Conservatives and the Common Core

What do conservatives think about the emerging Common Core State Standards?

As with any question, ask a hundred conservatives and you’ll likely get a hundred different answers.
However, some distinct themes have emerged in recent months.

First, many conservative politicians and activists object to the Common Core’s implications for the creeping expansion of government.  Some insist that the standards add another layer of inaccessible, distant, controlling, expensive central control.

Second, conservatives object that the new national standards chip away at parental control of children’s education.  With greater central control, parents and responsive local governments will lose that much more ability to control directly what goes in their local public schools.

Both of these are storied conservative protests against the trends in public education.

Before we examine these themes and their histories, let’s look at the CCSS themselves.  So far, forty-five states, plus the District of Columbia and Department of Defense schools have adopted these standards.  Supporters of the CCSS insist these are not imposed by the federal government, but rather created jointly by state education officials.  The reasons for such standards are many, according to supporters.  In the words of the CCSS Initiative,

“High standards that are consistent across states provide teachers, parents, and students with a set of clear expectations that are aligned to the expectations in college and careers. The standards promote equity by ensuring all students, no matter where they live, are well prepared with the skills and knowledge necessary to collaborate and compete with their peers in the United States and abroad. Unlike previous state standards, which were unique to every state in the country, the Common Core State Standards enable collaboration between states on a range of tools and policies.”    

Conservatives are not the only ones to dispute these claims.  Progressive critics (see one example here) often lament the new standards’ failure to consider adequately individual student situations.  Some progressives call the standards a greedy corporate power grab.  Others lament the goal of squeezing all young minds into a procrustean bed of regurgitative multiple-choice testing instead of pursuing the more difficult goal of authentic learning for real students.  Alfie Kohn, for instance, insisted that national standards would “squeeze the life out of classrooms” by mandating one-size-fits-all education, dictated by self-seeking corporate interests.

When conservative activists and pundits critique the CCSS, it is usually on different grounds.  Writing for the Heritage Foundation, for example, Lindsey Burke warned, “The push for centralized control over what every child should learn has never had more momentum.”  CCSS, which Burke called “national standards,” represented a “challenge to educational freedom in America.”  Implementation of the standards would be expensive, Burke pointed out.  Even worse, these standards reversed the proper structure of education.  Instead of more and more central control, Burke argued, “Education reform should give control over education to those closest to students.”

The Heritage Foundation’s Rachel Sheffield praised state lawmakers who pushed to exit the CCSS.  In Indiana, for instance, conservative state lawmakers have proposed a bill to put the CCSS on hold.  One of the requirements of Indiana’s Senate Bill 193, for instance, will be to include parent members on the standards committee.  Another will be to allow any parent to challenge their children’s standard-based high-stakes test results.

These themes—federal overreach and parental control—have long been central to conservative educational activism.

As we’ve noted, agitation against federal intrusion into the local politics of education has been an important element of conservative educational activism since at least the 1940s.  Though it might come as a surprise to some, before the 1940s many conservatives endorsed increased centralization of education policy, as Douglas Slawson has noted in his excellent book The Department of Education Battle, 1918-1932.

The second conservative worry about CCSS also has a long history.  Conservative pundits have argued for decades that parents need more control over their children’s education.  Back in the 1960s, conservative educational leader Max Rafferty insisted, “Children do not belong to the state. They do not belong to us educators, either. They belong to their parents and to nobody else.  And don’t you forget it.”  (Source: Rafferty, On Education, pg. 9)

Note one protester's button: "Parent Power"

Note one protester’s button: “Parent Power”

These conservative concerns spanned the country and the decades.  As historian Ron Formisano noted in his landmark 1991 history of Boston disputes over forced busing, parents insisted on their fundamental rights to determine their own children’s educational careers.  As anti-busing leader Louise Hicks fumed, “If under a court order a child can be forcibly taken from his parents into unfamiliar, often hostile neighborhoods, then we shall have opened a pandora’s box of new, unlimited government powers” (pg. 192).

