When Trumpism Goes (Anti)-Viral

Sometimes it is difficult to argue that religious conservatives aren’t simply anti-science. When it comes to news about coronavirus, for example, conservatives from Trump on down are making kooky claims. Why?

Let’s back up a minute first. When it comes to big questions like evolution/creationism and climate change, conservatives have a hundred-year history as the anti-science side. However, as I’m arguing in my new book about creationism (cover art updates coming soon), it has never been a fair accusation. Religious conservatives have always loved capital-s Science. They just haven’t trusted the scientists who have usurped control over it.

With Trumpism ascendant, however, I’m wondering how long conservatives can maintain their fingertip-grasp on scientific legitimacy. Perhaps most religious conservatives would share my scorn for the latest batch of hooey coming from a few conservative preachers.

For example, who in their right mind could endorse Jim Bakker’s snake-oil claims? No thinking person—conservative or otherwise—would take Bakker’s claim about his magical “silver solution” seriously, even when he claims it eliminates coronaviruses.

And it will be tempting for thoughtful conservatives to pooh-pooh the exalted exhalations of preachers such as Omaha’s Hank Kunneman. On February 9, Kunneman prophesied that Trumpism had kept America safe from the coronavirus. As Kunneman said,

Listen to the words that I speak to you at this moment, says the Living God. Why do you fear, United States? For I have spoke to you before, and I speak to you again. I have extended and opened a window of mercy to this nation at this time. Therefore the virus that they speak of, the prognostication, the diagnosis—my mercy is the quarantine that shall be greater than what they have spoken to you, United States.

Because of the administration that stands in this land, who honors me, who honors the covenants of your forefathers and of the Constitution, and because they have aligned themselves with Israel, and because they have sided on the right side of life—life in the womb, life given outside of the womb—therefore I give life to this nation, and I give mercy. Do not fear this virus, says the Spirit of God.

I know plenty of intelligent conservatives who would shake their heads at this sort of anti-scientific mumbo-jumbo. Lots of conservative religious people will tell you that their religious beliefs do not put them at odds with science. They will say that there is no need to pretend that “Science” and “Religion” are opposed to one another. And for what it’s worth, I think they are right. There’s no need for conservatives to discredit science in order to prove their religious bona fides.

In Trump’s America, however, the mumbo-jumbo has taken over at the top. When it comes to things like coronavirus, Trump has unleashed the full deadweight of his anti-scientific worldview. Recently, he told a group of governors,

The virus that we’re talking about having to do, a lot of people think that goes away in April, with the heat, as the heat comes in, typically that will go away in April.

Trump’s current blast of anti-science is nothing new. Back when he was a private citizen, he was already fond of over-tweeting his aversion to scientific knowledge. When it came to Ebola, for example, Trump famously warned against readmitting exposed medical workers and a patient to the United States. Trump did not seem to care that the Ebola virus had already come to the US by 2014, with several safe labs studying it.

trump ebola 2014Heedless of science, convinced of his own superior knowledge, Trump might just be trashing the careful, difficult work of generations of religious conservatives. For a hundred years now, thoughtful conservatives have worked hard to overthrow popular misconceptions. Conservatives have labored to convince America that they are not anti-science even though they are pro-God. With a few tweets, Trump seems to have tipped the scales once again, tying conservatism and religion to a crude anti-scientific outlook.

Dumped Chumps Plumped for Trump*

I admit it—I’m out of touch. I’ve been spending most of my time lately in the 1820s, so when I heard the news I thought I had just missed something. When I saw that Trump had proposed cutting federal funding for charter schools, I was totally surprised. Turns out I wasn’t the only one.

Trump and devos

–Did you do the reading? –I did not.

Here’s what we know: Trump’s new proposed budget makes big changes in ed policy. The overall proposal would cut about eight percent in education financing. Most surprising, the cuts include a total elimination of the federal Charter Schools Program. Last year alone, according to Chalkbeat, big charter networks such as KIPP and IDEA scored big grants through that program, $86 million and $116 million, respectively.

That’s not a huge chunk of the federal ed budget, but this switch still seems like a surprising symbolic turnaround. And if hasty straw twitter polling is any measure, it seems as if top ed scholars and pundits also found the proposal surprising.

