Friday, January 27, 2012

Science education an endangered species in Indiana schools

Creationism2I make no bones about loving my state, despite its right-leaning ways; I live in a very Democratic county, and I’ve often defended my state based on what I experience here in my little nest of liberals. I was pretty happy when we recently voted in the youngest Mayor for a city of our size, Pete Buttigieg. Super smart guy, seems very decent, and I look forward to seeing what he does with our city. (Sadly, we are out of the city limits, so couldn’t actually vote for him. We supported him in other ways, though!)

However, I am deeply ashamed to see what my state legislature recently did. They sent a bill out of committee to be voted on in Congress. SB 89 would allow for the teaching of creationism in public schools, and it got an 8-2 vote out of the Education Committee to be passed on to the Congress. The Education Committee! 8-2! I’m surprised they didn’t just burst into flames right then and there.

As someone who has tried to show to friends from all over the country (as well as a few other countries) that not everyone in Indiana is a stupid rube, I can’t begin to tell you how humiliating this is. The bill doesn’t specify in which classes creationism can be taught, so it means that any school district in the state could allow it to be taught in science class. This makes me want to cry.

Creationism is not science. I honestly don’t know how I can state that any stronger or convince people who think that “Hey, what’s the harm? Teach both.” No. NO. You cannot teach creationism in science class because it is
not science. It is based on a religious belief and on a religious book. Numerous court cases have upheld decisions that creationism and intelligent design are religious concepts, not scientific ones.

I have no problem with creation myths being taught in comparative religion classes, as long as they are elective classes. I have no problem with creation myths being taught in literature classes as part of a study of religious books of various cultures. But teaching it in science class? I have a serious problem with that. America is lagging behind in science education compared to the rest of the world, and this will only make the problem worse.

CreationismThis is nothing more than religious indoctrination being taught in our public schools. This so-called “education committee” (exaggerated, sarcastic finger quotes) does not seem to comprehend the implications of this. First and foremost, if by some stupid chance the Indiana state legislature actually passes this bill (and I wouldn’t put anything past them), it will most assuredly be challenged and after long legal battles, declared unconstitutional. This will cost the Indiana taxpayers millions in legal fees. Second, it is obvious that the ‘creationism’ they want to teach is that of the Judeo-Christian faith. That is a direct violation of the First Amendment, which states that no religion shall be promoted above any other, so are they prepared to dictate the teaching of ALL creation myths? There are quite a few.

Finally, let me reiterate. I can’t state this strongly enough. Creationism is not science. It cannot be proven, it cannot be duplicated, it is in no way, shape, or form anything even resembling science. It can’t even be studied in order to see if it’s credible. It is not a scientific theory. Some claim that it is, but that shows a lack of knowledge when it comes to the scientific method. It is a religious concept, and as such, has no business in the science classroom. There is no “teaching the controversy,” because there IS no controversy. Evolution is scientific; creationism and intelligent design is religious.

We’re getting close to the Super Bowl, and we’re going to have people from all over the country coming to Indiana. I find it embarrassing that this comes at a time when my state legislature has actually moved this idiocy out of committee. Governor Daniels wants us to be seen as a great place to do business. It would be nice if our legislature would not pass this stupid bill that makes us look like a great place to have a hoedown while we all dance around in our overalls and eat corn and thump our Bibles. Gahhh!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

If my day keeps goin’ this way

Annie Oakley...I just might break somethin’ tonight. I’ve been channeling Limp Bizkit for the past few days, and I have spent quite a bit of time swinging on my very last nerve.

You know how it is when something happens, and it’s not good, but you know you can shake it off and forge ahead? Then another thing happens. And another thing. When you snap, you try to do it in a controlled way that doesn’t hurt anyone too badly, and you pretty much succeed with that...then one more thing happens that leaves you a hot mess of anger, befuddlement, sadness, and just plain pissiness. You’re left vacillating between whether to go fling yourself onto the bed and sob into your pillow or rip the head off of the next person who dares to cross you.

I’m happy to report that I did neither, and I am in a much better frame of mind now. I spent some time feeling low, and I was angry and upset, but no one was permanently maimed. I’m kind of learning to walk away from some things, because I’ve realized that there are times that it does no good; you can provide the most eloquent argument in the history of mankind, provide facts, provide personal anecdotes that add to the emotional appeal of your entreaty, and it all runs face first into a wall of stubbornness and intransigence. I’m learning that this ultimately hurts only me. I was shaking in my anger and losing sleep, and just generally feeling crummy, and I came to the realization that I don’t have to engage.

American PsychoDon’t worry...the fight hasn’t been knocked out of me yet. I’ve just decided to be a little more selective with my battles. I’ve got better things to do than argue just for the sake of arguing, especially when someone doesn’t really want to have an actual discussion. They just want to smack you on the head repeatedly with the sledgehammer of their own opinion, with no possibility of giving an inch. I like to discuss things, and I do my best to stay polite and civil. I think that I am willing to admit when I’m wrong, but I don’t back down from facts. (For the record, “because the Bible says so” is not a fact.) When someone refuses to accept a fact as a fact, you know it’s pointless to continue.

