I Love You but You Didn’t Do the Reading

Happy Monday: Time for another weekly round-up of top ILYBYGTH-themed stories from around the interwebs…

A Jewish scheme to wreck civilization: An interview with the author of A Specter Haunting Europe at RWN.

Sex, marriage, and the creation of an evangelical market, by Daniel Silliman.

LA gets ready for its looming teacher strike, at LATimes.

la teachers strikeA(nother) call for a conservative secular higher-ed alternative, at NA.

Can a serious conservative-evangelical scholar still work at Liberty U? The New Yorker profiles Karen Swallow Prior. H/T: AT

Sometimes, when her students become disheartened by Liberty’s conservative political bent, they ask her why she stays. “And I tell them, honestly, I went to a liberal university. I know what it’s like. I mean, it’s not perfect here, but it’s better.”

Teachers with guns? This Florida teacher says no, at SFSS.

prior nyorker

I wuvs you, but I don’t wuvs Trump…

Historians on Trump’s wall speech at HNN.

Zoiks: Fan of localism and democracy? Then get ready for rich white men to control your schools, at T74.

Things get ugly at a classics convention, at IHE.

Williams turned and addressed Peralta directly, declaring that she was “not a socialist” and that Peralta only got his job because he is “black,” those present said.

Winter got you down? At least it’s not as bad as the “Great Die-Off” storm of 1887, at Smithsonian.

Evangelicals and Trump—a commentary collection at Righting America.


Is Evolution Education Doomed?

I could see how Bill Nye might be bummed. An example from my local paper this week shows that creationism might be a nearly universal American trait. If we speak clearly enough, though, we can see that this isn’t really a problem for evolution education.

First, a little background. Evolution wonks like me tend to feel flustered when pundits and scholars use the term “creationism” when they really mean only radical young-earth creationism. Gallup, for example, has long called young-humanity beliefs “creationist,” and other creation-ish beliefs not creationist. That doesn’t make any sense.

gallup creationism poll may 2017

It’s not sensible to call only the #3s “creationists.”

In practice, most Americans have vague, heterodox ideas about both evolutionary theory and creationism. (Don’t believe it? You’ll have to wait for my new book for my long demonstration of this counter-intuitive point.) If we use a sensible definition of “creationism”—like the idea that life must have had some sort of active creator at some point in the past—then the label could work for almost everybody.

Exhibit A: In my local newspaper, a guy named Rick Marsi has a regular column about nature and outdoor living (for some reason, it was not posted online. I have no idea why not.) In a recent essay, Marsi advocated heading out on a kayak instead of sitting around complaining. When you do, he says, and you catch a beautiful fish, you’ll have no choice but to

Drink in that raspberry stripe [and] . . . marvel at perfect design.

Well, of course we DO have a choice. We can recognize that—speaking scientifically—there was no “design” involved at all, perfect or not. The “raspberry stripe” wasn’t put there to wow kayakers. According to evolutionary theory, it wasn’t put there at all.

So what are the Bill Nyes and the Josh Rosenaus of the world supposed to do? Wail and gnash their ties at the widespread dunderheadness of American culture?

Not at all!

If we have a sensible attitude toward evolution education, then the “intuitive theism” we see so often shouldn’t bother us at all. As Harvey and I argued in Teaching Evolution in a Creation Nation and I’m fleshing out more fully in my new book, there is absolutely no reason for evolution educators to fret if their students retain a quasi-theistic idea about the origins of life.

Our goal in public-school classrooms should never be to encourage or disparage specific religious ideas. If students want to agree that trout stripes are a “perfect design,” so be it. We can and should cultivate a beneficent indifference when it comes to students’ religious thinking. All we want to do is help people know and understand what evolutionary theory really says. What they choose to believe about it is absolutely up to them.

What If 2020 Teachers Copied 1980 Preachers?

They are two of the strongest traditions of American life. 1.) Teachers will refrain from indoctrinating students in partisan politics, and 2.) Preachers will stay out of elections. As states consider bills to legislate teacher non-politics, we have to wonder: What if teachers these days copied the (in)famous “New Christian Right” strategies of the 1970s? What if they abandoned their traditions of political neutrality in the classroom and starting pushing specific partisan politics on their students?

