Thursday, December 13, 2007

HEEVAHAVA FOR PRESIDENT: Vote for Mike Huckabee (continued)

Yesterday, the Los Angeles Times registered its story on the "home schooler" voting bloc in Iowa and its enthusiasm for Mike Huckabee.

"Home schoolers" are truly progressive. They toss out a crappy public school system education for an equally crappy one adminstered by themselves.

"Rich Hekl ... and wife Barb of Johnson, Iowa, include Bible study in the home-schooling of their children," writes the Times under a photograph of the couple. "Their family is doing volunteer work for Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee, a Southern Baptist preacher."

Onward steam the Times' reporters, brightly selling the virtue of Bible study and political campaigning over icky things like teaching science.

"As other [Republican] candidates have found over the years, homeschoolers' flexible schedules make them invaluable volunteers," reports the newspaper. "High school students can call a halt to calculus (Yeah, right, sure they teach calculus at home) to set up chairs for a town hall meeting or put off biology for a day to stick mailing labels on the latest campaign flyer."

"Parents often send their children to [canvas door-to-door], so the whole experience becomes part of their education, like a civics class come to life."

Almost sounds reasonable the way the Times reports it.

When DD went to public school in Pennsyltucky, students were taught civics in an absorbing class called Problems of Democracy. (Thanks Mr. Richard Wolfgang!)

Problems of Democracy was not a recruiting get-out-the-vote tool for Republicans. Diverting students from an hour or two of class a day for the Republican cause, even in almost hegemonically GOP Pine Grove, would have been verboten.

But the country has gone backward since 1972. In 1972, Pine Grove Area School District offered excellent education in science and math, too. It enthusiastically looked to send intellectually curious students on to further education in the sciences and health professions.

Oh, the inconvenience of public schooling, so inferior to home schooling now! Down with biology. Up with Bible study and knocking on doors for Republicans who support creationism in 2007-2008.

Times reporters embarrassed their newspaper badly with this story. It is a newspaper which, on its opinion page, has been touting a need for improvement in American civic life.

Earlier in the week an unbylined editorial noted American students were, as usual, dolts in math and science when compared with fellow students everywhere else in the western world. But they have high self-esteem. Though inferior, they think they are superior to those who know math and science better than them.

Although they're almost dead last in the world, "When asked to rate their own scientific abilities, they put themselves at the top with their better-educated peers."

While this is certainly not stop-the-presses news -- Americans are braggarts as well as science and math know-nothings -- it is the very definition of a heevahava. And it can be said that a healthy disrespect for scientific learning has been a bipartisan American social and cultural more since I entered graduate school.

Although such news immediately and universally gores the reputation of public education, it in no way contributes to home-schooling as a great alternative option. Home schooling, as simply an evangelical Christian excuse for dispensing with real science education, specifically biology (because it's inconvenient), in favor of a amateur-hour instruction and memorization of scripture, does not improve one's intellectual capacity.

"Make science part of the debate," asserted a LAT editorial by Lawrence Krauss and Chris Mooney two days later.

Although it did not mention Republicans directly, it was aimed squarely at their actions which, in the last eight years, have aggressively put ignorance ahead of science simply because science is inconvenient to their political agenda and irritating to evangelical Christians. The Republican Party has made an active disdain for science and learning part of the firm bedrock of its structure.

"Whether the issue is global warming, embryonic stem cell research, ballistic missile defense or the future of the world's oceans, the same bass line thumps in the background," starts the editorial. Note the slight dig at Mike the Heevahava, who plays bass and whose grasp of science is lacking.

"Sound political decision-making relies, more than ever before, on accurate scientific information ... Which means, in order to be a successful world leader today, a politician must have an effective means of accessing and applying the latest science."

The editorial writers pitch "a call for the current US presidential candidates to participate in a debate, or a series of debates, dedicated to issues in science and technology. More specifically, the candidates should answer questions about the environment, medicine and health, and science and technology policy."

"Science requires a willingness to reject conclusions once they're shown to be in error, and it demands all the data be considered, not just that which agrees with a priori opinions," write Krauss and Mooney.

And the exact opposite is what has characterized the GOP relationship with science for the last eight years. The great Republican Party, fighting for your inalienable right to be wrong on technical matters when they run contrary to your opinions.

Since having presidential candidates from any party engage in a debate centered on science and critical thinking is a great idea, naturally, it won't happen.

Can you imagine presidential candidates enduring a science quiz in America? Hah -- they'd sooner have an eye put out with a hot stickpin. Or more realistically, answer questions from an imbecile on YouTube asking if a candidate believes every word in the Bible.

