How to fund creationism in schools

| 31 Comments

The Times last week ran an article on the implementation of school vouchers in a number of states. My concern here is that the vouchers may be applied to religious schools and possibly home schools that have little oversight.

According to the Times article, in 2002, the United States Supreme Court ruled that school vouchers may be applied to private religious schools on the pretext (my locution, not theirs) that the money was given to the parents, not the schools – and never mind that the parents are only a conduit.

Most recently, again according to the Times, the Indiana Supreme Court upheld a voucher program, and Alabama enacted legislation giving a tax credit to parents who take their children “out of failing public schools* and enroll them in private schools, or at least in better-performing public schools.” Arizona expanded an existing program, and the governor of New Jersey has included a voucher program in his budget.

Thus will creationism come to be taught, not in public schools, but with public money.

——————-

* “Failing public schools” has become a mantra. Why do we never hear of “failing private schools” or “failing charter schools”?

31 Comments

Perhaps legislators could put something in their bills not allowing vouchers for schools or home schoolers who used textbooks from known anti-science publishers as A Beka Book or Bob Jones University Press.

It’s catching on like a plague with Republican state legislatures and Governors as to how they can circumvent their own constitutions as well as the fed decisions regarding funding private/parochial schools. They’ve become very creative, and have every intent of gutting the public school system, if not just downsizing them. Even if the state courts support them, the feds hopefully won’t. Then again, Boehner supported and pushed through aid for parochial schools in D.C. They have friends everywhere. In Louisiana, they openly support parochial schools, and elsewhere, as pointed out.

DavidK said: In Louisiana, they openly support parochial schools, and elsewhere, as pointed out.

Until the legislators discover that the “religious” schools that they support might be Muslim:

“Unfortunately it [Jindal’s voucher program] will not be limited to the Founders’ religion… We need to insure [sic] that it does not open the door to fund radical Islam schools. There are a thousand Muslim schools that have sprung up recently. I do not support using public funds for teaching Islam anywhere here in Louisiana.”

Here in Indiana, the Catholic, Lutheran and generic Christian schools have all lined up in support of vouchers.

Indiana has a Republican supermajority in both the Senate and House, and the Governor is Mike Pence - a former US representative and Tea-Party favorite who’s grooming himself for a Presidential run. One of his first executive orders was to strip the elected Superintendant of Public Instruction of her authority.

fusilier

James 2:24

I guess it’s permitted to discuss the “motivations” of organized, political ID/creationism on this thread.

A recent much touted poll showed that 33% of Americans want to make “Christianity” the “official religion” of the US. That’s likely to be the same third of the population who are committed to reality denial overall.

Public opinion in the US is, more or less, generally turning against the “privatization” of everything, and, while public opinion is very strongly positive toward “nice” religion (something anyone who cares about the creationism issue has to accept), public opinion is also fairly strongly against religion in politics.

However, almost to a degree not seen since the Civil War and reconstruction era, there is a massive geographical polarization. The “red” states - most of the states of the former CSA and the scattered individual plains, desert, and mountain states that ally with them - are almost hysterically in favor of “defiantly” enacting the most extreme post-modern right wing ideas.

Oddly, Governor Jindal has suddenly run into trouble in Louisiana, and is actually under-polling Barrack Obama for “approval”. The reports I see suggest that it is because of economic policies that slash public institutions. Public schools are traditionally a popular institution. Private school use tends to be concentrated among the very wealthy and the poor (but the typical affluent Americans, even in the most expensive zip codes, send their children to high-performing public schools). In fact living near a strong public school is a major US status symbol. Charter schools are foisted on impoverished areas, and of the people I know who went to Catholic schools, in all but one case it was because they grew up in an area with a poor public school - it was just literally cheaper for struggling parents to send the kids to Catholic schools than to move to a better school district. (I know one person, non-religious and non-traumatized, whose parents sent them to Catholic school for religious reasons.)

However, Louisiana is a weird exception in US politics, always trying to fit in with its neighbors but not quite the same. I don’t think we can sit back and wait for “red” states to turn against this, nor is it wise to write them off.

The one silver lining is this - whenever public money has been wasted on efforts to illegally teach sectarian denial at taxpayer expense, such efforts have always ended up unpopular, and legal challenges have tended to make them more unpopular, not to generate sympathy. Edwards, Kansans, Dover, etc. Creationists don’t do well in court. They instinctively lie, and court brings that out. There is good evidence that fighting against this type of behavior generates good results, even in traditionally conservative areas.

