stand down if you know what’s good for you. You have made your bed and the people are saying they want no part of it. Love, they are saying, is so rare a commodity in these days of hate and intolerance that we will support it even if we don’t care for the way it’s expressed and wouldn’t personally choose that option for ourselves. Love is precious however it comes, and we’re going to prove it to you.

Join the parade.

SEND FLOWERS TO SAN FRANCISCO! SEND FLOWERS TO BOSTON OR PITTSBURG OR ANYWHERE ELSE MAYORS DEFY THEIR STATE LEGISLATURES AND ALLOW LOVE TO SPREAD ITS WINGS! SUPPORT LIFE AND FIGHT THE DEATH THAT IS BIGOTRY!

I wish I had a button you could push but there isn’t one so you’ll have to take the responsibility for doing this on yourself. Good Luck and God Bless You.

(Via the San Francisco Chronicle by way of Mark Morford)

Gay Marriage

In the wake of the tag-team gay marriages in San Francisco and the overwhelming reaction to them from conservative “Christians” even unto Junior’s support for a Consitutional Amendment, the questions are being asked: “Why do conservative ‘Christians’ care so much? What’s it got to do with them? Exactly how does it hurt them, anyway? Why don’t they just ignore it?” On the surface these would seem to be legitimate questions. After all, it’s hard to see how a personal and private ceremony involving a couple in San Francisco can directly affect another couple in, say, Alabama, especially if they don’t know about it and aren’t acquainted with any of the people concerned.

But that’s just on the surface. Underneath this seemingly innocuous custom lies a deadly danger, and fortunately we have Susan Sanford of the Jasper, Alabama Daily Mountain Eagle around to point it out for us.

My first question is, do these people not read the Bible? Have they forgotten Sodom and Gomorrah? At what point do they think the Lord changed His mind about the sin of homosexuality?

There you go. If we don’t stop this blasphemous activity, Susan’s God will send down thunderbolts of fire and brimstone to destroy all of America, from sea-to-shining-sea–even the innocents like Susan herself–in a hurricane of volcanic fury.

Thanks for explaining it, Sue! We were confused. Now could you explain why, if that’s his agenda, God didn’t raze San Francisco to the ground 40 years ago? What’s he waiting for? Frisco’s had a large and stable community of gays since the sixties, at least one gay mayor, and a passle of Turkish baths. Seems like that would be more than enough to tick Him off, the way you put it. Also, could you give us an idea how much time we have left? I’d like to go through my Buffy the Vampire-Slayer collection before the Apocalypse.

We await your response with baited breath.

Evolution Reinstated in Georgia

CoxNews

According to today’s AJC, the GA evolution flap is almost over. Schools Superintendent Kathy Cox has used her better judgment–with a little help from the press and public opinion.

State education officials agreed Thursday to consider revised science standards that reinstate evolution and discussion of the big-bang theory.The scientific theories had been omitted in an initial draft released by state Schools Superintendent Kathy Cox in January. After a public outcry, the superintendent agreed to include strengthened standards from the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the source initially recommended by teachers and science experts.

By last week, Cox had proposed a new science curriculum that introduces origins of the universe, specifically the big-bang theory, in middle school; and strengthened standards for evolution in middle and high school life science courses.

If this means what it sounds like it means (we won’t know until June when the final decision is made by the Board of Education), science will be making a comeback in GA’s science classrooms next fall. Of course, a lot appears to depend on public feedback–Cox seems dedicated to proposing her education courses based on polls. The re-revised curriculum will be posted and open for public comment until at least the end of May. Will a concerted fundamentalist effort to force creationism into the state’s science curriculum develop? If it does, will all the new hollering convince Cox to revise her re-revision and remove evolution again?

This business of deciding what constitutes science on the basis of the loudest voices of public opinion at any given moment has some definite drawbacks. Inconsistency, for one. And unpredictability–you’ll never know what will be taught from one year to the next until you see who screams the loudest at BOE meetings. There are some areas where majority rule is inappropriate, and science curricula is one of them.

CoxNews

1. The Word Is Back, Now What About The Science?

Cox’s decision yesterday to return the word “evolution” to the GA science curriculum and the curriculum itself back to the Science Advisory Panel whose recommendation that “evolution be taught thoroughly” Cox originally rejected has resulted in a state-wide sigh of relief. Even Repub Gov Sonny Perdue (through a spokesman) is now saying, “She did the right thing.” The press and the pressure had a small victory but concern is building on her silence regarding the actual curriculum, a concern that course deletions will stand.

