Friday, January 17, 2014

When Acceptance of Evolution is Not Necessarily "Liberal"

Zack Kopplin has written a column for Slate in which he exposes some of the stealth creationism that is going on in some Texas public schools.  Along the way, however, he takes potshots at values that many conservatives, including myself, hold dear and that have no bearing on the creation/evolution debate.  It is a stark reminder that those of us that are conservative-leaning TE/CE are an unusual group.  He spends most of his time targeting a curriculum run by Responsive Ed, based in Lewisville, Texas. 

He writes:
Another Responsive Ed section claims that evolution cannot be tested, something biologists have been doing for decades. It misinforms students by claiming, “How can scientists do experiments on something that takes millions of years to accomplish? It’s impossible.”
The curriculum tells students that a “lack of transitional fossils” is a “problem for evolutionists who hold a view of uninterrupted evolution over long periods of time.”
“The assertion that there are no ‘transitional fossils’ is false,” Miller responded. “We have excellent examples of transitional forms documenting the evolution of amphibians, mammals, and birds, to name some major groups. We also have well-studied transitional forms documenting the evolution of whales, elephants, horses, and humans.”
Responsive Ed is not unique in this and that these organizations, such as Accelerated Christian Education, A Becka, Apologia and others continue to peddle these myths is nothing short of mendacious.  The data is out there and has been out there for decades.  To be shown that something is true and continue to say that is not is a lie.

In other sections, Kopplin addresses incorrect historical ideas that are, unfortunately taught as fact. The idea that "Darwinism" led to the rise of Hitler and the Third Reich has been shown to be false.
But Kopplin conflates the scientific issues with social issues viewpoints, some with which he obviously disagrees: He writes:
About LGBTQ rights, Responsive Ed says, “Laws against the homosexual lifestyle had been repealed in many states, but some states continued to ban the behavior.” The homosexual lifestyle?

About President Franklin Roosevelt, it teaches, “The New Deal had not helped the economy. However, it ushered in a new era of dependency on the Federal government.”
and also
On the feminist movement, Founders Classical Academy students are taught that feminism “created an entirely new class of females who lacked male financial support and who had to turn to the state as a surrogate husband.”
How is the notion of LBGTQ rights not an issue of "lifestyle?" That is exactly what is being promoted as normal: a lifestyle. If you want to argue for gay marriage, that is a lifestyle choice. If you want to argue that gays should raise children, that is a lifestyle choice.  Surely we are not reducing the rights of LGBTQ people to the sex act alone.

Did the New Deal policies prolong the depression?  Quite a few economists think so.  For example, James Powell of the Cato Institute argues that it not only did that, but that the policies ushered in vastly expanded government interference in private lives.  Two UCLA economists, Harold Cole and Lee Ohanian, also argued that the policies were harmful.

With regard to the feminist movement, the position Kopplin is railing against is exactly what is being argued by Jessica Gavora, in the Washington Post.  She writes:
Julia is just the latest makeover. She is the Democrats’ answer to Romney’s family Christmas card. A nation of women on their own, after all, doesn’t relate very well to fecund portraits of smiling white moms and dads with kids and golden retrievers underfoot. With her spare, faceless affect, Julia is meant to evoke a more modern, independent sensibility — with the exception of her life of endless government dependency, that is.

Julia is Mary Tyler Moore on the government’s dime. You’re gonna make it after all, Julia! Just remember who’s responsible on Election Day.

The problem is, like so much of our political rhetoric, Julia is not a composite; she’s a myth. Some of the nation’s single moms may be successful Web designers, but many are poor — fully half have incomes of less than $30,000 a year, compared with just 15 percent of married women. It’s not Pell grants and SBA loans these women rely on but Medicaid and food stamps. And it’s not comfortable retirements in community gardens they contemplate but bleak old age.

Whereas government benefits were once the state’s compassionate response to women who had lost their husbands, in Julia’s world they are the unquestionable entitlement of women who never married. The decline of marriage and Democratic political opportunism have combined to transform what used to be a situation to be avoided — single motherhood — into a new and proud American demographic, citizens of Obama’s Hubby State.
Can one fault the curriculum for promoting one particular viewpoint on a set of social issues? Perhaps.   But to dismiss these viewpoints as being invalid or wrong is more a product of a liberal mindset than well-constructed complaint against bad teaching.  He is disdainful of one curriculum's attempt to teach abstinence.  Why is teaching abstinence, in an age of growing teen pregnancy, a bad idea? 

Another issue not addressed is that, when one goes to school, a set of values is being taught—even if it is that you can construct your own values in a vacuum—because it is not possible to teach without doing so. Why conservative values any less important than liberal ones?

Where Kopplin objects to substandard science teaching and incorrect history, he is completely justified in doing so. Where he disagrees with conservative teaching for which there are differing viewpoints, he is considerably less so.   These are not issues of creationism or evolution or even of science in general. 

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous12:35 AM

    You say of Kopplin, 'He is disdainful of one curriculum's attempt to teach abstinence.' I could find only one reference to teaching abstinence in the article, that reference said that it was taught in an English class. Why in an English class, why not in a Biology class, or even in a sex education class? Evangelicals, and even more so Fundamentalists are likely not to approve of sex education classes, and want to rely solely on teaching abstinence to prevent teen pregnancy. There is room in that for disdain, I think. It is not that teaching abstinence is a bad thing, only that it is not sufficient to prevent pregnancy in many cases.