Similarly, President Reagan insisted in 1983, “I believe that parents, not Government, have the primary responsibility for the education of their children.  Parental authority is not a right conveyed by the state; rather, parents delegate to their elected school board representatives and State legislators the responsibility for their children’s schooling.”  (Source: Catherine Lugg, For God and Country, pg. 136).

Across the spectrum of conservative belief and activism, we hear similar echoes.  In 1989, for instance, creationist leader Ken Ham warned that “Most parents have left the training of their children to the church, school or college.”  No wonder, Ham argued, that children embraced anti-God theologies.

So when conservatives in 2013 warn that CCSS will undermine parental control, they draw on a rich tradition of conservative thought and activism.  Schools must remain on a tight leash, many conservatives have insisted over the years.  If allowed too much power, centralizing educational authorities will take over.



Why School Choice?

As National School Choice Week moved into the history books, we have to ask: Is school choice a “conservative” issue?

There is no doubt that conservatives support choice.  Stalwart conservative organizations such as the Family Research Council and the Heritage Foundation make choice a centerpiece of their education policy platforms.

But the arguments conservatives usually make in favor of school choice often sound more traditionally “progressive” than anything else.  Is this mere political strategy?  Or a more profound commitment to social justice for those without economic resources?

The stereotypically “conservative” reasons for school choice are fairly simple.  First, opening up a variety of schools that receive tax dollars will enshrine the principles of free-marketism into public education.  Second, a thriving choice system will send more tax dollars to religious schools.

And we do occasionally see such arguments by conservative intellectuals.  The Friedman Foundation, for instance, legacy of free-market guru Milton Friedman, argues that choice will fix America’s public-education system.  According to Milton and Rose Friedman, that system has too often been “deprived of the benefits of competition.”

Similarly, Notre Dame’s Richard Garnett recently argued that school choice could help save struggling Catholic schools like the one that educated US Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor.

More often, however, conservative activists argue for school choice using different themes.  Most commonly, choice is presented as the best hope of low-income families in neighborhoods with sub-par public schools.  During National School Choice Week, we saw an outpouring of such rhetoric.
For instance, the Heritage Foundation publicized a speech in favor of choice by former Alabama Congressman Artur Davis.  Choice, Davis argued, could give options to a seventh-grader who submitted the following barely literate argument:

“[Y]ou can make the school gooder by getting people that will do the jod that is pay for get a football tame for the kinds mybe a baksball tamoe get a other jamtacher for the school get a lot of tacher.”

According to Davis, this student from Highland Park, Michigan was passed into eighth grade despite his struggles with basic writing.  Choice, Davis argued, could help.  It could offer parents, teachers, and students better schools now.  According to the Heritage Foundation article, Davis believed that school choice offered “the education [children] need right now, instead of simply pouring more money into the program or waiting for some new reform plan.”

Similarly, a writer at the social-conservative Family Research Council insisted that the main reason to support school choice was that “School choice gives students an opportunity to achieve a quality education and helps them not to fall through the cracks. We should all be in favor of helping children reach their fullest potential.”

Perhaps the most compelling statement of this conservative argument for the progressive virtues of school choice came over twenty years ago in an essay by Berkeley Law School’s Professor Emeritus John Coons.  As Coons argued in his 1992 essay, school choice advocates too often focus only on choice as a free-market device.  Instead, Coons insisted, such choice must be seen as “Simple Justice.”  Despite efforts to desegregate schools and make schools less imposingly Protestant, Coons wrote,

“we still arrange education so that children of the wealthy can cluster in chosen government enclaves or in private schools; the rest get whatever school goes with the residence the family can afford. This socialism for the rich we blithely call ‘public,’ though no other public service entails such financial exclusivity. Whether the library, the swimming pool, the highway, or the hospital—if it is ‘public,’ it is accessible. But admission to the government school comes only with the price of the house. If the school is in Beverly Hills or Scarsdale, the poor need not apply.

