While the headlines in the MSM are fixated on SCOTUS, and describing in exquisite detail avalanches of things that are not yet even happening at Federal level, the work of solidifying the economic and social coup among US institutions at more local levels continues apace, and with precious little coverage at all.
Well, not quite. It did make the news in Scotland, of all places, as here in Herald Scotland;
It sounds like a plot dreamed up by the creators of Southpark, but it’s all true: schoolchildren in Louisiana are to be taught that the Loch Ness monster is real in a bid by religious educators to disprove Darwin’s theory of evolution.
Thousands of children in the southern state will receive publicly-funded vouchers for the next school year to attend private schools where Scotland’s most famous mythological beast will be taught as a real living creature.
These private schools follow a fundamentalist curriculum including the Accelerated Christian Education (ACE) programme to teach controversial religious beliefs aimed at disproving evolution and proving creationism.
One tenet has it that if it can be proved that dinosaurs walked the earth at the same time as man then Darwinism is fatally flawed.
This of course is merely the tip of the iceberg. The “voucher” system, as an alternate funding mechanism for education, is wildly popular in GOP circles, and is usually advocated as an effective means to combat the decline of the mainstream school system. The nub of the scheme, for those of you outside the US and unfamiliar with it, is that the government will give “vouchers” to parents that they may then redeem for tuition at private schools. The option to send your kids to regular public school (that means the opposite here of what it means in the UK, btw) remains, but the parent would also have the option to bypass public education entirely and send the kid to schools outside of the state funded institutions, but still using state funds to pay for at least part of that. They could also, in many cases, redeem the vouchers for cash to defray the cost of home-schooling.
This scheme is of course a particular favorite among religious fundamentalists, since it allows for curricula that are not approved by the Department of Education, an agency that many on the right nowadays would eliminate anyway if they could. Nor do such people believe that the Constitutional separation of Church and State says what it does, or means what it has been upheld to mean, and they’d get rid of that sucker as well.
Many articles here on this blog have illustrated the ways in which School District Boards have been colonized by the religious hard right, and not just in the “Bible Belt” states. For them, this voucher system is simply a means to send their children to schools using overtly religious curricula, but still have their education funded on the public dime.
In Louisiana, the vouchers would be available to about 5,000 students for the 2012-2013 school year, but private school choice options are to be dramatically expanded to cover approximately 380,000 students in the state in 2013-2014.
Rachel Tabachnick, a reporter who has followed the trajectory of the religious right’s influence in education and politics generally for years, has the skinny over at Talk2Action;
Some Louisiana students receiving publicly funded vouchers and attending private schools in 2012-2013 will be taught from educational media promoting young earth creationism, global warming denial, history that is not factual, and bigotry toward Catholicism, Mormonism, other Protestants, and non-Christian religions. This is predictable because some of the schools that are on the approved list to receive voucher students use curriculum from A Beka Books, Bob Jones University Press, and Accelerated Christian Education (ACE). Public funding of the teaching of creationism is already happening in Pennsylvania, Florida, and other states with “private school choice” programs. The following 8-minute video provides a window into what these students are being taught.
This video below is an 8-minute excerpt on the content of A Beka and Bob Jones University Press textbooks. The excerpt is from a 35-minute video about the corporate tax credit program funding students to attend private schools in Pennsylvania (preview and full length video embedded in this article).
Do please watch at least the 8 minute version to get full flavor of just how far out in the weeds this stuff is from any scholarly scientific/historical point of view.
It’s not just Louisiana either, naturally. This stuff is really widespread, nor is it limited just to School Boards. Here below, for your pleasure, is the entire Texas GOP Platform for this, the year of Our Lord 2012, wherein you will find unequivocal support for exactly this kind of shift in educational focus, including gems like these;
Having an educated population, with parents having the freedom of choice for the education of their children.
Knowledge-Based Education – We oppose the teaching of Higher Order Thinking Skills (HOTS) (values clarification), critical thinking skills and similar programs that are simply a relabeling of Outcome-Based Education (OBE) (mastery learning) which focus on behavior modification and have the purpose of challenging the student’s fixed beliefs and undermining parental authority.
Controversial Theories – We support objective teaching and equal treatment of all sides of scientific theories. We believe theories such as life origins and environmental change should be taught as challengeable scientific theories subject to change as new data is produced. Teachers and students should be able to discuss the strengths and weaknesses of these theories openly and without fear of retribution or discrimination of any kind.
Naturally enough it doesn’t stop with education. Cheaper to dump that benzene in a river? Fixed;
Protection from Extreme Environmentalists – We strongly oppose all efforts of the extreme environmental groups that stymie legitimate business interests. We strongly oppose those efforts that attempt to use the environmental causes to purposefully disrupt and stop those interests within the oil and gas industry. We strongly support the immediate repeal of the Endangered Species Act. We strongly oppose the listing of the dune sage brush lizard either as a threatened or an endangered species. We believe the Environmental Protection Agency should be abolished.
Separation of Church and State? Political advocacy on the part of Clergy? We can fix that too, no problem;
Free Speech for the Clergy – We urge amendment of the Internal Revenue Code to allow a religious organization to address issues without fear of losing its tax-exempt status. We call for repeal of requirements that religious organizations send the government any personal information about their contributors.
Onerous Federal rules preventing racial discrimination at the voting booth getting you down? (Texas is one of nine states with a history of racial discrimination that must get Federal approval before changing their voting laws)—Hey presto! Done deal;
Voter Rights Act – We urge that the Voter Rights Act of 1965 codified and updated in 1973 be repealed and not reauthorized.
Here’s the whole enchilada, and check out the “Protecting Our Children” section on P-10, if you have the fortitude for it. There’s a lot of wider Dominionist influence easily recognizable throughout this document, not least this on P-22;
Our policy is based on God’s biblical promise to bless those who bless Israel and curse those who curse Israel and we further invite other nations and organizations to enjoy the benefits of that promise.
And finally, for, um, journalistic balance, and from the “even a stopped clock” department, let me be the first to congratulate the Texas GOP for getting on the right side of the GM food labeling issue—they support it.