First, the usual caveats. Yes, some teachers are already very politically active. The Badass Teachers Association, for example, “reject profit-driven education reform” and offer a list of political demands. And back in the 1980s, the much-ballyhooed entrance of conservative evangelicals into politics was not really the revolution it was purported to be. Conservative evangelical preachers had ALWAYS been involved in politics. And, finally, conservative activists have always assumed that most teachers are already preaching left-wing doctrines in the classroom, even though we are not.

In spite of all that, it makes for an intriguing question. Consider the traditional story of the so-called New Christian Right. (And if you have time, read the longer, more accurate versions written by historians such as Daniel K. Williams, Matthew Avery Sutton, and yours truly.) Although it didn’t really match the historical facts, in the late 1970s conservative evangelical preachers such as Jerry Falwell claimed to be abandoning their previous political neutrality to encourage Americans to vote for “God’s Own Party,” the Republicans. It wasn’t really a leap into politics, but it was a dramatic leap into the arms of one political party.

President Ronald Reagan and Rev. Jerry Falwell

I love you, you love me, let’s all vote the GOP…

And it leads us to ask: What if large numbers of classroom teachers began openly to teach their students that the Democratic Party was correct? That only Joe Biden, or Anthony Brindisi, or Elizabeth Warren was on the right side of history?

It won’t happen. Though some progressive scholars, activists, and organizations have always yearned for a more partisan teaching force, teachers themselves have always—by and large—respected the tradition of their profession. Teach children about politics? Absolutely. But teach that only one political party is acceptable? Never. It’s just not part of how most teachers think about their proper jobs.

george counts

…time for teachers to wake up and smell the ballot box, c. 1936.

Consider the lament of George Counts, a leftist education profession who captured the imagination of progressive folks in the 1930s with his call for schools to “Build a New Social Order.”

Professor Counts wanted teachers to do more than teach. He hoped teachers would

be prepared to deal much more fundamentally, realistically, and positively with the American social situation.

In specific, Counts wanted teachers to tell their students more directly that one sort of politics was correct. But as even Counts realized, not many teachers would listen. As he put it,

when the word indoctrination is coupled with education there is scarcely one among us possessing the hardihood to refuse to be horrified.

The tradition of non-partisan teachers runs deep, despite the carping of paranoid conservative pundits. Most teachers, just like most evangelical preachers, would never stoop to pushing one partisan idea on their students. As Counts noticed, we are “horrified” at the idea that we should indoctrinate our students.

Even if teachers wanted to, classrooms aren’t like evangelical churches. Like-minded congregants don’t decide to attend one class or another, the way they do with their churches. Students in most public schools are a captured and constrained crowd and teachers could never build a politically like-minded following out of their come-one-come-all public schools.

This morning, though, we can’t help but wonder: What if they did? What would happen if a large group of teachers tried to impose partisan political beliefs on their students?

When We Say ‘Vocational,’ Let’s Remember This

Is college right for everyone? Of course not. But a recent commentary in the New York Times ignores the biggest historical elephant in the room when it comes to vocational education.

Anderson ed of blacks

…it’s not like this book is hard to find.

The Manhattan Institute’s Oren Cass argues that spending all our public-school dollars on college prep has turned public ed into

one of our nation’s most regressive institutions.

And Cass makes a good case, as far as he goes. Not everyone needs college. And college is super expensive. Why don’t we invest more in alternative educational pathways that benefit students? As he argues,

For the roughly $100,000 that the public spends to carry many students through high school and college today, we could offer instead two years of traditional high school, a third year that splits time between a sophisticated vocational program and a subsidized internship, two more years split between subsidized work and employer-sponsored training, and a savings account with $25,000, perhaps for future training. Any American could have, at age 20, three years of work experience, an industry credential and earnings in the bank.

Sounds good, right?

The problem is so obvious that I can’t help but wonder why Cass doesn’t mention it. The history of vocational education has always pointed in the same direction. In spite of the best intentions, “voke” has always been used as a holding pen for less affluent, less white students.

Perhaps the strongest demonstration of this case was made by Professor James D. Anderson in his classic book The Education of Blacks in the South, 1860-1935. Time after time, Anderson found, even philanthropists who arguably wanted the best for African-American students shunted them off to manual training instead of academic education.

Students and parents clamored for academic education, partly as a path to the highest-paid and most-prestigious professional careers and partly as a recognition of their intellectual and political equality. Vocational training was always offered instead.