Will the budget proposal matter? Most likely, it will not survive as proposed. But it marks another dramatic change in the politics of charter schools. As SAGLRROILYBYGTH are painfully aware, one of the big surprises of 2020 has been the dramatic political realignment we’ve seen on the issue of charter schools. Not so long ago, Democratic contenders such as Senator Warren were big fans of charters and even vouchers. Once charters and choice became the signature issue of Queen Betsy, Democrats dropped them. Even St. Obama voiced some urbane skepticism about the ideology of the “reform” movement.

And now this. Charter school advocates found themselves forced to support Trump as the only game in town, only to have that support yanked away.

What does it mean? Maybe DeVos is hoping to open more space for vouchers and other programs. Or maybe—like with their major goof about the kid from Philly—the Trump administration simply hasn’t thought this proposal all the way through. Maybe they just saw a chance to cut the budget and that was enough.

                                                               *So sorry about this headline. I just couldn’t help myself.

I Love You but You Didn’t Do the Reading

What did you miss this week? Trump bashing public schools? Catholic colleges loving LGBTQ students? The latest on “Satanic pregnancies?” It’s all here in our weekly news round up. Plus Kobe Bryant, John Whitcomb Jr., our next Ed Secretary, and Tennessee’s bad plan for funding schools.

Trump talks education at SOTU.

Only snobs would sneer at Paula White’s call to miscarry “Satanic pregnancies,” says DF.

remember that Pentecostal Christianity was born out of America’s poor and working-class communities—people who feel the tremendous, grinding weight of poverty, of addiction, of oppression—and it is sweeping through the global south in communities who face many of these same challenges. These people are not privileged. They don’t have the power and confidence of America’s prosperous Christian class. The Holy Spirit bursts into their lives like a supernova of hope.

How should Catholic colleges treat LGBTQ students? At America.

How can Catholic colleges respond to the needs of L.G.B.T. people? It is often a contentious topic. But it need not be. Because at heart it is about something that Jesuits call cura personalis: care for the whole person, care for the L.G.B.T. person.

Who might be the next Secretary of Education? At EdWeek.

Some you’ve probably heard of, like Jerry Falwell Jr., Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, Deval Patrick of Massachusetts and Tony Evers of Wisconsin. But others you probably haven’t.

Who was the late Kobe Bryant’s biggest inspiration? His English teacher. At WBUR.

Tennessee’s Governor Mike Lee announces new $$$ for schools.

Not so fast: Fifth Third Bank reverses its decision to pull out of scholarship program, at OS. It seems they’re back in after receiving assurances that none of their $$$ would go directly to anti-LGBTQ schools.

Fifth Third said Friday that it changed its views based on “detailed conversations” with the AAA Scholarship Foundation, which administers some of the program. The bank said that the foundation had agreed to “develop a roadmap to help parents navigate the school selection and application process.”

RIP Dr. John Whitcomb Jr. I’m no creationist, but there is no denying the long-lasting influence of Whitcomb’s work. It was Whitcomb more than his more-famous co-author Henry Morris who sparked the rise of young-earth creationism in the 1960s.

Franklin Graham: Anti-Gay Not OK in UK

The historical parallels are piling up. This week, conservative evangelist Franklin Graham has been booted from all eight venues of an upcoming revival sweep of the UK. I know it’s not simply the same, but I can’t help but notice the parallels to 1925, when young-earth creationists were laughed out of London. Will the results from back then repeat themselves?President Trump Holds Rally In Phoenix, Arizona

Here’s what we know: Due to pressure from LGBTQ groups, Franklin Graham’s contracts have been canceled for his planned preaching tour of the UK. He had planned eight stops, but all of the venues have pulled out. The tour might still go on if organizers from the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association can find new venues.

Over the past few years, Graham the younger has attracted a lot of criticism for his anti-LGBTQ statements. He has called gay people “wicked, evil people,” accused them of causing a “moral 9-11,” and praised Vladimir Putin’s anti-gay laws.

As we’ve wondered on this blog recently, will the future of anti-LGBTQ Christianity echo the anti-evolution past?