Choice is the obvious remedy for such maldistribution and discrimination.”  

Coons argued that non-elite parents deserved the right to send their children to schools that matched parents’ religious and cultural beliefs.  Such parents did not write op-eds in the New York Times.  Such parents did not have the option to influence the greater culture by making award-winning films or prize-winning books.  “Children,” Coons wrote, “are the books written by the poor.”

Yet despite such protestations among conservative intellectuals and pundits, school choice remains its reputation as a conservative issue.  As one angry commenter noted on the Family Research Council website,

“you see, school choice is really about getting as many students to pray to God each day. And, how many of these school choice advocates would have pressed for integration back in the 50’s? Very few. It’s about supporting religious schools through taxpayer dollars.”

Similarly, Americans United for Separation of Church and State has protested,

“It’s about funding religious and other private schools with taxpayer dollars and ultimately destroying the public school system.

“If you think the Heritage Foundation, the Koch Brothers and Betsy DeVos are in this just to help to some poor kid in the inner city, they’ve got a privatized bridge in Brooklyn they want to sell you.”

We ask again: Why school choice?  Do conservatives support school choice because choice will crush teachers’ unions?  Because choice will promote a freer free market?  Because choice will get more students praying in schools?

Or do conservatives support choice in order to help more children faster?  Because choice offers a way to deliver better education to low-income students?

My hunch is that, for many conservatives, the best answer is all of the above.  No doubt many conservatives want freer markets and a more Christian public square.  And school choice promises to deliver those things.  But choice might also be attractive because it gives better schools to more people faster than any other measure. 

School Choice: Not Just for Conservatives Anymore?

Have you seen the yellow scarves around?

Image Source: Huffington Post

Image Source: Huffington Post

They are the symbol of National School Choice Week, going on right now.

In a one-minute off-the-cuff interview with the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, scarf-clad Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker claimed that the issue of school choice had outgrown ideology.  Support for school choice, Walker insisted, now “transcends party lines, it transcends ideological beliefs. . . .”

Walker himself is not exactly the poster child for post-culture-war dialogue.  His anti-union policies led to an unsuccessful recall attempt in Wisconsin.  In early 2011, Walker’s moves to curb collective-bargaining prerogatives led to a virtual caricature of the culture wars descending on the Capitol in Madison.

The history of “school choice” has been an ideological mishmash.  On one hand, one of the earliest and most influential proponents of vouchers has been free-market guru Milton Friedman.  As I argued in an article in Teachers College Record, Friedman saw vouchers as the single biggest reform to fix American education.  The quest for more school choice has been enthusiastically embraced by leading conservative organizations such as the Heritage Foundation.

Many liberals have offered across-the-board denunciations of vouchers and “school choice.”  Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, for instance, calls vouchers a thinly disguised propaganda program to divert tax dollars to religious schools.

However, some progressive leaders have supported vouchers and charter schools as a way to deliver better education to students who felt trapped in bad public schools.  Recently, however, outspoken voucher supporter Howard Fuller insisted that voucher programs must set clear limits.  If the programs did not specifically target low-income students, Fuller argued, they became just a shill for rich people.

Some education scholars have argued that the rhetoric of school choice has mainly served to redefine American democracy.  Instead of promoting equitable education choices, these authors contend, “school choice” tends to assume that free-market solutions are the only solutions, the best possible educational goals.

So is Governor Walker’s claim just a conservative pipe dream?  Has the goal of “school choice” overcome all ideological resistance?  Or will we see yet another split, between “progressive” supporters of school choice and “conservative” supporters, with “progressive” choice focusing on greater equity, and “conservative” choice emphasizing the God of the Free Market?

Plumbers and Teachers

What is a teacher? A hired hand?  Or an independent scholar?  A functionary enrolled to help parents?  Or a professional charged to form young minds as she or he best sees fit?

