So this column’s going back to the multi-topic format, and we’ve got a school-related theme this week. It’s funny how I started this thinking it would force me to write within a certain formula only to tweak it for each of the first three.
Please don’t sue.
There’s some good news in England, where they’ve stopped publicly funding schools which teach creationism as science. That link’s from The Guardian and usually they do a good job but the headline (“Richard Dawkins celebrates a victory over creationists”) sucks. It’s not just Richard Dawkins who wins in this, it’s all of us. Even people who don’t like Dawkins benefit from not having to pay teachers to indoctrinate students with nonsense.
It’s kind of interesting that the UK was able to do this without having a separation of church and state. Here in the US, advocates of science have depended largely on the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to keep creationism out of science classes. In cases like Edwards. v. Aguilard, those who argued for teaching science in science classes only had to demonstrate that what creationists were proposing amounted to a government establishment of religion.
Creationists have responded by re-branding their creationism “Intelligent Design,” which differs from creationism only in that they claim that the intelligent designer they propose doesn’t necessarily have to be a supernatural god. It could be aliens, for example. Unfortunately for them, the defenders of science have found the transitional fossils which prove ID is nothing but a cover for the same old biblical literalism which US courts have already rejected.
Where the History Channel and the Discovery Institute converge.
Even if the creationists were sincere in their claims about aliens, it’d still be pseudoscience for pretty much the same reasons a God-based creationism is pseudoscience. So it’s nice to see that if for some reason it became necessary to fight against that brand of nonsense here in America without using the separation of church and state, we could. It’d be like beating up a 86 year old with one hand tied behind your back – a little more challenging than usual, but still fairly easy and lots of fun, too.
Meanwhile, here on our side of the Atlantic some principal is being accused of hypnotizing his students and programming them to do some creepy shit. One student killed himself the day after the principal hypnotized him. Unlicensed practice of hypnosis is a crime in Florida (where else would this happen?) and this guy is facing up to a year in prison.
One hypnosis victim (left) went on a brutal path of vengeance to find the dickshit who imprisoned him.
Someone is crazy here, but I’m not sure who. Either the parents are using the post hoc ergo propter hoc logical fallacy in order to insinuate that the hypnosis caused the suicide, or he really did program the kid to kill himself. It sucks, but students do kill themselves all the time without having anything to do with hypnosis. And it looks like this principal was pretty excited about hypnosis, so it’s not too unusual that among all the students he hypnotized, one of them would be suicidal for unrelated reasons.
But at the same time, remember being a kid in school and how powerful and mysterious the principal of the school seemed to be? What if the possibility of the principal having the power to control your mind were thrown into the mix? That’d be terrifying. Kids would be afraid to even pass a note in class or throw a paper airplane because if they got caught, they might get sent to the principal’s office where he would program you to piss your pants whenever your teacher told the class to open your Math textbooks. So even though it’s probably not possible to use hypnosis to influence someone to kill themself, you can see why the parents would be a little upset.
Just when the British are finally getting their shit together and rejecting pseudoscience from their classrooms, we here in the States are going to be teaching more of it to our kids. It’s like they say: When God closes a door for creationists, he opens a window for anthropogenic global warming deniers.
But the Brits are supposed to be the backwards ones here. They’re the ones with a monarchy. They’re the ones with an official state religion. They’re the ones threatening students with expulsion for posting internet comics mocking Islam. They’re the ones calling a snack “tea.” They’re the fuckers who gave us terrible people with the first name Andrew like Wakefield and Sullivan. We should be miles – yeah, miles – ahead of them in this department. But instead here we are in 2012 with a small group of cranks monitoring our classrooms to make sure science teachers aren’t being too dismissive of their ideology-driven beliefs about global climate change.
The only cool thing to come out of England since 1066
We should all be sickened by this. It’s one thing for people to grow attached to goofy ideas after they’ve reached adulthood, but it’s something else altogether to indoctrinate students with those same goofy ideas in the very institution which is supposed to give them the mental tools they need to defend themselves against them.
Fortunately the National Center for Science Education is on the case. They’ve hired staff tasked specifically with fighting this ugly trend in politicizing science in public schools. Previously the NCSE mostly dealt with creationism, so this new development is kind of a big deal for them.
One last thing, and if you regularly read atheist/freethought news outlets you’ve probably already heard about this. A high school student named Jessica Ahlquist successfully sued in order to get a prayer banner removed from her Cranston, RI school cafeteria. Cranston is of course the city best known for portraying the role of Walter White on the TV show Breaking Bad.
So of course when a 16 year old girl wins a fight against people with little to no understanding of how the law in America works, you know what comes next: Christian threats! Here are some of the classier ones:
“I think everyone should just fight this girl”
“what a little bitch lol i wanna snuff her”
“lol i wanna stick that bitch lol”
“Brb ima go drown that atheist in holy water”
And to make it even worse, even someone supposedly on “our side” decided to be a big jerk about it to whine about how he feels victimized by women on twitter:
I’d call him a pussy for being so offended by feminism, but that’d probably defeat the point.So I’ll just follow Dan Savage’s advice and call him a scrotum.
Politicians in Rhode Island are piling on Ahlquist, too. Some piece of slime / Democrat (but I repeat myself) named Peter Palumbo called her an “evil little thing” on some ham radio show. A state Senator/caps-lock enthusiast named Beth Moura called her an “ACLU sweetheart.” Based on the context and the fact that she’s a Republican, Moura presumably thinks that defending the Constitution and civil liberties is a horrible thing. But with any luck, these cheap shots at a teenage girl who’s smarter than both of them put together will be the closest either of these losers get to any kind of fame or power.
The American history and early American lit geeks among us probably know Rhode Island as one of the first states with a strict separation of church and state. The guy who basically founded it, Roger Williams, was a preacher who was pretty adamant about keeping religion and politics separate. It’s worth remembering that while doubters of religion tend to be the ones who are most outspoken about defending the Establishment Clause, those values really are in the interest of the religious believers. One thing religions are good at is forming schisms, and who’s to say your’s is going to be in the majority forever? Keeping the government secular protects those with religion just as much as it does those of us without.
Anyway, this story has a happy ending because it looks like Ahlquist will be less massively in debt after college than most other students her age. Her supporters set up a scholarship fund for her which as I’m writing this has collected over 22K$ for Ahlquist’s college education. Chip in if you can.
So that’s all I’ve got for this week, kids. Hopefully you read this column on your iPhone during a boring class. Back in my day we didn’t have cell phones in school. Most adults didn’t even have cell phones. Some of us had pagers, and we had to come up with these weird codes to tell each other things using only numbers. And if you wanted a call back, you had to be at a place with an old fogey land line phone. And if we wanted to see a movie and missed it in the theaters, we had to wait until it came out on VHS. Do you even know what VHS is? Nevermind, just get off my lawn, my back hurts, tell me how to get to the shuffleboard court, my maid is stealing from me, etc.