For the Times and its Huckabee coverage, readers had page A22 idiotically telling them about the swell home-schoolers, passing by math and science for Bible study and hands-on Republican campaigning. And then on page A31: "US students performed below the average of 30 countries in science and well below the average in math."

"In Illinois, longtime Republican legislator Penny Pullen said an 11-year old home-schooled boy was her best precinct captain ever ..." continuing the war on the common sense of readers with the intelligence-insulting claim from someone pro home-schooling.

"Huckabee still on defensive over statements about AIDS," read a story just below "Home schoolers rally to Huckabee."

"Prominent conservative Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, took to the Internet and airwaves ... to defend Huckabee," reported the newspaper. "Perkins said the candidate was being asked about long ago statements about AIDS, homsexuality and morality because of his faith, and he predicted that more conservative religious voters would rally to Huckabee's side if the criticism continued."

And this takes us to the phenomenon in which Republican evangelicals take unpleasant facts and hard reality as attacks upon family values and their American way.

If a politician is excoriated for believing in creationism, the candidate is not showing ignorance. He is being attacked on family values and his Christian upbringing. If a candidate is ridiculed because he thinks that in 1992 scientists didn't understand how AIDS was transmitted and implies, in statements, that casual contact might have had something to do with the spread of the disease, these are not the utterances of someone showing themself to be woefully misinformed. It's an assault on values, specifically those which hold that gay people are sinful and immoral, and the Democrats and media -- secular and ungodly -- are behind the attacks.

Newspapers like the Times are ill-prepared to deal with this manner of political judo. They inevitably wind up taking a fall because the he said/she said copy-everything-down-and-even-if-it's-ridiculous-present-it-as-an-equal-argument model of journalism fails under these circumstances.

It is impossible for such journalists to call a dolt a dolt, even when the person is demonstrably so.

The best a reader can hope for is for someone else to be asked to proffer a statement, usually toned-down so that Republicans won't protest too strenuously that they're being persecuted unfairly with the facts.

"Jeane White-Ginder, [Ryan White's] mother, called [Mike Huckabee's] recent remarks alarming," wrote Times journalist Seema Mehta.

"It's very important to me that we don't live in the darkness."

On the Opinion page, the Times has also been running a series called "American Values and the Next President." It stands as a direct foil to the Republican and Fox News network's use of the term "family values" to define that which they think is right in Americans on their side and wrong with everyone else on the opposite side.

As diplomatically as possible, Times editorial writers have been rubbishing standard Republican values and philosophies as they have been practiced under the rule of George W. Bush.

Early in the week, the page stated that although it respected candidates of faith, it was wary "of candidates who seek favor and power by promising to magnify the power of religion in American law and life and to engraft religious precepts onto the Constitution," a now common Republican tactic.

Yesterday, it wrote: "The Republicans have a wide range of thought [on abortion]."

This was in contrast to Democrats, of whom it was said are more monolithic in their support of Roe v. Wade.

However, "Huckabee's position [which is for a national ban], which we oppose absolutely, nevertheless has the value of consistency."

Politely as possible, the Times in its definition of "American values," supports a presidential candidate who upholds Roe v. Wade.

Near the end of the piece, the Times unearths a fellow from the Bush Republican School of Ignorance, Leon Kass "who would serve as head of President Bush's Council on Bioethics" and hangs him with a short but priceless citation from the Seventies.

Kass was against in vitro fertilization, opines the newspaper, because he thought in 1972 "it could someday make mothers 'of single women, widows or lesbians.'"

Kevin Phillips, a well-known historian and former Republican strategist, wrote in his book, American Theocracy, that the "2004 election year saw the issuance of a statement on 'Restoring Scientific Integrity in Policymaking' by [prominent scholars and Nobel laureates] which charged the administration with widespread and unprecedented 'manipulation of the process through which science enters into its decisions.'"

Phillips continued that "[in] Texas, where the cotton industry is plagued by a moth that has evolved immunity to pesticides, a frustrated entomologist commented that 'it's amazing the cotton growers are having to deal with these pests in the very states whose legislatures are so hostile to the theory of evolution ... These people are trying to ban the teaching of evolution while their own cotton crops are failing because of evolution."

In the introduction to the book, Phillips noted "[the] Republican coalition's clash with science has seeded half a dozen controversies. These include Bible-based disbelief in Darwinian theories of evolution, dismissal of global warming, disagreement with geological explanations of fossil fuel depletion, religious rejection of global population planning, derogation of women's rights, opposition to stem cell research, and so on."

So what did Mike Huckabee, Mike the Heevahava, have to say for himself this week? We know he's slightly irritated that reporters keep bugging him about creationism and AIDS. And at a Republican debate yesterday he was "a passionate supporter" of having a couple subjects "in every school for every student."