Students of conservative educational activism like me often list the same litany of complaints made by conservatives about public schooling in the past century.  Schools, conservatives often complain, must not warp their students’ minds.  Schools should teach patriotism.  Schools should teach respect for religious values and traditional notions of right and wrong.  Some conservatives believe schools must not teach atheism and call it science.

But there remains one hugely important conservative issue that rarely gets the same amount of attention: conservative concern with the overweening authority of teachers and educational experts.

As part of his recent series on education at Front Porch Republic, Anthony Esolen articulates this traditional conservative frustration.

Esolen frames the question in a provocative fashion: What if teachers were plumbers?

Here is one of Esolen’s scenarios:

“Jones pokes his head into the basement. He hasn’t done that in two years. He’s told himself again and again that they must know what they are doing, they are the experts and he isn’t, they are from the government, and he must mind his own business. But the devil gets into him.

“‘What is that?’

“‘What is what?’

“‘That – that tangle of pipes! Why so many? It’s a maze! It takes up half the room. In some places you can’t stand up straight. It’s like what happens to a hundred foot extension cord. The whole contraption is in knots!’

“‘I fail to see what you are so concerned about. Presumably you wanted us to do your plumbing. Well, so we have. We’ve done a great deal more than you expected.’

“‘But it’s leaking all over the place! Why didn’t you just do the simple but necessary thing? Why didn’t you do what I hired you to do?’

“‘Hired, Mr. Jones?’”

In the research for my current book about twentieth-century conservative educational activism, I’ve seen this argument repeated with a variety of emphases.  For generations, conservative activists have argued that schools and teachers have taken too much authority over children.

For instance, during the 1920s school controversies, William Jennings Bryan famously argued, “The hand that writes the paycheck rules the school.”

A generation later, in 1951, Ernest Brower, a conservative leader from Pasadena, California, complained to a state senate investigating committee that “progressive” education had seized too much control.  In their citizen investigation, Brower reported,

 “Well, you might liken public education, in Pasadena at least, and I think probably in other sections of the country as well, to a patient who is very sick, and so, naturally, the proper thing is to start looking for symptoms, and we found several symptoms of the disease. . . . we noticed there was a definite elimination of parental authority, undermining of parental influence.”

For Brower, as for Bryan and Esolen, this undermining of parental influence signaled the underlying “disease,” of which other educational problems were merely symptoms.

In 1968, conservative California school superintendent Max Rafferty agreed.  “Children,” Rafferty warned,

“do not belong to the state.  They do not belong to us educators, either.  They belong to their parents and to nobody else.  And don’t you forget it.

“Because if you do forget it and let the kids become wards of an all-powerful government, you won’t have to look forward with fear and trembling any more to that dread year 1984.  It will be here, considerably ahead of schedule.”

In 1980, free-market economist Milton Friedman lent his considerable influence to this central conservative notion.  “Parents,” Friedman wrote,

“generally have both greater interest in their children’s schooling and more intimate knowledge of their capacities and needs than anyone else.  Social reformers, and educational reformers in particular, often self-righteously take for granted that parents, especially those who are poor and have little education themselves, have little interest in their children’s education and no competence to choose for them.  That is a gratuitous insult.”

We could multiply examples of this sentiment almost endlessly.  From the early years of the Heritage Foundation’s work, Connie Marshner insisted,

“A parent’s right to decide the direction of his child’s life is a sovereign right, as long as the child is subject to his parent.  Educators have no business creating dissatisfaction with and rebellion against parental wishes.”

Similarly, Texas school watchdog Norma Gabler echoed this sentiment in the 1980s,

“Number one, my sons belong to my husband and I.  They do not belong to you and the state—yet.”   

For all these leading conservative intellectuals and activists, one foundation of schooling is that it is a service provided for families by educators.  It has long been a source of intense frustration that progressive educators presume glibly to arrogate total control over children’s lives.

As Professor Esolen reflected in his recent essay series, this arrogance is all the more exasperating when it seems utterly unaware of its own ridiculousness.  We would not accept the fact that a plumber would ignore our wishes and have his way with our pipes.  Why, Esolen asks—echoing generations of conservative intellectuals—why do we accept this brazen arrogance from teachers?