Back in 1925, after all, as the Scopes trial was generating headlines worldwide, young-earth creationist pundit George McCready Price suffered the worst humiliation of his long career. In a London debate on the question “Is Evolution True,” Price found himself heckled mercilessly. He tried to present his case about the scientific obliviousness of evolution. As Price put it,

We are making scientific history very fast these days; and the specialist in some corner of science who keeps on humming a little tune to himself, quietly ignoring all this modern evidence against Evolution, is simply living in a fools’ paradise.  He will soon be so far behind that he will wake up some fine morning and find that he needs an introduction to the modern scientific world.

The audience would have none of it.  They booed him; he was unable to finish the debate. He retreated from the stage and never again debated evolution in public. As he fled, he offered this final plea to the London crowd:

I only ask you, Ladies and Gentlemen, to read both sides of the case.  Do not confine your reading wholly to one side.  How can you know anything about a certain subject if you read only one side of the case?  There is plenty of evidence on the other side, and this evidence is gradually coming out.

The parallels go beyond the UK backdrop. Back in 1925, George McCready Price was still trying to defend his vision of science as the better one. As have his followers ever since, Price never attacked science. Instead, he insisted that his radical young-earth creationism was a better form of science. By 1925, however, at least in this London venue, people weren’t having it.

Similarly, Franklin Graham still refuses to admit that his views on sexuality are anti-LGBTQ. As he explained recently,

Some people have said I am going to bring hateful speech to the UK, but this couldn’t be further from the truth.

In the past, Graham has insisted that his opposition to same-sex marriage was not anti-LGBTQ. As he told one reporter,

I’m not homophobic, I’m not against gay or lesbian people. They are free to live however they want to live, but I believe God makes it very clear that marriage is between a man and a woman.

So not only is Graham following the 1920s anti-evolution path by getting booted from UK venues, but also by finding himself suddenly outside the circle of polite society. Like George McCready Price a century ago, Graham has found that definitions are changing fast. Not very long ago, it was considered acceptable to oppose same-sex marriage, even by leading Democrats. Now, his position has classified Graham as a “hate preacher,” no longer fit for public support.

What happened back then? George McCready Price never again debated, but he did not give up. He devoted himself to founding organizations devoted to spreading young-earth creationism. One of them, the Deluge Geology Society, eventually succeeded beyond Price’s wildest dreams. Its members included a young engineer, Henry Morris, who in 1961 would publish a book that would bring radical young-earth creationism to vast new American audiences.

After an awkward period of struggle, in which conservatives tried to maintain mainstream respectability for their ideas, radical anti-evolution creationists instead created their own network of radical institutions outside the mainstream. Will we see that happen again this century? Will a UK rejection lead once again to a USA transformation?

“Failing Government Schools:” the Next Page in Trump’s Playbook

By and large, people like them. Why would President Trump attack them? He has scored some victories by backing extremist views. Will it work with schools, too?

Here’s what we know: In his State of the Union speech, Trump took the highly unusual step of criticizing public schools as “failing government schools.” Why would he do that? By and large, public schools are enormously popular with Americans. Yes, people tend to agree that the nation’s schools as a whole have problems, but huge majorities (65%-77%) give their kids’ schools an “A” or “B.”

gallup kids schoolsNot only that, but public schools have a unique place in America’s vision of itself. For a long time now, as Jonathan Zimmerman explored, Americans have considered their local public school a central part of their community.zimmerman small wonder

Traditionally, presidents and other national leaders like to set themselves up as defenders of the public schools. It seems like a bad move for Trump to attack them, like pitting himself against baseball. Or apple pie. Or motherhood.

Will Trump’s attack on public schools hurt him? With normal politicians, I’d think so. But Trump has made a presidential career out of embracing non-mainstream views.

Remember Charlottesville? Most politicians would have denounced a racist, murderous, extremist march. But Trump said there were “very fine people on both sides.”

america school heiderich 1897

What Trump is now against. (c. 1897)

And as a few historians discussed yesterday on Twitter, the phrase “government schools” has a long and tangled history. Back in the 1950s, it was used by a few libertarians such as Milton Friedman. It was also the language used by white supremacists in the South to denounce integration. By the 1970s and 1980s, it had become the language used by a certain type of extreme religious conservative.

By adopting the rhetoric of “failing government schools,” President Trump has once again upended presidential tradition. Instead of trying to represent a respectable, staid, traditional middle, he has taken on the position of extremist, aggrieved conservative outsiders.

