We saw this coming long ago


Pat yourself on the back, creationists. You’ve succeeded beyond your wildest dreams. I’d give special appreciation to the Discovery Institute, which came up with so many potent slogans. “Teach the controversy!” “Teach both sides!” So many school administrators and politicians fell for it, taking it for granted that what a school was supposed to do was throw every crank idea at the students, and let them sort it out…while teachers were supposed to sit back and provide no guidance from hard-earned learning and experience, because that would be “bias”. How dare you teach all that evidence-based science about evolution and the history of life on Earth, don’t you know that’s discriminating against fringe theories that have no logical, rational, evidential basis? Make room for Ken Ham, right next to Darwin and Fisher and Simpson and Beadle and Tatum and…it’s a long list.

But that’s the triumph of their idea, that education shouldn’t be based on merit, and that teachers are useless unless they promote their propaganda.

And now it’s come to this.

A senior school administrator in the Lone Star State was recorded telling educators that if they’re going to keep books about the Holocaust in their classrooms, they must also stock material representing “opposing” views or “other perspectives.”

NBC News has obtained a recording that it says features Carroll Independent School District executive director of curriculum and instruction Gina Peddy explaining to teachers that House Bill 3979 requires them to offer alternative information when it “comes to widely debated and currently controversial.” That, by her account, includes the systematic execution of millions of people — mostly Jews — at the hands of the Nazis during World War II.

“Make sure that if you have a book on the Holocaust that you have one that has an opposing, that has other perspectives,” Peddy said.

You can hear the whole thing here. Listen to the administrator tell the teachers how she wants to work with them and help them, but if they offer a book that teaches about the Holocaust, they better also include a book about Holocaust denial. The teachers sound appalled and horrified.

The administration’s excuse:

In a statement, a Carroll spokeswoman said Peddy’s example about the Holocaust reflects the district’s attempt to comply with a new state law that requires teachers to present multiple perspectives when discussing “widely debated and currently controversial” issues.

The law says we have to “teach both sides”. That is so familiar, as is the language about “widely debated and currently controversial” issues. All you need to do to make an issue widely debated and currently controversial is to get a local ignorant church pastor to stand up and argue for bullshit. Presto! Debate! Controversy! Therefore it has to go into the curriculum. It’s only fair, after all.

That’s not how education works. It has never worked that way. You can thank the creationists for a decades-long campaign to misrepresent how science and teaching work so they can get their fables and lies into the classroom. The end result: opening the door for Nazis and kooks to pollute public education. Fuck those motherfuckers, every one.

Comments

  1. brucegee1962 says

    If you look at this article
    https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/southlake-texas-holocaust-books-schools-rcna2965
    on the story, about halfway down there is a “classroom library selection rubric” put out by the district, that purports to tell teachers what they can and cannot have in their classrooms. It lists three criteria: credibility, perspective (meaning multiple perspectives), and appropriateness (language).
    The interesting thing about this rubric is that every box following the “Credibility” criterion mentions the word “perspective” — so you can tell that a work is credible because “The author provides balanced information by providing multiple perspectives.” Basically, all the boxes under “Credibility” repeat the boxes under “Perspective.” There is nothing at all about checking the background of the author, etc. — credible authors have multiple perspectives, and that’s it.
    Hopefully this Holocaust fiasco will wake up the school board to an important truth: if you start with faulty premises, you are likely to arrive at absurd conclusions.

  2. bargearse says

    So on one side we’ll have reality where millions of people were slaughtered in the name of a poisonous ideology and on the other we’ll have, “it never happened but I wish Hitler had finished the job.” Motherfuckers is not strong enough a description.

  3. raven says

    that requires teachers to present multiple perspectives when discussing “widely debated and currently controversial” issues.

    The Holocaust isn’t a currently controversial idea. It’s a matter of well known history.
    There aren’t two credible theories of whether it happened or not.

  4. M'thew says

    It’s strange how, when you try to present the all-pervasive influence of religion as a “currently controversial” topic, debate gets shut down pretty quick. Wonder why that could be…

  5. stuffin says

    Texas is one of the states that banned Ben and Jerry’s because of their business with Israel. What hypocrites.