REQUIRED READING: Protester Voices

For those who hope to understand Fundamentalist America in the twenty-first century, a good place and time to start would be Kanawha County, West Virginia, 1974.

The raucous 1974-1975 school year in this county surrounding Charleston saw a burst of public controversy over the teaching in its public schools.  Protesters vilified a set of textbooks adopted by the school district.  At its peak, the protest and school boycott included a sympathy strike by the area’s miners and even a spate of gunshot attacks and the bombing of a school-administration building.  The fight in Kanawha County, as argued by both protesters and historians, can correctly be seen as the birthplace, or at least the midwife, of an emerging populist conservative movement.

The controversy has attracted its share of recent attention from scholars such as Carol Mason and journalists such as Trey Kay.

Thanks to the energetic activist Karl Priest, we now also have an account of the controversy written from a prominent member of the movement itself.  Priest’s 2010 book Protester Voices offers a view from inside the textbook protest movement.

Priest’s story is unabashedly partisan.  The tone and style of his book are those of a bare-knuckled culture warrior rather than those of a disinterested academic.  Priest has achieved a reputation as one of today’s leading anti-evolution internet brawlers.  In addition to his anti-evolution work, Priest is also currently active in Exodus Mandate.  This organization promises “to encourage and assist Christian families to leave government schools for the Promised Land of Christian schools or home schooling.”  Those who hope to explore the worlds of conservative Christian activism in twenty-first century America will soon run into the work of Karl Priest nearly everywhere they turn.  Indeed, when ILYBYGTH first starting imagining how intelligent, educated people could embrace creationism (see, for instance, here, here, here, here, and here), we were accused of being merely a front for Priest.

In his 2010 book, Priest takes other writers to task for their anti-protester bias.  He dismisses Carol Mason, for example, as someone who “concentrate[s] on the exception to the rule” (37).  The protest movement, Priest insists, must not be understood as an irruption of racism or vigilante violence.  The protesters themselves cannot fairly be dismissed as “wild-eyed ignoramuses” (xiii).  Such accusations, Priest insists, demonstrate the bias of left-leaning scholars more than the lived reality of the protest itself.  The leaders of the movement, in Priest’s view, “suffered financial loss. . . . [and] endured snide remarks and mocking.”  They did so in order to defend their schools and community against the imposition of taxpayer-funded textbooks that included aggressive racism and sexual depravity.  Priest defends the rank and file of this movement, also slandered mercilessly by other writers, as “Norman Rockwell Americans” (63).

Priest agrees with other commentators that this textbook controversy provided the launching pad for a new kind of conservative activism.  Kanawha County attracted national leaders such as Mel Gabler and Max Rafferty.  The fledgling Heritage Foundation sent legal advisers.  The 1974 protest, Priest claims, heralded the new generation of populist conservatism that continues in today’s Tea Party movement.

For anyone hoping to understand Fundamentalist America, this book is an important resource.  Not only does Priest’s account offer a staunch defense of the fundamentalist side of one of the most significant controversies of the late twentieth century, he also includes a reflection on the meanings of fundamentalism itself.  Though he prefers the term “Bible-believing Christian,” Priest insists that “Being a fundamentalist, contrary to what liberals have propagandized, is nothing to be ashamed of just by the attachment of the term” (3).

Governor Haley and the Changing Face of Fundamentalist America

Governor Nikki Haley of South Carolina has a new book out.  The cutely titled Can’t Is Not an Option may be a bald-faced bid for the 2012 Republican vice-presidential nomination, but it can also tell us something about the ways Fundamentalist America is changing.  The book itself sounds sugary, but Haley’s personal story is compelling.

Haley is an Indian-American child of immigrants.  The fact that a dark-skinned female politician whose father wears a turban can succeed as a conservative Republican politician in a state known for racism and evangelical Protestantism means a lot. 

