What do you do when those damn pesky facts keep throwing cold water on your precious, precious Bronze Age superstitions? Why, just rewrite the law so that no facts can be taught in classrooms, ever.
This is the goal of HB 2211 — named, with typical Christian-martyr self-absorption, the “Religious Viewpoints Antidiscrimination Act” — in Oklahoma, which essentially allows any stupid fundie student to substitute “Duhhhhh…Goddidit!!!1!” in lieu of the correct answer on any test or homework assignment, and, by law, a teacher could not grade that answer as incorrect! I am not shitting you!
The school would be required to reward the student with a good grade, or be considered in violation of the law. Even simple, factual information such as the age of the earth (4.65 billion years) would be subject to the student’s belief, and if the student answered 6,000 years based on his or her religious belief, the school would have to credit it as correct. Science education becomes absurd under such a situation.
Whatever shenanigans Kansas has ever gotten up to in the past will look like tiddlywinks compared to this, people. This is a bill that renders the practice of education itself pointless.
And naturally, the damn thing has actually passed the House Education Committee. All of which argues for a state run by fools who are not merely anti-intellectual but actively hostile to knowledge. I may disagree with that wacky old lush Christopher Hitchens on many, many things. But on this point, he’s hit nothing but net: Religion poisons everything. And here, we see religion poised to poison the educational standards of literally millions of young children in the worst way possible, by making it effectively impossible for any teacher in that state to teach them anything factual at all.*
So if little Trailer Park Timmy is asked on his American History exam, “Who was the first president of the United States?” and he answers, “Jesus!” that answer could not be counted as wrong.
And people whine about that horrible Professor Dawkins and how he dares to call religion a form of child abuse.
Oklahoma citizens, if any of you are reading this, it’s time to get out the big guns. If you care, not only about your state’s reputation, but about the future of your children and anything resembling truth and intellectual integrity at all, you need to be bombarding your state representatives and senators day and night with angry mails and phone calls expressing your dismay in no uncertain terms, that a piece of legislation this patently absurd and outrageous could even be written in the first place, let alone get passage out of committee, in this day and age. And remind them that it’s 2008 C.E. (actually, you’d better use AD), not 2008 B.C.E.
Millions of minds are in the balance here.
Addendum: *Okay, I can see some readers responding to that part with “Hyperbole much?” After all, there’s no reason to think that this bill would mean that students were suddenly not learning that 2+2=4 or that the Third Reich lost World War II if it were passed. Of course, this just illustrates more succinctly than ever that the whole purpose of the bill is — here we go again — to target science education specifically. Still, the way it’s worded, it would be very easy to poison other courses apart from science if it actually passed. I can see the Reconstructionists using it to warp history curricula in order to reflect the “Christian nation” pseudohistory of America promoted by such groups as David Barton’s Wallbuilders, for instance.
Suffice it to say that if HB 2211 does become law in Oklahoma, the ink won’t be dry on the governor’s signature before the federal lawsuits get filed. And then you’ll have the entire course of education in that state needlessly disrupted as the Christian Right finds itself having to fight and lose yet another Dover. As Barbara Forrest pointed out when she spoke here last fall, all that these attempts by anti-science religionists actually achieve is the tearing apart of communities, the unnecessary waste of millions of dollars in legal fees, and the disruption, not enhancement, of the students’ educations. It just isn’t worth it.