Culture Wars: the Assault on Education

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      The U.S. has long been a battleground over what is to be taught in the classroom. A century ago, a legendary 1925 trial took place that pitted John Thomas Scopes, a science teacher, against the state of Tennessee for teaching evolution. The trial was immortalized in Stanley Kramer’s movie, Inherit the Wind, a fictionalized account of the “Monkey Trial” starring Gene Kelly, Fredric March and Spencer Tracy. It was not until 1968 that the Supreme Court ruled that state bans on teaching evolution violated the First Amendment’s separation of church and state.

      In response, the Christian right developed a series of counter strategies. One was dubbed “equal time” for the teaching of the evolution and Biblical creation theory. After the courts reject it, they switched to a new theory of science as a discipline based on the creationist notion “intelligent design” — in 2005, it was found unconstitutional. Even though school prayer and sacramental Bible reading was found unconstitutional, explicit religious campaigns persist in prayers before football games and “courses” on the Bible as literature.

      One can only worry what would happen if (i) the Democrats lose control of the House in 2022 and (ii) if Trump (or one of his clones) is reelected in 2024. With a reactionary Supreme Court and a growing number of conservative state legislatures, one must worry that instruction on school-aged children will have to conform to an ever-growing list of Biblical injunctions.

      The Christian right’s attacks on critical race theory and the 1619 Project follow its rage against trans people as well as classroom discussions of abortion, contraception or homosexuality. Who knows, in a couple of years, we may see a remake of Inherit the Wind but set in the 2025.

      Jesus: Hey, Dad? God: Yes, Son? Jesus: Western civilization followed me home. Can I keep it? God: Certainly not! And put it down this minute--you don't know where it's been! Tom Robbins in Another Roadside Attraction

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