Voke advocates insisted that they wanted only the best for students. They insisted, a la Cass, that they were being practical, that not everyone needed or wanted a collegiate education. And they always pleaded that their schemes were what students and families really wanted. Or should have wanted.

So what’s wrong with vocational education? In theory, nothing. In real life, everything. As Cass concludes about the decision to go voke,

Certainly, the choice should remain theirs.

That is, parents and students should only pick the voke track if they really want to. In practice, though, only families with financial resources are given any real choice. In practice, whiter, richer students have always had choices. Poorer, blacker students never have.

I Love You but You Didn’t Do the Reading

The ILYBYGTH International offices shut down last week for the Thanksgiving holiday, but the rest of the world kept spinning. Here are some of the stories that we missed:

Something new, nothing blue: Daniel K. Williams on the fact that rural white voters nationwide have united behind the GOP, at HNN.

Progressive women: Want to convince Trump voters to see things your way? It’s harder than you think, at The Nation.

Just as you don’t want to be the obedient wife of some porn-addicted Christian bully, they don’t want to be a slutty baby-killer like you.

Neighborhoods integrate, but schools stay segregated. Why? At Chalkbeat.

What is life like in a Chinese re-education camp? At NPR.

What do evangelicals need to read Revelation right? Imagination, says Scot McKnight.

This Book of Revelation sets afire the imagination and should be turning us off to literal pictures. . . . Revelation was written for imaginations not for sketch artists.

Lessons from Watergate: Does a Blue House spell the end of Trumpism? At the Atlantic.

In one respect, Trump’s position may now be even more precarious than Nixon’s.

john allen chau 2

Schools on a mission…

Missionary killed on remote island. Hero? “Terrorist?” Or “self-important, arrogant, deluded, foolish, and a pest”?

Worth it? Post-9/11 wars have cost the USA $5.9 Trillion, at the Nation.

I Love You but You Didn’t Do the Reading

It’s been a busy week here in the offices of ILYBYGTH International! Here are some of the stories that came across our desk that we thought you might find interesting:

Trump’s proclamation for Education Week.

What was the “city on a hill” really about? Not what Reagan thought, at WaPo.

Two insufficient ways schools teach WWI. At TC.

wilson addressing congress

This WILL be on the test!

School privatization takes a hit in the mid-term elections, at T74.

Freaking out yet about the Asia Bibi case? At the Guardian.

What do you do if you support teacher strikes but lose your bid for Congress? Run for President, at Politico.

More swings than a school playground: Hillary Clinton is back IN the Texas history standards, at DMN.

Are evangelicals cracking up? Eric Miller interviews Paul Djupe at R&P.

we can foresee almost no circumstances at this point that would intervene in the mutual love affair—the equally yoked relationship—between white evangelicals and Trump. But, that necessarily entails a crackup of evangelicalism.

More than double-secret probation on the line: Dartmouth sued for allowing “Animal House” antics by three well-funded professors, at IHE.

Are the real anti-Semites on the Left? At Spectator.

What can conservatives and progressives agree on? Deriding tax breaks for Amazon, at the Federalist.

Jill Lepore on her new non-textbook textbook, at CHE.

A former school superintendent describes his disillusion with testing at Chalkbeat.

We’re not playing the long game for our kids.

Rutgers changes its mind: It’s okay if a white professor is anti-white, at FIRE.

Yale White Student Union_1542397045372.jpg_62387087_ver1.0_640_360

This isn’t what he wanted…

Money-laundering Bible college busted, at CT.

Will the real populist please stand up? R.R. Reno at TAM.

When the ruling class ignores or derides the unsettled populace (as is happening today — deplorables, takers, and so forth), the restlessness jells into an adversarial mood. A populist is anyone who gains political power on the strength of this adversarial stance.

Mobbed Up

I’ll say it: Right-wing mobs are way scarier than left-wing mobs. It seems like the British government agrees, but are we all victims of our own biases? Or is there really something true about it?

The Asia Bibi story is terrifying. If you haven’t been following, it concerns a Christian woman in Pakistan who was convicted of blasphemy for drinking out of a water jug used by Muslim women. After surviving calls for her execution and serving several years in prison, her sentence was thrown out recently.

Under threats against her life, Bibi’s family has requested asylum in countries such as the UK. To the dismay of some critics, the government dithered, wondering if saving Bibi would harm UK/Pakistan relations.