Will it work? Four years ago, I would have said no. So far, though, it has been Trump’s go-to move. As the head of the government, attacking “government schools” makes no sense. It alienates large portions of the voting populace. But it also motivates and encourages a small group of outsiders and extremists, people who hadn’t considered themselves welcome in 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue before 2016.

Common Sense in School Reform: Too Common by Far

When you hear it out loud, it sounds so obvious it’s hard to imagine how anyone could disagree. When Diane Ravitch called recently for a return to “common sense” in education policy, it seemed like an obvious winner. Yet as Ravitch knows as well as anyone, sensible school reform has always been incredibly difficult to pull off. Why? It’s not because “common sense” is uncommon. Rather, it’s because the things that make sense in schools are often directly opposed to one another.slaying goliath

Ravitch was plugging her new book, Slaying Goliath. In her short piece at Time, she lambasted the “Bush-Obama-Trump” idea of high-stakes testing as an educational panacea. It didn’t work. It wasn’t ever going to work. Instead, Ravitch wrote, we need to return to “reforms that work.” They aren’t mysterious. As Ravitch put it,

Children and schools need stability, not disruption. They need experienced teachers and well-maintained schools. All children need schools that have a nurse, counselors, and a library with a librarian. Children need time to play every day. They need nutrition and regular medical check-ups.

All of this is common sense.

It’s hard to disagree. So why are these common-sense reforms so difficult to achieve? The first and most obvious explanation is the oldest story in American school reform. Yes, people want good schools, but they always want to do it on the cheap.

But it’s not just cheapness. Even when reformers have been willing to put money into it, school reform has suffered from an over-abundance of common sense. Ravitch’s vision of common-sense reform is obviously true, but too often, so is its opposite.

I think the late David Tyack and Larry Cuban put it best in 1997 in their book Tinkering Toward Utopia. America’s schools have always carried heavy expectations—expectations that often contradicted one another.tyack cuban tinkering

As Tyack and Cuban wrote, schools have always been expected to combine the uncombinable. As they put it, schools have been expected

to socialize [children] to be obedient, yet to teach them to be critical thinkers;
to pass on the best academic knowledge that the past has to offer, yet also to teach marketable and practical skills;
to cultivate cooperation, yet to teach students to compete with one another in school and later in life;
to stress basic skills but also to encourage creativity and higher-order thinking;
to focus on the academic ‘basics’ yet to permit a wide range of choice of courses.

Why don’t more schools and more education policy-makers recognize the obvious truth of Ravitch’s call for common sense? It’s not because common sense is uncommon, but because there are too many competing common-senses out there.

For a lot of Americans, it’s common sense to think that high-stakes tests will be a good measure of school effectiveness.

  • But it’s also common sense to notice that one-size-fits-all tests won’t work with America’s diverse educational landscape.

For a lot of Americans, it’s common sense to assume that more school choices will be good for families.

  • But it’s also common sense that creating competing schools will divert scarce tax dollars away from hard-up public schools.

We could go on all day. For every obvious reform, there has always been an equally plausible yet opposite reform. In the end we don’t suffer from a lack of common sense. We suffer from a lack of agreement about which common sense actually makes sense for our children.

Why Do Ed Leaders Keep Trying to Repackage Old Garbage? TN Edition

Does it count as an innovative “disruption” when politicians repackage the oldest failed idea in public education financing? This time we’re talking about Tennessee Governor Bill Lee. Lee is trying to sell it as a bold new idea, but it’s really the oldest idea in public education.

Here’s what we know: Governor Lee promised to increase funding for public schools. He wants to increase teacher pay and provide more mental-health counselors for schools. So far, so good.

The problem comes when Governor Lee explained his plan to pay for these improvements. He wants to engage in what he calls “disruption” of traditional public funding models. The old methods didn’t work, Lee said, so it was time for “extraordinarily different inputs.”

What’s wrong with that? As I argued in the Washington Post about Secretary DeVos’s similar call for new approaches to school funding, this “new definition of public education” is anything but new. In fact, as I’m finding in the research for my new book about the roots of American public ed, the system we have grew out of the inadequacies of mixing private and public funding.

