Thursday, January 22

Children Held Hostage By Death Cultists

I'M scanning the Times this morning and I note the latest of our biennial battles over teaching 20th century biology in schools has begun in Texas (of all places), over a little-noted and much-ignored requirement that students critique "the strengths and weaknesses" of all scientific theories.

And the first thing that pops into my head is "Blah, blah, blah", followed by my most recent experience with Parker, the pernicious kindergartner from next door, who got into the house Tuesday afternoon on the pretense that his mother wasn't home, and immediately asked if we had a laptop. I talk with him from time to time, and I'm fairly convinced he's a bit weak in the analytical thinking department; forcing him to consider various knots and alternate theories of fastenings would probably do little except delay his mastery of shoe-tying several weeks, if not months. We gave him a sugar-free soda and let him play with the cat. With the Cartoon Network on. Young multi-tasker.

Next was the fact that this time around the exercise in small-town small-mindedness writ to Commonwealth scale is being spearheaded by a Young Earth dentist, and I had to wonder if he thinks A Good Talk With Jesus should be taught as a critical-thinking-man's alternative to the professional treatment of dental caries.

But as I read on, depressingly familiar argument after argument--and the required allotment of time for the well-heeled Discovery Institute to insist it isn't a Creationist front--something was nagging at me, and I was near the end when it suddenly crystallized. It was in paragraph two, and it's so familiar that it was hiding in plain sight:
The debate here has far-reaching consequences; Texas is one of the nation’s biggest buyers of textbooks, and publishers are reluctant to produce different versions of the same material.

Now, I've been listening to this for thirty years, since "Doctor" Duane Gish and Creationism v.1.0: California and Texas get to dictate what's in everybody's textbooks because of their buying power. But doesn't that belong to the era of Linotype? It's 2009 (that is right, isn't it?). If textbook manufacturers still can't insert or excise a paragraph somewhere and still make a profit it seems like someone would be eating their lunch somewhere. I mean, the kids today are all shopping at places like The Doghouseblogshop at CafePress, where inventive and attractive designs people spent an entire afternoon thinking up are custom-printed to your order on a variety of items you'll wonder how you ever lived without. Thirty years was long enough for the notorious slow-learners in the American electorate to catch on to Reaganism; maybe it's time the Prairie Barbarians fund their own Continuing Ignorance programs.


arghous said...

Come, now. There's a fine balance to strike here. You don't want a Texas School Book Depository so full that it can't provide access, nor so empty that it can't provide cover.

Monkay said...

all scientific theories.
All scientific theories? Ever? About anything? That's a lot of critiquin'.

Anonymous said...

It should be a requirement that students critique "the strengths and weaknesses" of the theory that Texas is full of stupid, parochial, buck-toothed, wilfully-ignorant redneck douchebags.

Keifus said...

I was thumbing through my undergrad physics book recently. It'd gone through three editions since (about) 1968 and 1988, and about 472 editions since that. Now, I am pretty sure that there have been few advances in Newtonian mechanics in the last 30 years, and I'm left to notice that when students are allowed to satisfy their required study with lightly used texts from the previous couple of years, it makes it harder to make a buck by force-feeding them freshly minted editions of Physics.

Publishers reluctant to produce slightly different versions of the same material? My ass.