Portions of the national standards that were deleted in Cox’s proposal include a detailed explanation of natural selection — how organisms with inherited advantages are more likely to survive and reproduce.Other deleted statements included: “Life on Earth is thought to have begun as simple, one-celled organisms about 4 billion years ago. During the first 2 billion years, only single-cell microorganisms existed, but once cells with nuclei developed about a billion years ago, increasingly complex multicellular organisms evolved.”

James Rutherford, the former director of the American Association for the Advancement of Science’s benchmark program, worked for the state advisory board as a consultant. Rutherford said Cox needs to follow her decision to restore evolution with also returning to the national standards, which scientists recommend so that students will understand the concept of evolution. “It gets us on the track, but it’s not sufficient,” Rutherford said of Cox’s reversal on use of the word “evolution.”

But Cox has been silent on the deletions and Perdue made a statement that left the door wide open to teaching creationism side-by-side with evolution:

On Saturday, Perdue said he wanted balanced evolution instruction. “What concerns me is that many times you’ll have teachers in the classroom with impressionable students who go beyond that and teach it as a proven fact, and then go beyond that and ridicule students who would believe anything other than the theory of evolution,” Perdue said. “I think we need to have academic freedom, but we need academic balance as well.

That statement makes it obvious that radcon theocrats aren’t giving up–they’ve simply backed down off the word and moved to the next step: insisting that a religious belief in creationism is equivalent to a scientific theory and that therefore both deserve equal time in the classroom.

What we need to remember as this develops is that, although their disagreement with the evolutionary theory is genuine, the attempt by fundamentalist Christian theocrats to inject it into school curriculums is really a Trojan Horse. Their actual goal is to get religion back into public schools one way or another. Their first assault on the separation of church and state was the School Prayer Movement when heavily-funded, conservative fundamentalist groups sued dozens of schools around the country for the right to have prayer included as part of the classes and prayer groups allowed to hold their meetings on school grounds using school resources on the basis of the argument that prayer meetings were equivalent to meetings of, say, the Chess Club. There’s nothing new about this latest anti-separation scam except the excuse to push it–creationism instead of prayer.

If you doubt this, ponder the next item.

2. Even GA’s Christian Schools Teach Evolution

Cox’s decision to remove evolution from the state curriculum was a response to a controversy that began when a fundamentalist Christian parents’ group in Cobb County objected vehemently to the teaching of evolution in Cobb County Public Schools. When Cox said that she “made the decision to remove the word ‘evolution’ from the draft of the proposed biology curriculum in an effort to avoid controversy,” that was the controversy she was talking about.

And yet a report in today’s AJC says that many Christian schools in GA teach evolution without a peep of protest from parent groups, fundamentalist Christian groups, or anyone else.

While Georgia educators, parents and politicians debate how evolution should be taught in public schools, many Christian schools are teaching the theory without controversy, saying their students’ success in science depends on it.Michael Drake, head of the Georgia Independent School Association, said evolution is a nonissue among association members, because the theory’s importance in the study of biology is universally recognized. Although evolution may conflict with some families’ religious beliefs, the decision on how to reconcile that is best left to those families, he said.

Amen. Yet that same sentiment was roundly attacked in Cobb County when the schools said it in response to parents’ demands that they stop teaching evolution. The parents argued then, as Larry Taylor did (scroll down to “The Other Side”), that “[s]tudents should be exposed to all of the scientific evidence on evolution, both for and against, so that they can come to logical, informed, scientific conclusions.”

The Darwinists are always quick to label someone like me a religious extremist who just wants to interject my own personal faith into the science classroom. Yet it is they who seek, through the power of the state, to insulate their own beliefs about life’s origins from critical examination, to propagate those beliefs on an unwitting student population, and who defend their beliefs with the fervency of the most radical fundamentalist.Georgians should ask themselves why they are so adamantly opposed to an honest, open and critical examination of evolutionary theory in our classrooms. Could it be that their sacred cow is less than convincing when exposed to the light of truth?

Apparently they have no such problem with Christian schools that do not teach creationism in their science classrooms. Even though you would think that a Christian school would be a more logical (and friendly) place for Christian parents–including Larry Taylor–to raise the issue, on the contrary Christian schools have not been criticized at all by anyone for “propagat[ing] those beliefs on an unwitting student population.” Why not?