Haley joins a small but growing list of non-white conservative heavy hitters: businessman/politician Herman Cainwriter Dinesh D’Souza, politicians Bobby Jindall and Allen West, and jurist Clarence Thomas, among others.  Such a showing, especially among African Americans, makes a good deal of sense from a fundamentalist perspective.

Conservative intellectuals, notably those at the Heritage Foundation, have made a concerted strategic effort to overcome fundamentalism’s traditional connection to white supremacist ideology.

But although it may make strategic sense, it is a tall order politically.  African Americans have been tightly linked to the Democratic Party since the 1930s.  Before that, African American voters stuck just as close to the Republican Party, the Party of Lincoln.  For most of American history, the vortex of race and race consciousness has overwhelmed all other identity issues, pushing most African Americans to vote first as African Americans, and only second as conservatives, liberals, secularists, religious, etc.

But beyond party politics, African Americans tend toward a deep fundamentalism.  Gallup polls consistently demonstrate this.  For example, one 2005 poll showed that about seven in ten African Americans called themselves “evangelical” or “born again” Christians.  African Americans, according to a 1999 Gallup/CNN/USA Today poll are significantly more likely (85%) to support school prayer than are whites (69%).  This conservative religiosity among African Americans has influenced cultural attitudes among African American young people as well.  A 2002 poll found that only 8% of African American teens say they drink alcohol, compared to 25% of white teens, likely due to higher rates of conservative religiosity.  Among non-whites in general, according to a 2003 poll, only 52% think that premarital sex is morally acceptable, compared to 59% of whites.

Race is a tough issue for fundamentalists.  There are plenty of fundamentalist whites who seem to cling to traditionalism in their white supremacist ideology, just as they cling to traditionalism in religion, education, and culture.  But non-whites, in large majorities, are fundamentalists in everything except party politics.  If more non-whites like Nikki Haley continue to emphasize their cultural conservatism, and if they tie that cultural conservatism to political conservatism, then more and more non-whites may continue to embrace all the meanings of Fundamentalism.

IN THE NEWS: Ignorance or Disdain? Fundamentalists, Science, and Alternative Intellectual Institutions

The folks at Scienceblog recently reviewed the findings of Gordon Gauchat, a postdoctoral fellow at University of North Carolina.  In his study, Gauchat found that Americans who self-identify as conservatives trust “science” less in 2010 than conservatives did in 1974.  In contrast, self-identified liberals and moderates kept a stable attitude toward “science” during that period.

So what do these findings tell us?  On first glance, it might seem as if conservatives simply don’t like science.  After all, we’ve seen a rush to denigrate climate-change science and evolution among 2012’s Republican Presidential candidates.  This confirms some culture-war stereotypes, which paint Fundamentalist America as the hillbilly redoubt of Nascar, meth labs, married cousins, and a hatred for all forms of higher learning.

But the study needs a second look.  The level of respondents’ education had an inverse relationship to their reported trust of “science.”  That is, conservatives who had more education tended to trust science less.  This is not about anti-intellectualism or anti-science, at least not as such.

Let me suggest an historical analogy.  I’m not sure if it’s got legs, but I think it’s worth thinking about if we want to understand the phenomenon of educated conservatives maligning “science.”

In the Glory Days of American liberalism, a deep distrust of the cultural and political establishment took hold among the well-educated Left.  With the founding of the Students for a Democratic Society in 1962, some of the best-educated young people in the country announced their disdain for the establishment world of universities, governments, and research centers.  These earnest, intelligent young leftists would have responded to a survey that they did not trust mainstream intellectuals.  As they agreed in their 1962 Port Huron Statement, SDS disdained academic culture. They attacked their “professors and administrators,” as tools of The Man who

“sacrifice controversy to public relations; their curriculums change more slowly than the living events of the world; their skills and silence are purchased by investors in the arms race; passion is called unscholastic.”

Did this disdain for the culture of higher education mean that the intellectuals of SDS were anti-intellectual?  No, what it signaled was an active disdain for the dominant culture of American higher education.