    Texas limits business with Ben & Jerry’s over Israel move
    Texas on Thursday announced that it will be limiting business with Ben & Jerry’s and its parent company, Unilever, following the ice cream maker’s decision to stop selling its products in certain Israeli-occupied territories.

    https://thehill.com/homenews/state-watch/573813-texas-limits-business-with-ben-jerrys-over-israel-move

  6. Snarki, child of Loki says

    Well, good to see the TX GOPers out themselves as objectively pro-Nazi, not that it wasn’t obvious already.

    Time to hold them down and carve that swastika on their foreheads.

  7. submoron says

    I remember that when we started chemistry lessons at my (British) secondary school one classmate wanted to use the alchemical idea of the elements. Does that make the periodic table controversial?

  8. leerudolph says

    submoron@7: “Does that make the periodic table controversial?”

    I am fairly sure that it wouldn’t be hard to work out some (safe and not especially dangerous) experiments to show that “the alchemical idea of the elements” (I assume that’s the classical four elements, and various assertions about how various substances are composed thereof in various combinations) fits actual observations (including reactions of various non-classical substances with each other, in conditions including but not limited to ones that could have been prepared in alchemists’ workshops) much worse than, say, whatever “idea of the elements” Lavoisier had (if any). Historically (if I recall Asimov’s books correctly after a lapse of 60 years) the proliferation of “elements” preceded by many decades various attempts to fit them all into a system; and the construction of the periodic table likewise preceded the development of (successful) theories about why the periodicity is there.

    Whether that would be sound pedagogy (at a British secondary school or elsewhere), I dunno. It might be fun for some, torture for others.

  9. microraptor says

    Does this law apply to religious schools? They should teach the Koran as an alternate perspective.

  10. says

    I guess I’d better get to work on my 500 page opus detailing how Crockllin McSwill was secretly the 45th President of the United States, not Trump. Sounds like I might have a school board or two who’ll buy it.

  11. gijoel says

    Maybe we should demand Richard Dawkins be taught in Sunday school. Who am I kidding their rules down apply to themselves.

  12. gijoel says

    Actually thinking about it, how long will it be before these idiots start demanding text books that state that the civil war was actually a war of Northern aggression and black people liked being slaves.

  13. submoron says

    leerudolph@7: A good point but only if you accept experimental variation which they might consider controversial. Yes, it was the classical set and I don’t think that he knew of Paracelsus’ version.
    What about astrology?

  14. whheydt says

    I saw a couple of articles on that yesterday. What immediately came to mind were…

    The American Revolution…from the British perspective.
    Pearl Harbor attack…from the Japanese perspective (Japan had some legitimate grievances against the US).
    And… The Texas war for independence (especially that little incident at the Alamo)…from the Mexican perspective.

  15. kome says

    Many creationists probably are patting themselves on the back, because creationist organizations frequently (if not always) have deep connections to white supremacist and anti-Semitic organizations.

  16. robro says

    The Holocaust is “widely debatable or currently controversial”? I didn’t know that.

    whheydt — The Texas example is a great one, but that’s clearly a case were the other side should be taught in schools. It isn’t. All we hear about are the heroes at the Alamo, Gozales, and Sam Houston’s upset victory at San Jacinto. What they don’t teach is the role of slavery in the “Texas War of Independence”. And yeah, US education should cover the role of US Pacific policy and provocations with Japan.

  17. robro says

    gijoel @ #12 — I don’t know about now, but I believe there have been textbooks that “state that the civil war was actually a war of Northern aggression and black people liked being slaves.” I probably had some of them in the late-50s to mid-60s while in school in North Florida. If the textbooks didn’t say it explicitly, I’m betting some teachers did. And of course, it would be often said among family and friends.

  18. Bruce says

    Every time capitalism is mentioned in class, Texas insists students also read Das Kapital to get a balanced perspective from Karl Marx.

  19. robert79 says

    so wait… any time the school uses a book that mentions facts, it must also provide a book that mentions non-facts?

    Perhaps the idea is to have students read more works of fiction?

    So when when the history teacher discusses the holocaust, the English teacher is discussing some alternate history novel where the holocaust never happened because we learned how to time travel and killed baby Hitler. You might even throw in a philosophy/ethics lesson where you discuss whether killing baby Hitler is good or bad.

  20. jack lecou says

    There’s a universe where this sort of thing could actually improve education, it seems to me.