Very simple: the real motivation of the creationist movement is to get religion into the schools and Christian schools already teach religion. The true target isn’t evolution but the Constitutional separation of church and state that allows, even demands, that public schools teach real, non-Christian science.

Before we let this go any further, we need to call it what it is: an assault on the Constitution, not on a scientific theory.

CoxNews: Mind-Changing in Georgia

After a week of what the AJC called “withering criticism”, including some from former President Jimmy Carter, Superintendent of Schools Kathy Cox has changed her mind.

State Schools Superintendent Kathy Cox announced Thursday she will recommend that the word evolution be retained in Georgia’s proposed curriculum for middle and high school science.”I made the decision to remove the word evolution from the draft of the proposed biology curriculum in an effort to avoid controversy that would prevent people from reading the substance of the document itself,” Cox said in a statement. “Instead, a greater controversy ensued.”

Cox had proposed the phrase “biological changes over time,” a term that scientists derided as meaningless, be used instead.

“I am here to tell you that I misjudged the situation and I want to apologize for that. I want you to know today that I will recommend to the teacher teams that the word ‘evolution’ be put back in the curriculum,” she said.

Well, that’s nice. But it isn’t over yet. Apart from the troubling policy of vetting a curriculum by polling public opinion, Cox said nothing about restoring the other little change:

Cox made no statement on her decision to not include in the biology proposal several national standards for evolution instruction that many scientists say are critical for students to understand it. Those standards, culled from the American Association for the Advancement of Science benchmarks, include the explanation for natural selection and statements about the origins of life on Earth such as “life on Earth is thought to have begun as simple, one-celled organisms about 4 billion years ago.”

Which leads one to wonder what her next step will be. One scientist put it succinctly:

“I am glad she came to her senses,” said Jung Choi, associate professor of biology at Georgia Tech Thursday morning.”I expected she would. What I am concerned about is whether she will go on the other side and include creation science and intelligent design [in the curriculum], the so-called alternative theories that she has mentioned before.”

Choi said it is essential students study evolution before reaching college.

“I think it is critical because biology does not really make sense without evolution. It is the very first topic that we cover in freshman biology. There’s too many students that come to Georgia Tech that have not studied evolution before.” (emphasis added)

Sort of like trying to study astronomy when you’ve been told all your life that the sun revolves around the earth.

Cox is going to reconvene the curriculum panels sometime in the next month, and sometime after that, when the dust has died down and everyone has forgotten this little brouhaha, the curriculum will be chosen. Will GED’s Pruitt (who has largely escaped notice by the press for his role in all this) wander down and “order” the panels to inject creationism as an “alternative theory” as he “ordered” them to remove the words “evolution” and “long”? Or will Pruitt and Cox back off entirely and put the study of evolution and the true age of the earth back into the curriculum?

Stay tuned.

The Other Side

In an AJC Guest Editorial, Larry Taylor, President of something called “Parents for Truth in Education”, makes the case for including criticism of evolution in science classrooms.

Last year, in public comments before the Cobb County Board of Education, I witnessed firsthand the danger that can come when personal opinions and philosophical or religious prejudices are allowed into the science classroom.I was shocked as Cobb County public school teachers stood at the podium and made the absurd claim that evolution is an absolute proven fact that is no longer disputed by reasonable, educated people.

Further, these teachers went on to denigrate anyone who held an opposing viewpoint as “uneducated,” “illogical,” “radical” and my all time favorite, “right-wing extremists.”

I left that meeting vowing to protect my children from the obvious bias and open hostility that was exhibited by the teachers in attendance.

Go read the rest. It’s…interesting….

The “Next High-Tech State” Pushes Creationism

One of my favorite columnists, the AJC’s Jay Bookman, is confused.

Let’s see if I’ve got this straight:Georgia has ambitions of becoming the next big high-tech state, a new center of scientific achievement in fields ranging from cancer research to nanotechnology. Hundreds of millions of dollars have already been committed to that effort, which our business and political leaders say is essential to the state’s future prosperity. And the most important factor in the success of that effort will be our ability to recruit science-oriented companies and personnel to the state.

Meanwhile, Georgia is removing the word “evolution” from its middle school and high school curriculum guide because it is deemed to be “a buzzword that causes a lot of negative reaction,” according to the state school superintendent.

And it’s not just the word that disappears: The proposed changes will also gut much of the instruction that would allow an understanding of evolution’s underpinnings. Other changes are being made as well, including deletion of mention that the Earth has a long history, because such a statement conflicts with literal interpretations of the Bible claiming that the Earth is young.