In less than a decade, this anti-establishment impulse among well-educated young leftists had careened down a startling path and mutated into a very different animal.  By 1970, the scattered remnants of SDS had resorted to bombing the Pentagon, army bases, and—accidentally—themselves.  Leftist disdain for the establishment had morphed from the smiling, fist-shaking intellectualism of the 1963 SDS meeting pictured above into the gleeful nihilism of Abbie Hoffman pictured below.

So what might this analogy tell us about the feelings of today’s conservatives and fundamentalists about mainstream science?  For one thing, it suggests that the proper term here is not “ignorance,” but “disdain.”  Well-educated American fundamentalists are not ignorant about mainstream science, but they feel a deep disdain for it.  That disdain has increased in the last generation as alternative intellectual institutions have propagated an anti-establishment culture.

Other studies have supported this intuition.  As we reviewed here recently, Jonathan Haidt’s Righteous Mind included a survey of 2000 respondents.  In this study, self-identified conservatives and moderates were very good at predicting the moral responses of liberals.  Self-identified liberals, on the other hand, could not guess what conservatives might say.  This suggests that Fundamentalist America is well aware of what liberals think, but liberals have allowed themselves to become ignorant of other intellectual options.

Let’s return to our analogy to see if it helps explain this phenomenon.  If fundamentalists in 2010 share the disdain for mainstream intellectual culture that was espoused by well-educated young leftists in the early 1960s, what might be the results?

In the case of the Left, this divorce from academic culture was merely a trial separation.  Most of the student radicals of the 1960s and 1970s ended up the boring center-leftists of the 1990s.  The academically inclined among them founded or joined friendly academic centers hoping to eliminate racism or poverty or war.  The more talented and lucky managed to open new fields of study and press for new visions of education, promoting successful “ethnic studies” programs and multicultural education initiatives.  For a small minority of 1960s/70s leftists, those who followed the logic of anti-establishment culture to its bitter 1970s conclusion, this meant increasingly bizarre forms of dress and behavior, meant to signal distance from the establishment.  For a tiny fraction, this meant political and cultural violence, such as bombs at the Pentagon and Days of Rage.

What will it mean for fundamentalists?  If the historical analogy holds any weight, this distancing between mainstream science and fundamentalists will lead a small fringe on the Right to continue its violent campaign against America.  Like the violent Weather Underground, some fundamentalists will likely follow the logic of separation from mainstream culture to a violent conclusion.  But for the overwhelming majority of conservatives and fundamentalists, if the historical analogy holds any weight, it will mean the continuation of a trend toward alternative intellectual institutions.  Many conservative and fundamentalist intellectual types will find congenial homes in the widening world of the academy and private foundations/think-tanks.  Since the 1970s, indeed, we have seen a proliferation of conservative think tanks and foundations, such as the Heritage Foundation.  In recent years, these conservative alternative intellectual centers have offered well-educated fundamentalists a happy home in which to continue their intellectual work while continuing to feel a deep disdain for mainstream intellectual culture.  In some cases, this has included a disdain for mainstream science.  For example, a new intellectual center at Biola University, the Center for Christian Thought has promised to offer

“scholars from a variety of Christian perspectives a unique opportunity to work collaboratively on a selected theme. Together, they develop their ideas, refine their thinking, and examine important cultural issues in a way that is informed by Scripture. Ultimately, the collaborative work will result in scholarly and popular-level materials, providing the broader culture with thoughtful and carefully articulated Christian perspectives on current events, ethical concerns, and social trends.”

Just as the 1970s witnessed a huge increase in Left-friendly academic centers and fields of study, so this widening cultural distance between educated fundamentalists and mainstream science and academic life should lead to an increase in fundamentalist-friendly academic centers like this one.  It will lead to a deepening division between types of well-educated people; it will force Americans to confront their notions that there is one “correct” version of science and intellectualism.

***Thanks for the reference to Tim Lacy at USIH  ***