Anti-Science Bills and Anti-School Budgets Flood Red State Legislatures
An attitude of Anti-Science has been a steadily increasing blight upon the face of the American body politic for the past few decades. Its most reported manifestation has been its assault upon schools; a constant Republican assault upon America’s future; an insistence that in any matter in dispute Christian faith be allowed to trump scientific knowledge, or at least be permitted to tell our children that the Christian faith-based view is just as valid a view as scientifically proven theory.
And while we're at it, "scientifically proven theory" and "scientific theory" are not the same as the word "theory" when used in common parlance. In science, those terms refer to facts, not vague hand-waving ideas and guesses. Not every detail may yet be known about how it works, but every "scientific theory" is a fact. Einstein's Theories of General and Special Relativity describe facts. They work as predicted every time they're tested. So does Gravity. So does Evolution. There are no better explanations for what those Scientific Theories explain... so they are facts. That we do not understand all the "whys?" and "hows?" doesn't change the basic reality... facks is facks folks.
Beyond the constant attempts to, under the guise of fairness, force science teachers (or allow them, depending on their personal bent) to “teach the controversy,” measures have now been introduced to forbid teaching that evolution, ancient universe or other concepts that fly in the face of a book of fables written by bronze age story-tellers in the sheep herding highlands of the Negev Desert are facts. As quickly as these measures are adopted, they are enjoined awaiting trial and then struck down. But under the weight of local demand and protective cover given by Red State legislatures and statehouses, many schools are teaching the forbidden topics anyway.
In places that has not been possible, governors and legislators have adopted the tactic of simply destroying public education. In Michigan, the Republican governor took more than $1 billion from the already strapped schools of the state out of the portion of the State’s annual budget dedicated to funding schools. The schools are not permitted to increase their own funding locally. That was made possible because a previous Republican governor ran a complicated scam that removed school funding from property taxes and made the State responsible, with a promise that the budget would never be less than it was the year the change occurred. Ten years later the next Republican governor made him a liar without so much as a twitch.
Charter schools, private institutions that raid the public school coffers for funds and students, do not face the same scrutiny as public schools. Some of those schools, particularly those chartered to Christian churches of an evangelical turn of faith, teach outright that which is illegal for public schools to teach, using public tax money to do it.
The irony being, of course, that there is no “controversy.” Uneducated people in bunches insisting their ignorance be made the norm does not a controversy make. Neither is there any scientific evidence for any explanation of species diversity other than evolution in all its forms and variants. Just as gravity is not constant across the surface of the Earth, evolution does not happen in only one form or way although all its forms are variations upon the basic theme.
But education is not our only area of vulnerability. An anti-science House of Representatives, in thrall to the uneducated believers of America, would pass, if it could get them beyond the House of Representatives, laws that would prohibit federal funding of research into global warming, the effects of factory farms on local aquifers and streams and other essential matters that affect the health and welfare of America’s citizens. Worse, it would prohibit adoption of any regulation by EPA to which the USDA objects or against which a "significant number" of public comments have been levied, until a lengthy and complicated scientific and economic review has been completed.
And the beat goes on. Anti-vaccination activists bid fair to destroy the carefully built herd immunity in parts of America. Since it is not possible to create a vaccine (or any other medicine) with no risk, there are a few reactions every year. But America no longer understands relative risk, and her critical thinking abilities seem to have been lost. The real choice is not whether to risk the (very) small percentage of reactions to vaccines or not. The real choice is whether to risk chronic health damage, and even death, to children by the thousands versus a statistically insignificant percentage of reactions to the vaccine itself. Are those few harmful reactions significant to the parents? Of course they are. But the chronic illness or even death, of tens of thousands of children, the situation that prevailed in the ‘50s, will be significant to far more parents. On its face, anti-vaccination is a stupid position to take. At depth, it’s barely short of insane.
In Texas, an audience boos a television popularizer of science knowledge because he dares suggest the Earth’s moon is simply a reflector of light. The only way it could be a self-generator of light would be for it to be undergoing a star-like nuclear reaction. At the moon’s size, the only star that could do that would be a white dwarf... which would have long since destroyed the planet. But there’s that book of fables again. And it’s there again when various polls show that somewhere between twelve and twenty-five percent of Americans have the eyeball obvious, but entirely wrong, belief... that the sun circles the Earth. And it’s there once more when the Creation Museum opens its doors and claims that man and dinosaurs roamed the Earth together. The owner and his supporters fund efforts to teach that in America’s schools, which brings this article full circle.
Finally, the only news organization our American Reactionaries (Conservatives, Republicans and Tea Party members) accept as authoritative, the Fox network, remains controlled in part by one of its founders, one Roger Ailes who, according to his biography, “The Loudest Voice in the Room,” believes pretty much all the anti-science blather his radio and television stations emit... and they emit one helluva lot of it.
The people who insist upon teaching religious belief as science, or as equal in knowledge value to science, are the same people who bemoan the fact that American students no longer dominate in international comparisons, and in the next breath tell us that "just throwing money" at the schools won't fix what's wrong. Actually, it pretty much will. School children from wealthy districts do much better in nationally standardized tests than school children from poor districts. It doesn't seem at all odd to people who can think that students who must use decade old textbooks, or faux textbooks vetted by some religion-ridden committee, do very poorly, while students with new textbooks, vetted by experts in the subjects, computers enough to go 'round and a full complement of interwoven courses do generally much better. Money matters. Taking money out of public schools and giving it to "Charter" schools, an idea that blossomed during the busing era of the '60s and '70s.