Yeah, this move to high-tech is gonna work out just fine.

Cox picked her moment, alright.

It is not merely that scientists will now be reluctant to bring their families to a state where their children will be miseducated, although that will hurt immensely. It is not merely that company executives will now be leery of depending on a work force produced by such schools, although that, too, will be damaging. More fundamentally, they will be wary of an overall political climate so clearly hostile to science and to scientific methods and inquiry.

Bingo. Jay gets it.

The national news media has taken the stance that this is a largely independent attempt to infiltrate a religious doctrine into a school science curriculum in a limited way–by removing a word to which far-right-wing Christians are sensitive; they took that stance because that’s the way Cox defended her decision. But as I pointed out earlier, the proposed changes go much further: they remove any acknowledgment that the earth is more than the few thousand years old that literal-interpretation fundamentalists believe it to be, effectively trashing huge areas of sciences like astronomy, archeology and physics.

Jay’s exactly right; this is no mere PR-oriented excision but a hostile assault on all “scientific methods and inquiry.” Cox is a Movement Conservative–the latest label for radcons–and her goal is to bring GA’s school curriculum in line with radcon beliefs, not to quiet a few parents who don’t like the sound of a single word. The proposed curriculum also removes the study of the Civil War from the high school level and shifts it to elementary grades, a slick trick that will have the effect of dumbing-down a complicated and important–but controversial–course to 5th-grade level, eliminating the controversy. Since this has been part of the radcon agenda for decades, the changes as a whole must be seen for what they are: radcons using their positions of power to force their “truth” down our throats any way they can.

CoxNews: Pols Weigh In

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.

Update: Non-Evolution

Not much time today, but I wanted to acknowledge a mistake. In the “Comments” section of the Inherit the Wind post, Phaedrus of No Fear of Freedom called my attention to the fact that I had slightly misread the article–the new curriculum is a proposal, not a done deal. The NYT picked up the story today when Superindent Cox decided to respond to the AJC article, noting that the proposal had caused a “furor”, and that opponents of the change have 90 days in which to respond. Let’s begin with the “furor”:

ATLANTA, Jan. 29 — A proposed set of guidelines for middle and high school science classes in Georgia has caused a furor after state education officials removed the word “evolution” and scaled back ideas about the age of Earth and the natural selection of species.Educators across the state said that the document, which was released on the Internet this month, was a veiled effort to bolster creationism and that it would leave the state’s public school graduates at a disadvantage.

“They’ve taken away a major component of biology and acted as if it doesn’t exist,” said David Bechler, who heads the biology department at Valdosta State University. “By doing this, we’re leaving the public shortchanged of the knowledge they should have.

And, as the AJC article said yesterday, biology is what is known in academic circles as a “gateway” course, meaning that a student has to show mastery of it before she can move on to more advanced science courses like physics and chemistry.

In her press conference today, Cox seems to be less concerned with the hole she’s willing to put Georgia’s students into than with pushing her religious agenda. The NYT report on the press conference ends, fittingly enough, with a breath-taking Orwellianism in which she equates her determination to see creationism taught in schools with Galileo’s fight to force the Catholic Church to acknowledge scientific reality:

Georgia’s schools superintendent, Kathy Cox, held a news conference near the Capitol on Thursday, a day after The Atlanta Journal-Constitution published an article about the proposed changes.A handful of states already omit the word “evolution” from their teaching guidelines, and Ms. Cox called it “a buzz word that causes a lot of negative reaction.” She added that people often associate it with “that monkeys-to-man sort of thing.”

Still, Ms. Cox, who was elected to the post in 2002, said the concept would be taught, as well as “emerging models of change” that challenge Darwin’s theories. “Galileo was not considered reputable when he came out with his theory,” she said

Sorry, Kathy, but just saying that a faith-based theory is the same as a science-based theory just because neither was readily accepted doesn’t make it true. But try to explain to a radcon that assertion isn’t fact and “everybody does it” isn’t a defense.

Unfortunately some of the changes go beyond presenting a competing “theory” and slam-bang into the realm of altering well-documented fact.

