While Dover, PA parents evict the Intelligent Design advocates from their school board (and presumbly any replacements were elected on a “We will teach only the One True Faith” platform rather than any ambitions to actually do schooly stuff — but maybe their predecessors were elected on a similar basis anyway), Kansas elects to “teach the controversy”.
There are a number of surprising and disappointing features in this.
One is that the arguments being presented on the Evolution-only side of the PA court battle seem to be decidedly weak, which is pretty disappointing. They should have no trouble coming up with strong arguments, but «shrug» seem to have missed that boat.
They also told some direct lies, which to my mind was entirely unnecessary and won’t help their case. The transcript makes interesting reading (in places, in other places it’s as dry as dust). A couple of different accredited witnesses explained experiments they’d done in their fields, and then a day or so later a lawyer states categorically in his summing up that no experiments along those lines have ever been done, nor can they be done. Was he asleep at the wheel, or trying to snow the judge?
The final disappointment from PA is still only a potential one, but seems kind of inevitable: the new school board might pull the plug on the case entirely, and then we’ll never know what the judge decided.
Then we turn to KA, and discover that the zealots are at work here as well. The BBC stated that an Intelligent Design decision had been rendered, but the decision explicitly states that it is not an endorsement of Intelligent Design, nor does it mandate the teaching of ID.
Again, it comes down to: was the reporter asleep at the wheel, or lying? Either way, the report was wrong. I’m betting that he simply failed to do his research and simply reacted to a few keywords or amplified someone else’s opinion.
I’m in favour of as few restrictions as possible, but that has to be set in the context of not exposing minorities (or majorities, for that matter) to abuse.
Forcing an Atheist’s child to sit through science classes which will admit nothing but course material stating that this world and the life on it was fabricated from nothing in six days is wrong. Forcing a Christian’s child to sit through science classes which will admit nothing but course material stating that this world was fabricated from an exploding monobloc all by itself over the course of half a million million million seconds is wrong. Each course is based on a fundamental and untestable basic assumption which is hostile to the family’s culture.
The obvious answer in each case is to home-school your child, which on average also produces distinctly higher academic grades, but this option is not always available, and even when available it is often badly misrepresented; people make brainless claims about needing to be a qualified teacher or needing to set up a formal classroom situation and stay in it for six hours a day, or needing to buy expensive sets of textbooks. D’oh? But typical of our society.
The most reasonable solution I’ve yet seen is to include a variety of material on the topic and also to teach the often unspoken assumptions behind each position. That’s the biggie. Anything less is shortchanging the student, requiring them to accept stuff prima facie rather than investigating it and reasoning about it themselves.
Consequently, I’m basically satisfied by how KA turned out, and I’m satisfied that the PA attempt seems doomed to fail — but not satisfied by the way it will probably fail. Doing an end-run around due process is cheating, and I’m afraid neither side’s hands are entirely clean on this one.
FOSS people should be all for fair play, and maximum freedom of choice. Letting a situation devolve into a mindless Red-vs-Blue kind of polarisation is hardly the best way to accomplish either. It becomes a fight for freedom for a particular belief (in this case, for opposing beliefs) rather than a generalised freedom of belief.
This is the nub of the vast majority of politicially correct stupidity we see around us.
In case you can’t see a FOSS connection, consider how much Microsoft polarises every confrontation with FOSS, and FOSS advocates echo that. Pretty soon formerly reasonable advocates wind up unreasonable, and the clear moral advantage they started out with has all evapourated.
What we should be shooting for is a level playing field. What a lot of people miss in that statement is that a playing field with a 400 kilo gorilla on it cannot be naturally level — it doesn’t matter whether the gorilla is Microsoft or simply an entrenched point of view, the effect is the same.