So here is our question this morning: Are right-wing mobs like the ones calling for Bibi’s head scarier in general than left-wing mobs?

Consider the following recent examples: Last year, in Charlottesville, Virginia, a “pro-white” mob marched in support of neo-Confederate values. In the fracas, a right-winger killed a counterprotester with a car.

Of course, we’ve seen other frightening mobs recently from the other side of our culture wars. At Middlebury College, for example, protesters in masks accosted and physically threatened Charles Murray and a member of the Middlebury faculty. At Evergreen State College, protesters shouted down faculty who disagreed with their plans for a campus-wide boycott. Perhaps most dramatically, masked left-wingers swept through Berkeley last year to shut down a right-wing protest.

We could go on and on. Conservative pundits such as Tucker Carlson have lamented their abuse at the hands of chanting leftist mobs. From the other side, Christine Blasey Ford—the woman who accused new SCOTUS Justice Brett Kavanaugh of sexual assault—has had to move four times, hire private security, and give up her job.

To this reporter, though, the two sides don’t seem the same. Threats from the right seem far more deadly than those from the left. Maybe it’s because in the USA, the right is the side of guns and absolute values. The right is the side of “Fightin Side of Me.” The left, on the other hand, is the side of hippies and self-empowerment. It is the side of skepticism and postgraduate degrees.

I know those are just stupid stereotypes and we can think of plenty of counter examples. For instance, soccer hooligans cause far more mob havoc than do NASCAR fans.

Still…is it only my bias, or is there really something more frightening about right-wing mob violence?

If It’s Been Worse, Will It Get Better?

It’s not all that comforting, really. But as historians and old people with good memories know, today’s violent political climate is depressingly not new. With synagogue shootings and Trump-fueled mail bombings, it’s hard not to panic. Yet Andrew Bacevich thinks there is some grounds for wary optimism. Should we agree?

We don’t need to go all the way back to the earliest days of our nation when rebels took up arms against the fledgling federal government. We don’t even need to go back to the ugliest days of American political history, when a US Congressman beat a US Senator into a coma on the floor of the US Senate. No, we only need to remember events in our lifetimes (for those of us of a certain age). In the 1970s, political bombings were a regular feature of American life.

economis political violence

Comforting? …or terrifying?

Whatever your political beliefs, there’s no doubt that the left-wing violence of the groups such as the Weather Underground in the 1970s threatened the fabric of American civil life. As Bacevich points out, back then the left succumbed to a despairing, violent “nihilism.” The Weather Underground issued a call to

Amerika’s youth to use our strategic position behind enemy lines to join forces in the destruction of the empire.


Public Enemy #1

They tried, but they failed. And Bacevich hopes today’s alt-right will sputter as well. As he puts it,

The ebb and flow of events in the 1960s should give us confidence that the center will ultimately hold. The market for ecstasy and violence will once more prove to be limited and transitory. Today’s alt-right is no more likely to win the support of ordinary Americans than did the Weather Underground during the infamous Days of Rage.

I’d like to agree, but I admit I’m skeptical. I get nervous when I see our President ejecting journalists from the White House on trumped-up accusations. I get nervous when elections return avowed neo-Confederates to office—in Iowa of all places.

What do you think? Do you share Bacevich’s cautious optimism? Or do you think that Norman Mailer’s ‘“subterranean river of untapped, ferocious, lonely and romantic desires,” expressing the “concentration of ecstasy and violence which is the dream life of the nation”’ will overwhelm its banks one time too many?

I Love You but You Didn’t Do the Reading

Top ILYBYGTH-themed stories from the past week:

Wait…what? Can Trump eliminate birthright citizenship? HNN collected historians’ comments.

How have textbooks portrayed climate change? At TC.

It’s not college that frightens conservatives, it’s just the wrong type of college–a conservative plea for more evangelical colleges, at NR.

If anything, we should be sending more students to college — opening up further avenues of funding, both public and private, even as we pursue policies that might lower tuition or challenge the progressive domination of our campuses. Colleges will have to change, to be sure, but in the meantime conservatives would be wise not only to celebrate but to actively advance the interests of those institutions that are educating students properly right now.

Diversity training is good, says Eboo Patel at CHE. But why doesn’t it include religion?