Much of the state’s 800-page curriculum was adopted verbatim from the “Standards for Excellence in Education,” an academic framework produced by the Council for Basic Education, a nonprofit group. But when it came to science, the Georgia Education Department omitted large chunks of material, including references to Earth’s age and the concept that all organisms on Earth are related through common ancestry. “Evolution” was replaced with “changes over time,” and in another phrase that referred to the “long history of the Earth,” the authors removed the word “long.” Many proponents of creationism say Earth is at most several thousand years old, based on a literal reading of the Bible.Sarah L. Pallas, an associate professor of biology at Georgia State University, said, “The point of these benchmarks is to prepare the American work force to be scientifically competitive.” She said, “By removing the benchmarks that deal with evolutionary life, we don’t have a chance of catching up to the rest of the world.”

As Darrow said in Dayton, TN almost 80 years ago, in order to insist that the earth is only a few thousand years old (4,000 according to Bishop Usher, who counted the ages of Biblical prophets backwards to reach his number), the sciences of astronomy, paleontology, geology, botany, and archeology, among others, would have to be thrown out; so would physics and chemistry since they provide the proofs for the findings of the others. “Long” is a short word, but removing it is a very big deal and proves that the creationists have a lot more on their minds than discrediting Darwin: they ultimately want to discredit all science that conflicts with a literal interpretation of the Bible.

What the changes proposed by Cox and the Scopes Trial do NOT have in common is intent: John Scopes was put on trial as a publicity stunt, but these people are serious. Ironically, the most chilling statement and the most hopeful statement of the press conference were the same statement:

The guidelines, which were adopted by a panel of 25 educators, will be officially adopted in 90 days, and Ms. Cox said the public could still influence the final document. “If the teachers and parents across the state say this isn’t what we want,” she said, “then we’ll change it.

“Chilling” because it appears that the radcons are fostering an era when “good science” is going to be defined by polling the electorate; “hopeful” because the backlash is significant and will have to be taken account of before the curriculum can be officially sanctioned and enforced. But even though it may work–this time–in favor of scientific learning, leaving scientific decisions up to a public that is largely science-illiterate is a really bad, not to say dangerous, idea and a truly lousy way to advance our knowledge of the world around us.

Inherit the Wind

I remember thinking a few years ago while watching the movie starring Spencer Tracy and Fredric March that the age when science could be thrown out the window and replaced by religious dogma was forever behind us, a relic of past bigotry and superstition that we had passed through never to see again, like the Inquisition or the persecution of witches.

I was wrong. It isn’t over after all, it seems. Junior’s fundamentalist religious convictions allow him to claim, inaccurately and inappropriately, in the SOTU that abstinence is he “only” protection from AIDs, ignoring condoms as if they didn’t exist, and now the State of Georgia has wiped the word “evolution” from its science curriculum, according to the AJC.

Georgia students could graduate from high school without learning much about evolution, and may never even hear the word uttered in class.New middle and high school science standards proposed by state Schools Superintendent Kathy Cox strike references to “evolution” and replace them with the term “biological changes over time,” a revision critics say will further weaken learning in a critical subject.

The curriculum revision which had begun as “an attempt to strengthen the performance of students by requiring greater depth”, was simply hijacked by Republican State Schools Superintendent Kathy Cox and State Dept of Education’s Stephen Pruitt, who ordered the “committee of science teachers, college professors and curriculum experts…involved in reviewing the proposal” to delete both the word “evolution” and most of the curriculum recommended by the American Association for the Advancement of Science that covers “the origin of living things”.

Cox, in what has come to be the standard Republican “say one thing in the election, do another in office” bait-and-switch tactic, was asked about the teaching of evolution in a public debate during her campaign.

Cox, a Republican elected to the state’s top public school position in 2002, addressed the issue briefly in a public debate during the campaign. The candidates were asked about a school dispute in Cobb County over evolution and Bible-based teachings on creation.Cox responded: “It was a good thing for parents and the community to stand up and say we want our children exposed to this [creationism] idea as well. . . . I’d leave the state out of it and I would make sure teachers were well prepared to deal with competing theories.

Once elected, however, she instantly injected the state into the controversy. Of course. Voters who were paying attention would have known she was going to do that from her radcon equation of the scientific theory of evolution with the the religious dogma of creationism. That was a dead give-away. They are not “competing theories”. Labeling creationism a “theory” is like calling the Holy Ghost a “distinct personality type”.

Fortunately, Georgian educators do not, as a rule, live in the Middle Ages, and church control of science is still frowned upon. More than 600 of them have signed an online petition “challeging the curriculum as misguided.” Whether or not that will stop this latest radcon attempt to force science to obey religion remains to be seen.

Where is our Clarence Darrow?