    I mean, obviously these laws are just ill-intentioned excuses to try to put creationism and lost causerism and so forth in front of student’s eyeballs, and they would probably rather the alternatives to the alternatives aren’t presented at all.

    But assuming two conflicting “sides” of a question are presented to a student, I think the obvious question those students should have is “how do I decide which one is right”. Which is — theoretically — a marvelous opportunity for teaching critical thinking, media literacy, scientific method, etc.

    Obviously there’s an element of wasted time there — why bother presenting the nonsense, when we already know which side is right — but the fact is, we’re living in an age of bullshit, and those students are going to be growing up and entering society. Teaching them how to sort it all out might be a lot more valuable then just having some extra time to run through some extra rote facts.

  21. jrkrideau says

    Well, this should up David Irving’s sales. I wonder if there might be a new demand for some of the Gnostic Gospells as well?

    Does the Flat Earth Society have any recent publications?

  22. unclefrogy says

    this “teach the controversy” “opposing” views or “other perspectives.”
    is pure bull shit, it is what they say but it is not what they mean and not how they enforce the rule.
    It is the same with free speech it is what they say all right but it is not what they mean. The do not want to teach anything but what they believe in, the idea of allowing anything that they disagree with taught is unthinkable. they will not allow it and would rather close the schools down. free speech means you have to listen to me only and not any other person or ideas, only my ideas are acceptable .

  23. david says

    Shouldn’t it cut both ways? When the Texas curriculum teaches that the founding fathers loved freedom, aren’t teachers then obligated to teach about slavery? When they teach about heroism at the Alamo, mustn’t teachers lecture on the evil intent of the founders of Texas? Put that law to work!!

  24. AstrySol says

    The lunatic legislator says their bill doesn’t include Holocaust because it’s not currently controversial is just lying to dodge the consequences: anything can be made “currently controversial” if people with enough resources want it be.

    Exhibit A: the mere existence of a disease that affects more than 260 million people worldwide and killed more than 4 million should never be controversial, nor should the vaccines for them, but look at where we are now.

    And I think they just have not put “making Holocaust currently controversial” high on their priority list. It’s definitely there.

  25. flange says

    Holocaust “controversy.” “Critical Race Theory.” “Freedom” to not wear a mask. It’s all the Republican’s (with accommodating rubes) plan to destroy public education and free thought. Keep their base angry, scared, ignorant, and malleable. And it seems to be working.

  26. says

    The Holocaust isn’t a currently controversial idea. It’s a matter of well known history. There aren’t two credible theories of whether it happened or not.

    If enough loonies dispute that in court, I bet the school officials will fall back on some sort of “compromise.”

  27. DanDare says

    The problem is one of presenting “perspective” as fact in the first place.
    Holocaust? Facts – people were exterminated in large numbers. Documents for the logistical operation of the camps exist. Film and photographic evidence of the camps and aftermath exist. Documents about the intent of Nazi authorities exist. Witness accounts exist. Providing students with a “perspective” is not the same as providing a synopsis and asking them questions about ethics of the situation and testing their epistemology.
    The “controversy” just doesn’t get a look in, so the Texas law should be moot.

  28. Alan G. Humphrey says

    When is the controversial British patriotic history* going to be taught? It is well past time to rehabilitate Benedict Arnold and teach about his heroism in the face of American traitors against the crown. Many others who fought or who did not fight had their lands taken without due compensation when the rebels won. Their descendants can be found in Canada, Britain and Europe. Compensation is due them just as compensation from Haiti was demanded by France, and that demand supported by the US of A with sanctions imposed on Haiti. Fucking hypocrites then and still.

    *The so-called “Revolutionary War” was a rebellion of property owners protecting their right to own and use slaves to work their land. It is not a revolution if the people governing at the beginning are still governing at the end and if the same social structures still exist. Various houses of burgesses became state congresses, governors stayed governors, and one George traded in for another.

  29. Frederic Bourgault-Christie says

    As long as this is the norm, we should be insisting upon it being fairly applied, and it should be a priority of the left to ram this down their throats.

    History classes should have to include CRT, Native American-authored books, etc.

    Econ classes should include socialist and anarchist thought.

    Etc.

  30. whheydt says

    Re: several people…
    CRT is the reason for the law. They’re against what they think it is.

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