Would those subjects be biology and math? Nope -- "music and art." You get 'em, Mr. Huckabee!

A doltish ignorance of science should certainly be no obstacle to becoming President, no sir! Our current sitting bull unequivocally shows the nation prospers in so many ways when ruled by an ignoramus.

Indeed, a couple hours after this post went to its final edition, Fox News' Bill O'Reilly was reshowing the YouTube imbecile asking Republicans if they believed every word in the Bible.

This was part of a hard-to-decipher segment in which O'Reilly and Tony Snow predicted that American Christians, 225 million strong, would show their displeasure for any needling of the believers in Jesus in the mainstream media. A Republican President would win because the United States was a Christian nation founded on Christian principles and only the Republicans were focused on real issues, like terrorism, more war and cutting taxes. DD found it hard to understand but that's because he lives in California.

Immediately after followed a segment on the "war on Christmas" in which businesses which catered to the godless and secular by saying only "happy holidays" in their brochures and web advertising were named and shamed.

Late in the day we also learned that, as usual, the man in the White House will have to be waited out before there is even slightly meaningful action on global warming. The Republican leadership maintained its consistency, killing mandating limits because deep down inside it still doesn't believe in global warming, in spite of the scientific facts.

"[Former] Vice President Al Gore, addressing the delegates meeting on the Indonesian island of Bali, said the lack of firm targets [from the US] in the road map should not be a deal breaker," reported the LA Times. "Accusing the U.S. delegation of 'obstructing progress' on the climate talks, he said efforts should proceed with the expectation that a change in administration will bring a change in position.

"Over the next two years, the United States is going to be somewhere it is not now," Gore said. "I must tell you candidly that I cannot promise that the person who is elected will have the position I expect they will have. But I can tell you I believe it is quite likely."

"The European Union threatened today to boycott President Bush's climate summit in Hawaii next month if the United States doesn't allow specific targets for carbon emission reduction to be included in a draft text being prepared at a summit here this week," reported the Times in the story's lede graf.

See here.

The Los Angeles Times' "American Values" series is here.

Make Science Part of the Debate by Krauss and Mooney.


Anonymous user_hostile said...

Mr. Destiny,

Not all of the home schooled are fundies; my friend (PhD in Hydrology and Climate working out at Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, MD) and his wife (Master's in Special Education; both are agnostic) home school their kids because the education they were receiving amounted to little more than baby-sitting.

I support the idea of home schooling if that’s your bag, but don’t assume you’re going to get a medal for it either. Public school and the public university worked for me. As far as I know, I wasn’t corrupted by it. As a Christian, I was raised to believe that original sin is fait accompli, and the sins I commit, or omit, are mine and mine alone, not the result of some institution (free will and all that).

My argument isn’t that home schooling is a problem per se, rather, it’s the willful ignorance that’s being bandied about in general in home schooling, not only of science, but also of history (e. g., how America was founded first as a “Christian” nation. No other viewpoint is given serious consideration. Although, I did hear that Thomas Jefferson’s version of the Bible is good for a few laughs, or gasps depending on your point of view). The motivation for this (as I’ve heard over and over…) is that we need to restore our nation to one that respects and values Christian ideals. Which for me sounds pretty good on the surface, but a closer study shows a monochromatic fear of ambiguity. Diversity is defined by the Bible, not by you. If you suggest that there is uncertainty in the world (homosexuality—genetics or environment?), then the seeds of doubt will be cast at the current believer and precipitate a “falling” away, and besides, if we can give a shortcut for Jesus’ big comeback, well then sign me up for that good ol’ ignorance!

As I think you will agree with me, the fundies at the local level can get away with this (because, you can always move out to a pagan area—Pasadena does comes to mind), but when we speak of these values permeating to a higher political arena, at the state (okay, that wasn’t fair to the South), national, and int’l level, it gets down right creepy. With the Christian Rights desire for power, they’re making the same mistake that Machiavelli was so fond of pointing out: when you want to rule like Caesar, you’re going to do so by Caesar’s rules. And instead of Christian nation they believe they will create, the result will be end up being a syncretism of Christian dogma and American politics which is transmogrified into a deformed ecclesiocracy* (re: Roman Catholic Church in the Middle Ages or the current government of Iran). This is ironic, given the origins of the Protestant faith, but willful ignorance is also Biblical based.

I just thought that growing up in the 60’s and 70’s this was all behind us along with torture, searches conducted without a warrant, entering a war on false pretenses, or the chief executive who believes he is above the law.

* I love

7:04 PM  

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