Paul Burnett said:

Perhaps legislators could put something in their bills not allowing vouchers for schools or home schoolers who used textbooks from known anti-science publishers as A Beka Book or Bob Jones University Press.

Good idea. All you have to do is to hold private schools, charter schools and voucher schools accountable to the same standards as the public schools. Make them use the same curriculum and take the same standardized tests. Then all of this nonsense will go away.

It’s like trying to solve the unemployment problem by redefining the term “unemployed”. You can’t just absolve yourself of responsibility by playing a few word games and pawning everything else on somebody else. If you fail to educate the young people in this country you will pay and nothing is going to change that.

A slightly off-task reply to Harold and to a lesser extent DS: Shortly after I excised a snarky sentence comparing vouchers with academies that were set up in the South to combat desegregation after Brown vs. Board of Education in 1954, I came across this article in yesterday’s Times. I was especially struck by the fourth thru sixth paragraphs and griped, “So the solution is to offer vouchers to poor people who often cannot afford the time or the expense to transport their kids to the private schools anyway.” Off-task, as I said, but worth reading anyway; see also the comments, especially those chosen by the Times.

Matt Young said:

A slightly off-task reply to Harold and to a lesser extent DS: Shortly after I excised a snarky sentence comparing vouchers with academies that were set up in the South to combat desegregation after Brown vs. Board of Education in 1954, I came across this article in yesterday’s Times. I was especially struck by the fourth thru sixth paragraphs and griped, “So the solution is to offer vouchers to poor people who often cannot afford the time or the expense to transport their kids to the private schools anyway.” Off-task, as I said, but worth reading anyway; see also the comments, especially those chosen by the Times.

It’s a fact - tacitly acknowledged by almost the entire population - that the US has a two-tier, or possibly three-tier school system.

US public schools that are not in poor areas actually do extremely well compared to international norms.

US schools in impoverished school districts do extremely poorly, and national statistics are mediocre to poor, but not because of homogenous mediocrity. There is a bimodal distribution of results. There’s a limit to how great schools can be. Only so many students can ace international math tests no matter how great your school is. On the other hand, the only lower limit for how bad schools can be is total illiteracy and innumeracy in all students, an outcome very close to what some US schools produce. So having a bunch of schools that compare well with South Korea and Switzerland, and a bunch of terrible schools, leads to overall poor to medi

I said “maybe three-tiered” because it’s possible that the marginal utility of being in a very rich district over being in a merely very solid district may be significant.

Okay, so what’s this got to do with creationism? It’s very worth noting that all current efforts to shove creationist science denial into taxpayer funded science class have targeted relatively humble rural school districts.

Granted, they don’t target inner city Detroit, but they aren’t going after, say, the wealthy suburbs of Seattle that are near the DI, either. Rural or small town districts, often in poor states, are the targets. It’s partly because that’s where the fundamentalists are, but it’s also probably because everyone unconsciously acknowledges what would happen to you if you went to, say, Westchester County NY, and tried to mess with some of the high-performing, wealthy public schools. Let’s just say that Freshwater wouldn’t have lasted twenty years.

Good idea. All you have to do is to hold private schools, charter schools and voucher schools accountable to the same standards as the public schools.

That won’t happen.

In most cases, there is no assessment of how private schools and their students learn. No achievement tests, etc.. This is deliberate.

Without metrics and measurements, these schools could easily be graduating near illiterate, uneducated kids. In a lot of cases, this to, is deliberate.

The fundie xians absolutely know that education is the enemy of their cults.

One of the things that drives private xian schools is…profits.

We have a few around where I live.

One of them only hires teachers part time. This is to get around some laws about providing benefits. Which the teachers don’t get any of.

AFAICT, they don’t have to be accredited either.

These schools also aren’t cheap. IIRC, they run 6,000 to 8,000 USD a year per kid. If you have two kids in school, that is going to put a dent in your budget.

raven said:

Good idea. All you have to do is to hold private schools, charter schools and voucher schools accountable to the same standards as the public schools.

That won’t happen.

In most cases, there is no assessment of how private schools and their students learn. No achievement tests, etc.. This is deliberate.

