I Love You but You Didn’t Do the Reading

Hard to believe another week has come and gone so fast. It has been difficult to keep tabs on all the ILYBYGTH-related stories out there. Here are a few that SAGLRROILYGYBTH might find interesting:

If you were the principal, what would YOU do? This South Carolina teacher got suspended for having her kids defend the Klan. HT: MM

Five Wheaton College students face charges in a violent hazing assault, as reported by the Chicago Tribune.

Ben Shapiro on the problem with college protesters, the “idol of self.”

What should a science booster-club leader do when a parent questions his religious beliefs? One story from the National Center for Science Education.

Did the right wing come from outer space? David Auerbach looks at the sci-fi roots of radical conservatism.Bart reading bible

“More…than just big hair and money.” An interview with John Wigger, author of a new history of Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker.

What are historians saying about Ken Burns’ and Lynn Novick’s new Vietnam War documentary? At HNN, Professor Bob Buzzanco offers a few criticisms.

What do standardized history tests tell us? Not so much, argues Sam Wineburg and his colleagues.

Why so few conservative professors? George Yancey says there’s more to it than self-selection.

A portrait of a culture-war powerhouse: Daniel Bennett on the history of conservative legal activists Alliance Defending Freedom.

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I Love You but You Didn’t Do the Reading

Leaves are falling and campus speakers are speaking. What else is going on out there? Here’s our ILYBYGTH collection of stories of interest:

Almost two-thirds of colleges/universities missed their enrollment targets this year.

The Wall Street Journal agrees with Ed Stetzer. There is no call for anxiety about religious judges or other officials, they note.

Ben bucks Berkeley boos: What happened when Ben Shapiro brought his in-your-face conservatism to California?

What does it mean for a public school to be “public?” Sarah M. Stitzlein of the University of Cincinnati wonders in the pages of EdWeek.Bart reading bible

“Is this heaven?” Some Iowa schools lock bad kids away in “little dungeons,” from The Progressive.

Should we defend Professor Wax’s right to be wrong? That’s Jonathan Zimmerman’s argument at IHE.

Across the (other) pond: South Korean ministry nominee and professor of engineering testifies about his belief in a young earth.

Free-Marketeer Arthur Brooks in the NYT: Universities need to “form communities that do not just tolerate conservatives but actively embrace ideological diversity.”

Is fundamentalism roaring back? John Fea looks askance at recent developments at Southern Baptist Seminary.

Who blocks campus speakers? A reminder from IHE that progressive speakers are being shouted down, too.

Why Campus Free Speech Laws Won’t Free Campus Speech

We’ve been down this road before. When conservative lawmakers hope to protect the right of conservative speakers on college campuses these days, they rehash a tactic from the 1920s evolution/creation battles.

shapiro-by_katie_cooney_720

Conservative pundit Ben Shapiro speaks freely at the University of Wisconsin.

Will it work this time? Not a chance. Why not? I lay out my argument this morning at History News Network. Click on over and check it out.

Free Speech Firestorm Jumps the Creationist Gap

Everyone supports free speech. But these days, academic “free speech” has become the latest creationist tactic to wedge creation-friendly science into schools. Mostly, that has been a K-12 effort, but it seems like creationist tactics have piggybacked their way into higher education.

The latest incarnation comes from the University of Wisconsin. Conservative lawmakers have promoted a bill to protect free speech on campus. To be fair, the conservatives who push Wisconsin’s bill insist that it has nothing to do with classroom topics, creationist or otherwise. The target, they insist, are leftist radicals who won’t allow conservative speakers on campus.

Wisconsin free speech

Let creationism ring?!!?!???

In Wisconsin’s case, the headline-grabbing incident was a talk by conservative pundit Ben Shapiro. In November 2016, Shapiro was shouted down for about twenty minutes before campus police kicked out the shouting protesters. Conservative lawmakers hope their bill will guarantee a balanced ideological environment; an infusion of conservative ideas on campus. The bill is patterned after other campus free-speech bills, inspired by the Goldwater Institute in Phoenix.

To this reporter, though, it seems like the current higher-ed furor over free speech has leaped the curricular gap. Here’s what I worry about: Campus free-speech efforts will be used to protect the “free speech” of creationists and other conservative folks locked out of mainstream science. Attempts to box out creationist ideas will be stymied.

Full disclosure: I can’t even pretend to be neutral on this one. I love my alma mater and I quake at the notion that lawmakers would pass any sort of law demanding or prohibiting certain forms of teaching. It’s not just an intellectual or political thing, either. If big granting organizations such as the National Science Foundation or the National Institutes of Health think UW is shackled by creationist science, they will be less likely to fund UW-based projects. Alumni will shy away from sending in donations. Students will be less likely to bring their tuition dollars. In short, the possible negative ramifications of a move like this could be huge.

But at this point, my dear SAGLRROILYBYGTH, you may be asking yourself a smart question: What does this conservative political move to welcome conservative speakers have to do with creationism?

First, the background: For years now, creationists have pushed for “academic freedom” bills in K-12 schools. The idea is to protect teachers and students from harassment or discrimination if they choose to voice their creationist ideas. Seattle’s Intelligent-Design mavens at Discovery Institute, for example, have offered the following language in their “academic-freedom” petition:

Teachers should be protected from being fired, harassed, intimidated, or discriminated against for objectively presenting the scientific strengths and weaknesses of Darwinian theory. Students should be protected from being harassed, intimidated, or discriminated against for expressing their views about the scientific strengths and weaknesses of Darwinian theory in an appropriate manner.