Back in the 1820s, cities such as Baltimore, Philadelphia, Cincinnati, and New York thought they could provide tuition-free public education for all children by mixing funding streams. They appealed to philanthropists to cough up money for this worthy cause.

It didn’t work. The money was never enough. School leaders were caught in a desperate, recurring bind. Every year, they had to plead with both legislators and philanthropists to provide enough money for basic services. Because the old system was so obviously inadequate, they successfully pushed for full public funding, enough to cover school costs.

With hindsight, the problems seem obvious. It seems obviously difficult to predict how many wealthy people will decide to give how much money for public schools.

What really stumps me is how so many leading politicians these days—it’s not only Secretary DeVos and Governor Lee—seem devoted to stubbornly ignoring those obvious lessons from our past. Not only that, they try to sell this old, failed model as a bold new program, an exciting innovation.

It almost seems as if people who don’t know their own histories are doomed to repeat them.

I Love You but You Didn’t Do the Reading

Okay, so leaving aside the fact that Kansas City is apparently not in Kansas anymore, here were a couple of the big ILYBYGTH-themed news stories from last week. We’ve got more about school desegregation, Liberty U seceding, vouchers, and LGBTQ+:

School desegregation plans meet fierce opposition from affluent white and Asian parents, at AP.

I heard a lot of things said during these meetings which sounded almost verbatim like the things that were said in the ’50s and ’60s and ’70s to prevent the integration of schools in Richmond and around the country.

VA redistricting meetingNew from Falwell: A new plan to secede from Virginia and join West Virginia. At RNS.

“Many counties (in Virginia) are taking a long hard look at escaping the barbaric, totalitarian and corrupt Democratic regime that is trampling on individual rights throughout the state,” Falwell said.

It’s getting harder and harder to oppose full rights for LGBTQ+: Fifth Third Bank announces it will no longer donate to a Florida charter-school program. Why? Because some schools were accused of anti-LGBTQ bias. At FlaPol.

Larry Cuban: What tech can’t do in classrooms.

no piece of software, portfolio of apps, or learning management system can replace teachers simply because teaching is a helping profession like medicine and psychotherapy. Helping professions are completely dependent upon interactions with patients, clients, and students for success. . . . Designers and entrepreneurs overestimate their product’s power to make change and underestimate the power of organizations to keep things as they are.

Making the case for Espinoza, at L&L.

It is not unreasonable for the Montana Supreme Court to conclude that the state’s scholarship program violates the state’s Blaine Amendment, but there is every reason to conclude that the State’s Blaine Amendment violates the Free Exercise Clause. States should not be able to discriminate on the basis of religion unless they have a compelling reason to do so, and there is certainly no compelling reason in this case.

The weird politics of religious discrimination in today’s SCOTUS, at Atlantic.

But for Montana, to hear conservative justices tell it, the sin of religious bigotry is the mark of Cain, a stain that can never be completely washed out. The state’s educational system must be changed at once to atone for the 1889 no-aid provision. In fact, its guilt is so profound that it must revive a defunct school-scholarship program that included religious schools.

The new (old) eugenicism, at AS.

[Bret] Stephens’s line of argument displays a particularly problematic use of science (or at least an appeal to scientific authority) as a tool to justify specious claims. . . . The problems with Stephens’s column go well beyond the questionable scientific merit of a cherry-picked article. Much more troubling is the invocation of science as a neutral arbiter of truths about race and intelligence.

moral defectives shapiroWhen colleges combine, will non-Christian faculty be purged? At NYT.

Swirling Round the Superbowl

Okay, nerds, here are some greatest Superbowl hits from the ILYBYGTH archives so you can feel involved in today’s festivities.

jesus_football

…to the ten…to the five…JESUS CHRIST with the TOUCHDOWN!!!!!

1.) What’s the deal with football and fundamentalism? Liberty University’s coaching hire last year had us all wondering once again what really matters at evangelical universities.

2.) The teams aren’t the same, but this culture-war drinking game idea from 2015 should still work.

3.) Why is school reform pricier than two entire Superbowls? The question came up back in August, 2017, but it is still sort of depressing.

4.) Tommy Brady and Bill Belichick help explain why school reform is so difficult.

Song of the Day

For no particular reason, here’s our Song of the Day. Enjoy!