Without metrics and measurements, these schools could easily be graduating near illiterate, uneducated kids. In a lot of cases, this to, is deliberate.

The fundie xians absolutely know that education is the enemy of their cults.

Agreed. So why pay them to do this?

It does work both ways.

If they fund xian schools, they also have to fund secular, atheist, Moslem, and Pagan schools.

The legislators usually get upset when they realize this.

Agreed. So why pay them to do this?

You’ve got me. I have no idea. Ask the fundies.

Most of us have seen it.

Fundies set their kids up to fail.

Then the kids fail.

Not being educated in the 21st century is a good way to start behind and stay behind. Fundies score low in education, IQ, and socioeconomic status.

raven said:

Not being educated in the 21st century is a good way to start behind and stay behind. Fundies score low in education, IQ, and socioeconomic status.

This is a pretty complex problem.

Does lower intelligence - or perhaps more politically correctly, less proficiency in what are considered academic areas – result in individuals who have less ability to assess and control events in their lives? Does such lack of control lead to reliance on the “comforts” offered by fundamentalism?

Who are the people that are most easily duped by faith healers? What options do they have in their lives? How do they respond to the challenges of living and working?

There appears to be a large number of fundamentalist preachers and faith healers who are using the First Amendment to con people who always feel like they are barely hanging on by their fingernails.

When we look at the con jobs going on at places like AiG, the DI, and the ICR, what do these con artists really think about the people to whom they are selling (literally) their wares? Do these organizations really care about the people they are selling to; or are they simply a niche market?

Many students who are very successful academically report snide remarks and resentful retorts from some of their fellow students, and even some of their teachers. Some students report other students looking over their shoulder, seeing a high grade on a just-graded exam, and making comments like, “Damned curve raiser!” and then being shunned. There have been reports in the newspapers in places like East Rochester, New York of street bullies beating up kids returning home from school just because those kids had books under their arms.

What is the real foundation of the Culture War? Is it intelligence, religion, economic opportunity, physical and mental health issues? Once there are large pockets of resentment – for whatever reasons – how susceptible are these populations to fundamentalism?

Paul Burnett said:

Perhaps legislators could put something in their bills not allowing vouchers for schools or home schoolers who used textbooks from known anti-science publishers as A Beka Book or Bob Jones University Press.

But then using books like that is the whole POINT, isn’t it?

Mike Elzinga said:

Many students who are very successful academically report snide remarks and resentful retorts from some of their fellow students, and even some of their teachers. Some students report other students looking over their shoulder, seeing a high grade on a just-graded exam, and making comments like, “Damned curve raiser!” and then being shunned. There have been reports in the newspapers in places like East Rochester, New York of street bullies beating up kids returning home from school just because those kids had books under their arms.

But the pretty girls come asking for help on their Math and Physics homework.

Many students who are very successful academically report snide remarks and resentful retorts from some of their fellow students, and even some of their teachers.

Resentment and bullying of the academically gifted has a history as long as literacy.

However, there are complexities.

For example, in schools I attended, there were some students who were from the upper middle class or above, who were considered “legitimate” recipients of high grades. They also tended to know how to play the “extracurricular activities” game and generally be at home in the system.

The bullied “nerds” did tend to be academically gifted, or at least academically decent and conscientious, but also socially awkward, and also, interestingly, middle middle class or below.

So there was more than just a reaction to academic success involved. The kid from an established two parent family with a corporate lawyer father wasn’t all that likely to be resented for academic success. The resentment turned on when some kid with a single mother or blue collar father started doing well.

However, I grew up in areas that weren’t populous enough to have separate schools for separate social classes. If every kid in school is rich, then I guess some rich kids would be nerds. I wonder if less rich kids still have more tendency to be in that group. Maybe in a school where most dads are hedge fund managers, the neurosurgeon’s kids are more likely to be ridiculed as nerds for doing well academically.

Having said that, there is a huge tendency in human societies to divide people up into social/occupation classes and to stigmatize behaviors that violate the boundaries.

Carl Drews said:

But the pretty girls come asking for help on their Math and Physics homework.

When I retired from research, I was very fortunate to have a really fun opportunity fall into my lap almost out of nowhere. I got to teach for ten years in a program at a math/science center for academically gifted and talented students.