To paraphrase Dr. Evil, the details of my distress are inconsequential. It doesn’t matter who it was or what happened, and I wouldn’t detail that here, anyway. I am not speaking to anyone specifically, because there were multiple incidents. What matters is that I am not going to be drawn into anyone else’s melodrama, and if your intention is to pick a fight, you won’t find one with me. I had a few moments when I was ready to go all American Psycho on some people, but I didn’t. There is too much fun to be had in the world and plenty of good things to read and see and listen to...and dealing with your drama doesn’t fall into any of those categories for me. Sorry, but I have better ways to spend my time.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

I do not think that word means what you think it means

Snooty eliteWe’re having a fairly lazy sports-filled Sunday (Illinois basketball and then football playoffs) after a busy Saturday. We went out to eat with Shane and Matt, then headed over for a show at the Morris Center (a Vegas show, The Rat Pack, made its way to South Bend, and it was fantastic), and had a nightcap with them at South Bend Chocolate Cafe. Good times!

While all this was going on, Notre Dame’s men’s basketball team was in the process of defeating the #1 team (20-0 Syracuse), a game that we had tickets to but sold so we could go see The Rat Pack show. Argh! I never wished so much that I had a clone! We were both a little bummed that we weren’t there for the big game, but we enjoyed our evening out and have no regrets.

Newt Gingrich was also busy beating the pants off his opponents (try not to dwell on that image too long) in South Carolina. I’m rather delighted by this outcome, because it means that the Republicans are in complete disarray, and currently many in the base are breaking for Gingrich. Newt Gingrich. It just boggles my mind. Apparently his debate performance Thursday night garnered him a whole bunch of last-minute support from the evangelical base in SC, which also boggles my mind. In discussions with some of my like-minded friends, we speculated that they are digging his belligerence because they think he can really put President Obama “in his place” (which I happens to think is in the White House) in a debate. I guess that whole electability thing doesn’t worry them too much, or Newt’s extremely negative favorability rating, or that he was forced out as Speaker of the House, or that he paid a $300,000 ethics fine, or...well, you get the idea. The guy’s got baggage the size of a small country. No, they just want to see a smackdown in a debate between Gingrich and the President. My mind is still boggled.

[Sidenote: Newt, shut up about your stupid “Lincoln-Douglas style debates” already. If, by some bizarre chance, you end up being the nominee, you’ll get your chance to debate the President, but you don’t get to dictate the terms. The thought of listening to this bloviating garbanzo bean (as columnist Frank Bruni famously called him) ramble on for hours makes my head hurt and my stomach churn. He’s like the hangover of the Republican party...without the previous night’s fun.]

Newt fired them up at the debate with his attack-dog response to moderator John King’s question about his marital woes, and his second wife’s assertion that he asked her for an open marriage. (I won’t go into details, but you can watch the clip here if you haven’t heard about it.) How DARE anyone ask him such a question?! (It reminded me of Will Ferrell yelling “You don’t talk to me like that!” to his family in a skit. I wonder if Newt drives a Dodge Stratus?) You know why John King dared to ask it, Newt? Because you pretended to be some sort of highly moral person when you were leading the impeachment effort against President Clinton, all the while in the midst of a long term affair with a congressional staffer. It’s your hypocrisy that we hate most. Because of that, it was a legitimate question. The way he turned the outrage around and made himself a victim was a sight to behold. The arrogance and self-righteous indignation just oozed out of him.

Anyway, in Newt’s blistering attack on King, he scolded the entire “elite media” for engaging in such tactics, and accused them of protecting President Obama by attacking conservatives. I think that is absurd, but what I want to focus on here is the constant use lately of the word “elite.”

Elite media, liberal elite, east coast elites, Hollywood name it, they’re tossing around the word left and right (so to speak!). I think it goes without saying that this is a insulting term for them. It seems to be a code word for “not like us.” In other words, all those elites look down on you and think you’re stupid, but hey, I’m not an elite, I’m just like you! (Kindly ignore that part about Newt’s PhD in history, and his million dollar line of credit at Tiffany’s, okay? Thanks.)

best of the bestI am bothered that this has become a bad word to a certain portion of the population. The Free Dictionary defines ‘elite’ as:

1. a. A group or class of persons or a member of such a group or class, enjoying superior intellectual, social, or economic status: "In addition to notions of social equality there was much emphasis on the role of elites and of heroes within them" (Times Literary Supplement).
b. The best or most skilled members of a group: the football team's elite.

This is not a derogatory term, folks. I would hope that anyone who has a job would strive to be among the elites of their profession; this seems a desirable thing to me, rather than a scornful epithet. In my daily dealings, I would love to be able to encounter the elite of those providing service to me, whether it’s a grocery store clerk, a mechanic, or the radiologist reading my mammogram. Elites are good, by their very definition: they are good at what they do. The right wing seems to be portraying them as some sort of foppish dandies who look down their noses at the common people. A clever bit of spin, but highly inaccurate.

Personally, I would like my politicians to be more than a little elite. Not in a monetary sense, but I definitely want the best and brightest leading our country and drafting our laws and deciding our court cases. The next time someone calls you an “elite,” I suggest thanking them for the compliment and for their high regard of you. Maybe it will make them go home and look the word up so they understand exactly what it means and why you didn’t take it as an insult.