What’s the deal with “messianic Judaism?” Neil J. Young describes the unique meanings at HuffPost.

When did evangelicals get involved in politics? Clyde Haberman tells the old myth about the 1970s at NYT.

The new digital divide, at NYT.

It could happen that the children of poorer and middle-class parents will be raised by screens, while the children of Silicon Valley’s elite will be going back to wooden toys and the luxury of human interaction.

Atheism in America: A review essay in the New Yorker.

The radical-creationist view on climate change: It’s not a shame, it’s not a crisis…it’s a sin, at AIG.

How many people really believe in a flat earth? NCSE’s Glenn Branch takes another whack at the poll numbers, at SA.

Class war or culture war? The divide in the Democratic Party, at Politico.

Ocasio-Cortez, the young Latina who proudly identifies as a democratic socialist, hadn’t been all but vaulted into Congress by the party’s diversity, or a blue-collar base looking to even the playing field. She won because she had galvanized the college-educated gentrifiers who are displacing those people. . . . Energized liberals, largely college-educated or beyond, have been voting in a new breed of activist Democrat—and voting out more established candidates with strong support among the party’s largely minority, immigrant, Hispanic, African-American and non-college-educated base.

Have schools become a “Constitution-free zone?” Interview with Justin Driver at Slate.

Academia as a cult at WaPo. HT: MM.

Three Things that Have Nothing to Do with Evolution (that Have Everything to Do with Evolution)

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I just don’t care. Not just in a passive, lazy way, but in an aggressive, assertive, in-your-face sense. When it comes to creationism and evolution education, I insist on not caring if people think the earth came from Yahweh 6,000 years ago, a raven in the distant past, or a flying spaghetti monster.

Judy Garland Bfd GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

If we want to make progress in our tired old creation/evolution war, I’m arguing in my new book, we all have to stop caring about those things. We have to stop thinking it is our business if students have the correct religious beliefs about evolutionary theory. So if a conservative evangelical pastor tells me that he can put evangelical theology first and still embrace mainstream evolutionary theory, I’m all for it. Not because his theology is correct, because I don’t care about that.

In this case, the pastor is Todd Wilson. He took to the pages of the BioLogos Forum to explain his method for bridging the angry divide between young-earth creationists and evolutionary creationists. All evangelicals, the Rev. Wilson argues, can agree on some faith basics:

1. The Bible, both Old and New Testaments, is the Word of God, inspired and authoritative. Therefore whatever Scripture teaches is to be believed as God’s instruction, without denying that the human authors of Scripture communicate using the cultural conventions of their time. . . .

2. Christians should be well-grounded in the Bible’s teaching on creation but always hold their views with humility, respecting the convictions of others and not aggressively advocating for positions on which Evangelicals disagree. . . .

3. Everything in creation finds its source, goal and meaning in Jesus Christ, in whom the whole of creation will one day achieve eschatological redemption and renewal. All things will be united in him, things in heaven and things on earth.

What do these ideas have to do with evolutionary theory? Nothing, in one sense. They are all about evangelical theology, not evolutionary science. On the other hand, these ideas might hold the key to evolution education in the United States.

The Rev. Wilson hopes that he can use these points to connect better with different types of evangelical creationists. Young-earth creationists, old-earthers, evolutionary creationists, intelligent designers…all of them disagree with one another, sometimes with great vituperation.

Is his theology correct? I have no idea, and this is where those of us watching these battles from the outside should cultivate an awkward and principled indifference. Speaking in terms of public policy, we just shouldn’t care WHAT people believe about creation. What we should always do is help people develop a thorough and meaningful knowledge about evolutionary theory. What they choose to believe about it is not a question public schools can care about.

It is not—it should not be—the purview of the public schools to encourage or discourage students from having any particular religious beliefs. It IS the goal of public schools to teach students the best of everything.

Combined, those two goals mean we should teach mainstream evolutionary theory to all students. And we should be painfully aware not to step into the regions trod by the Rev. Wilson. If his young-earth creationist congregants want to believe that the Bible is the “inspired and authoritative” Word of God, that’s fine. If they want their children to believe that their religion dictates a belief in a young earth, that’s fine too.

Is Wilson right? Not only don’t we care, we shouldn’t care. We should not involve ourselves in big-picture religious beliefs that touch on questions of speciation and evolutionary theory.

Jim Carrey I Dont Care GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY