Tuesday, June 21, 2011

"What are you doing about it?" Dad asked when I told him about the recent Louisiana Science Education Act repeal attempts rearing up only to get smacked down. "So you think this is awful and stupid, which it is. So what are you doing about it?"

Well, yeah, I wrote about it. But I knew he wanted to know how much further it could be taken. And gosh, I would love to see it here. Get the ears and the funds of a few like-minded, moneyed influence brokers and beat the Benjamins about the heads and shoulders of those affiliated with the Louisiana Family Forum until they voted these "alternative" teachings down - a neat, short-term political gaming solution to this problem that will most likely resurface in this state because it's easier to legislate this stuff into existence than it is to, say, work on a real plan for curing what ails this state economically. Heaven forbid there should be lasting, earthly, rational change coming from the Louisiana lege that actually serves the constituents.

Recent reading has me wondering if this is in no small part dictated by a viewpoint that still endures in one form or another from down the centuries - a viewpoint that we still can't fully shake.
It was a credulous age (the early nineteenth century). One reason people were so quick to believe in the Murrell excitement was that they were eager to believe in anything, no matter how strange, as long as it was bad news. They were particularly fascinated by occult portents of doom. Everybody knew that owls and whip-poor-wills were evil omens, that a dog howling in the night meant somebody was about to die, that prudent people had to carry a tuft of wool tied with thread at all times to prevent being ridden by witches. It was a time of seances and mirror divination and spirit rapping - an era when, as Melville observed in Moby-Dick, "the rumor of a knocking in a tomb will terrify a whole city."
Having also just studied a parasha of the Torah this past weekend that once again presents the mixed multitude that came out of Egypt as being a whiny bunch ready to believe the worst, I have to contend with this aspect of human nature that also tends to nip our better inclinations in the bud. Or, if there are indeed  better inclinations, they are fairly misinformed, misdirected, and downright patronizing ones meant to impose one's will on another rather than actually seeing to what is needed.

It's kind of what burns me up about HB580, which is up for vote in the state Senate today, having already been approved by the state House. Introduced by the same legislator who was also responsible for the Louisiana Science Education Act, HB580 enables local school boards to buy textbooks not approved by the state - a bill that, if approved, can make it easier for individual parishes to introduce the "supplemental materials" in biology classes that the LSEA allows. So hey, state-sanctioned pseudo-science could have money spent on it, but the funds for, say, remediating a temporary school site while the school building itself is being worked on are supposedly not there. I foresee that, for Louisiana public education's next trick, they will solve the problem of badly needed school facilities and renovations by telling the kids to pray for them.

For now, we do have the recourse of telling the state senators not to vote for HB580. Email links and further contact info can be found here. But after that...

...where do we go from here?

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