It was a competitive program that used blind selection criteria, the result of which was to get students from all socio/economic and ethnic backgrounds and equal numbers of males and females. The students like to refer to the program as the “nerd factory.”

I taught all college level courses in calculus-level physics, calculus and other sophomore/junior level college math, and statistics. In my letters of recommendations for these students, I could compare them favorably against graduate students I had taught, and undergraduate and graduate students I had mentored in industry.

I found the girls to be better organized than the boys. Many of my female students have since achieved even higher levels of success than my male students. For example, one of my female students is now a professor at Cal Tech studying extra-solar planets, and another is a cosmologist at the Perimeter Institute.

I remember an incident in my physics course involving the student who is now at the Perimeter Institute. I had been noticing that the guys in the class were getting a bit cavalier about their studies and homework; and on the first exam the scores were strictly bimodal, with all the girls up in the 90s and the guys down below the 50s, and no overlap.

I rubbed the guys’ noses in it; and on the next exam everyone was up above 90%, the girls still beating out the guys. The student who is now at the Perimeter Institute was so outstanding that her written exams read like finished and polished calculations leading straight to the correct answer. No mistakes, no erasures, and no obfuscation; it just flowed out. And she could do it extemporaneously on just about any problem you could hand her.

We’re not talking about arithmetic and algebra here; my exams asked for generalized mathematical answers requiring calculus and more; she could think physics in mathematical language just as one would find in a good graduate student interested in theory.

Here in TN, they have taken steps though new legislation to allow creationism back into the classroom. This law turns the clock back nearly 100 years here in the seemingly unprogressive South and is simply embarrassing. There is no argument against the Theory of Evolution other than that of religious doctrine. The Monkey Law only opens the door for fanatic Christianity to creep its way back into our classrooms. You can see my visual response as a Tennessean to this absurd law on my artist’s blog at http://dregstudiosart.blogspot.com/[…]enda-in.html with some evolutionary art and a little bit of simple logic.

However, there are complexities.

But are they irreducible?

It was a competitive program that used blind selection criteria, the result of which was to get students from all socio/economic and ethnic backgrounds and equal numbers of males and females. The students like to refer to the program as the “nerd factory.”

It is on topic here to reiterate that the US tends to do an excellent job at providing enriched curricula for those who have academic gifts, and aren’t so burdened by extraneous social pathology that such gifts go unexpressed.

Where the US lags - and constant attacks on more humble school systems by creationists are part of the problem - is in providing adequate education in areas where the property tax base is low.

In the past, there was open legal discrimination against women, ethnic and religious minorities, and others. That issue - overt legal discrimination - has been fairly well addressed (although there is plenty of room for more progress).

Another problem that has been far more poorly dealt with is educating those who are neither destined to be Cal Tech professors, nor cognitively challenged enough that lack of language skills, math skills, and general knowledge is a reasonable outcome. The current system often under-educates such students. While it may be better - for some individuals - to be a Cal Tech professor than to be an accountant, it is far better to be an accountant than to be nearly illiterate, employed at an unskilled job, unemployed, or in prison. (*As it happens I am a progressive who believes that every honest job is a dignified job that deserves a decent living wage and working conditions, but that’s a different issue - we should still educate people to have the best job they can get.*)

Plausibly, the techniques that help the very gifted achieve their best might also work in a more general environment.

harold said:

(*As it happens I am a progressive who believes that every honest job is a dignified job that deserves a decent living wage and working conditions, but that’s a different issue - we should still educate people to have the best job they can get.*)

Plausibly, the techniques that help the very gifted achieve their best might also work in a more general environment.

Indeed.

I have often advocated for the “techies” and the skilled trades. In fact, in my advising of students in that math/science center, I often pointed out that by the time they got through their educations and into a job in industry, government, or academia, they would be relying on the services and technical skills of hundreds of tradesmen and technical specialists who went to trade schools, two-year technical programs, or through military technical training.

I also emphasized that these people will have been out there honing their skills and experience the whole time the academically gifted students were getting their educations; and that the intelligence and talents of these people came out in different ways. They are not stupid by any means; and they can be your best friend or your worst enemy depending on how you treat them and relate to them in your work.

I don’t know how it would work in this country to have an educational system that tracks students like the system in Germany does. Germany’s system is too rigid.