The idea is to mandate the intellectual rights of creationists in K-12 schools, to protect teachers and students from any sort of negative reaction to their zombie science. If successful, these bills put science education in a legal gray area. A school can’t insist on teaching mainstream science. Teachers can’t insist that students learn it.

We’ve seen glimmers of this sort of creationist “academic freedom” dispute in higher ed, too. Remember Eric Hedin at Ball State? He earned tenure after facing charges of preaching intelligent design. Or Mark Armitage at Cal State Northridge? He successfully sued after facing discrimination for his creationist publications.

The Wisconsin bill, however, introduces a new element to these creationist “academic freedom” battles in higher education. According to Madison’s Capital Times, the bill’s sponsor is a convinced young-earth creationist. His bill would create a Council on Free Expression. Creationist students who feel persecuted could file complaints with this Council.

In the give-and-take in the Wisconsin legislature, skeptical Representative Terese Berceau questioned Jesse Kremer, the bill’s sponsor, on this question. What if, Berceau asked, a student in a geology class argued that the earth was only 6,000 years old?

“Is it okay for the professor to tell them they’re wrong?” Berceau asked during the lengthy session on May 11.

“The earth is 6,000 years old,” Kremer offered.  “That’s a fact.”

Representative Kremer insisted the new law would not affect classroom discussions. But he affirmed that a creationist student—any student—who felt discriminated against could take his or her complaint to the Council on Free Expression.

Again, I know I’m not thinking clearly and calmly on this one. I’m nervous about the possible ramifications of Kremer’s bill and I’m likely to make creationist mountains out of conservative molehills.

Am I being overly paranoid? Or will conservative free-speech bills end up giving creationist students in college the ability to jam up the works of mainstream science classes? Will efforts to set up an intellectual preserve for conservative ideas on campus end up giving creationists more control over college classes? And, most important, will that new creationist influence stymie the mainstream science that usually goes on in Madison?

Keeping the “Fun” in Fundamentalism

How many Fundamentalists does it take to change a lightbulb? [*Answer below.]

Since the beginning of American fundamentalism in the 1920s, fundamentalism has had an image of a group that could not take a joke. H.L. Mencken, one of the first–and still best–critics of fundamentalism, defined fundamentalism, like Puritanism, as the haunting fear that someone, somewhere, may be having a good time.

The image of dour fundamentalists remains powerful, with popular representations such as the fun-hating father in Footloose.

That’s not funny.

It has long been a temptation for conservatives to take on comedians for irreverence and political buffoonery.  TV shows such as Family Guy have repeatedly come under fire for their offensive sexual and political jokes.  Here, for example, Ben Shapiro and David Menzies accuse Family Guy of un-funny anti-Tea Party animus.  More recently, the aggressive Catholic conservative William Donohue of the Catholic League has worked to get a retraction by Jon Stewart of some contraception jokes.As announced in the Religion News Service, conservative Cardinal Tom Dolan of New York hopes to change that.  He will be appearing alongside Catholic comedian Stephen Colbert in a panel on September 14 at Fordham University in the Bronx.

The goal of the panel, “Humor, Joy, and the Spiritual Life,” is to explore the meanings of humor as a ministry.

Can a fundamentalist be funny?  New York Magazine listed a few of “Cardinal Rimshot’s” zingers since moving to his influential post in New York:

“They asked me when I got here, ‘Are you Cardinals, Mets, Brewers, or Yankees?’ And I said, ‘When it comes to baseball, I think I can be pro-choice.’
—To 60 Minutes

“New York has grown on me.”
—Describing his first year in the city, while patting his midsection, per the Times

“You’re the only people who never leave Mass early.”
—To inmates at Bedford Hills Correctional Facility, on why he loves ministering to prisoners, per the Associated Press

“The only cardinal I wanted to be growing up was Stan Musial.”
—To Matt Lauer on the Today show

“I’m at a Steak ’n’ Shake. What do I order?”
—Dolan, calling his diet doctor, as recounted in the Daily News

“Go away, Lord. I’m not your man. My Spanish is lousy and my English not much better.”
—On his reaction to being moved from Milwaukee to New York, at a 2009 St. Patrick’s Cathedral service

“I am going to give these to a hungry person. Namely me at about four o’clock.”
—On being given a box of French pastries, as quoted in the Times

“I might have to rent a space and a half.”
—To 60 Minutes while touring the crypt of the archbishops of New York beneath St. Patrick’s Cathedral

“My first pastoral letter’s gonna be a condemnation of light beer and instant mashed potatoes.”
—On Sirius XM Radio’s Catholic channel

“I’ll answer any questions—except about my taxes.”
—At a Fordham University press conference in the midst of the Mitt Romney tax-return controversy

But what is Dolan’s boss’s attitude toward humor?
“I’m not a man who constantly thinks up jokes.”
—Pope Benedict XVI

Will this collection of self-deprecating fat jokes and white-bread baseball jokes be able to hold its own against Colbert’s famously incisive wit?  We at ILYBYGTH can’t wait to find out.

* So how many Fundamentalists does it take to change a light bulb? Take your pick:

  • None, fundamentalists don’t believe in change.
  • None, God will change the lightbulb if it is part of His plan.
  • Four, unless there is a slave woman present, in which case they can’t eat pig. (Leviticus 11:4-7).

Okay, so maybe those aren’t so good. Anyone got something better?