Someone must have forgotten to include me on the memo that parents are no longer allowed to supplement their children's school-taught education with their own personal beliefs. At least that's the impression I've gotten the past couple weeks, after the state of Florida sent religious conservatives into tizzy fits over the use of the word "evolution" in the curriculum.
Now, I recognize evolution is a touchy subject, and it's not a subject that just became sensitive these past ten years or so. John Scopes got in hot water in 1925 for violating Tennessee's Butler Act, which forbade the teaching of evolution in Tennessee schools. Scopes was found guilty and ordered to pay a $100 fine. On appeal the Tennessee Supreme Court set aside the conviction on a technicality involving the fine and promptly entered a nolle prosequi to conserve the peace and dignity of the state.
Eighty three years later you would think Americans would at least recognize the possible veracity of the theory of evolution. You'd be wrong, of course. For some reason religious Americans have an almost pathological need to ignore science lest it intrude on a belief system thoroughly impregnable to the scientific method.
On February 19 the Florida Board of Education voted 4-3 in favor of including the teaching of the theory of evolution in scientific classrooms. Judging by the reaction to the issue, both before and after the vote, you would think the Board was considering beating a puppy to death at high noon every Friday on the Capitol steps, and then using the carcass to set the American flag on fire.
Letters poured in from both sides. Politicians gave their two cents (while asking for three), on news stations from Key West to Pensacola the "man on the street" became a walking fount of wisdom and enlightened opinion.
As usual, the loudest voices came from religious conservatives.
First, I don't want to turn this into a column bashing religion. I was raised Episcopalian, was married in the church and privately I believe that god created life. Not human life, but life.
But god forbid anyone raises that possibility to Bible thumpers, who run thick and dangerous down here. Normally rational people started firing off letters to the local papers, proclaiming there was no way their grandparents were monkeys.
Stop and think about how stupid that sounds. Nobody, not even the vilified Darwin, would suggest someone's grandparents, or even "supergreat" grandparents (that's not a scientific term, by the way), were monkeys. We're talking thousands and thousands and thousands of years of change here, not a couple decades. Eons.
Here's where parents' involvement in their children's educations comes into play. There is no law, nor should there ever be, that prevents a parent from asking their child what he or she learned in school that day, and from weighing in with their own opinions on the topic. Not a single law like that anywhere in the country.
Yet you would think, according to the squeaky wheels, that a police officer is on hand in every living room in the state to prevent such discussion.
You don't think evolution is how we came to be. Great. Tell your kid that, and tell them why you feel that. But don't try to interject "intelligent design," which is nothing more than a euphemism for creationism, into a scientific setting.
Because at some point, the question with "intelligent design" has to be asked: who or what designed all this?
That's a religious topic, not a scientific subject and it has no place in a classroom setting. But there's nothing that says it has no place in a dining room setting.
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