But if students traveled along a track that seemed appropriate when they were younger yet allowed changing to a different track as they matured and learned more about themselves and other opportunities within their reach, why not build in the means for changing tracks with as little hassle as possible?

Other countries – Sweden for example – have a system in their military where everyone comes in as an enlisted person; even if you already have a college degree. You work your way up through the ranks and into the officer ranks if you choose to stay in the military. That gives the officers an entirely different perspective on enlisted personnel.

There needs to be something in our educational system that allows people traveling along different academic paths to gain some in-depth appreciation of other kinds of talents and achievements.

I don’t know how that can be implemented in this country. Many people just want to get the hell out of school as early as possible and with as little effort as possible. Public education is not a very good experience for a lot of folks.

Mike Elzinga said:

Other countries – Sweden for example – have a system in their military where everyone comes in as an enlisted person; even if you already have a college degree. You work your way up through the ranks and into the officer ranks if you choose to stay in the military. That gives the officers an entirely different perspective on enlisted personnel.

That’s the model that Heinlein used for his military forces in _Starship Troopers_. And, in context, it’s worth noting that Heinlein was an Annapolis graduate, though he saw very little active service (invalided out by TB).

Actually, no. Military service was not compulsory, but it was required for full citizenship, especially voting. And I am still waiting for someone to make a “Starship Troopers” movie that actually follows the book, with grizzled veterans and mechs.

Not only was every Mobile Infantry officer in “Starship Troopers” a promoted ranker, but every Fleet Admiral had been a ranker in both the space navy and the Mobile Infantry.

I called shenanigans on reading that.

Henry J said:

However, there are complexities.

But are they irreducible?

I don’t suppose these fundamentalist schools will use such funding to sponsor lunch programs? Of course not - in ID there is No Free Lunch.

I am of two minds on this. First, Evolution is a proven theory.

We are talking about how taxpayers choose to have their tax dollars spent. If we were able to stop all silly government spending, our tax rates would be significantly lower. No question about it. While I believe using your tax dollars to fund schools that teach nonsense is stupid, people unfortunately have the right to be stupid. I look it at this way. My kids are going to be ordering breakfast lunch and dinner from their kids. When my kids to to the retail store to get what they need, the fundie kids will be there to ring up their purchases. If someone chooses to limit their children to the bottom tier, I do not think we can do much about it. If they feed, clothe and house the kid, the rest is their choice. However unfortunate. Democracies and republics allow you to make both good and bad choices.

That is it.

murphykevinm said:

I am of two minds on this. First, Evolution is a proven theory.

We are talking about how taxpayers choose to have their tax dollars spent. If we were able to stop all silly government spending, our tax rates would be significantly lower. No question about it. While I believe using your tax dollars to fund schools that teach nonsense is stupid, people unfortunately have the right to be stupid. I look it at this way. My kids are going to be ordering breakfast lunch and dinner from their kids. When my kids to to the retail store to get what they need, the fundie kids will be there to ring up their purchases. If someone chooses to limit their children to the bottom tier, I do not think we can do much about it. If they feed, clothe and house the kid, the rest is their choice. However unfortunate. Democracies and republics allow you to make both good and bad choices.

That is it.

First, a theory cannot be proven.

Second, I agree that everyone has the right to be stupid and ignorant. It may even be true that others could benefit greatly from that stupidity and ignorance. It may be true that no legislation and no amount of spending can ever force anyone to learn anything. But I really must object to MY tax dollars being used to teach some religion. Why do they need my tax dollars to not teach science? Why do they need to teach religion in a “home school” if they are already effectively brainwashing their kids in church? Why do they think that only their religion should get public funding? Why do they pay lip service to science and then seek to wipe out all of the benefits that teaching science can bring? Why do they hypocritically reap the benefits of science while simultaneously demonizing it?

And of course, we all pay for ignorance in the long run, so that’s not really a good argument either.

First, Evolution is a proven theory.

Proven beyond reasonable doubt (i.e., strongly supported by the evidence), but not absolutely proven the way a mathematical theorem can be.

Henry

Does Current Biology have the Misfortune of Owning an Unreliable Clock? http://scienceandscientist.org/Darw[…]iable-clock/

In reply to the original article:

I’m confused. How could you possibly fail if there are no standards?

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This page contains a single entry by Matt Young published on April 7, 2013 6:32 PM.

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