Why Did Wheaton Fire Larycia Hawkins?

Did you hear the news yet?  According to Christianity Today, Wheaton College in Illinois has begun termination proceedings against tenured political science Professor Larycia Hawkins.

HNN article Larycia Hawkins

All the news that about the old…

Why?  For explanations from Professor Hawkins and Wheaton College, take a look at the Christianity Today piece.

But for historical context, check out my essay at History News Network.  In short, I argue that this kind of faculty uber-supervision is par for the course at evangelical colleges, even elite ones such as Wheaton.

GOP Politics and the Educational F-Word

What are the education words conservatives can’t say without spitting and gnashing their teeth?

“FEDERAL CONTROL OF EDUCATION”

History News Network has been kind enough to include an essay of mine about the presidential politics of education among conservatives.

Won't say it...

Won’t say it…

Among the leading presidential candidates in the Republican Party, only Jeb Bush will admit that he likes the Common Core.  And even he denies ferociously that he supports more federal “overreach” in local schools.

Why do conservatives so loathe the federal government’s role in education?  It wasn’t always this way, as I argue in the HNN article.  And there are some signs that thoughtful conservatives are returning to their roots as the party of centralized power.

150 Years Without History Are Enough!

It’s not a “conservative” thing, really.  Or a “progressive,” “liberal,” or “traditionalist” thing.  But I’ve mounted up on my high horse in the pages of History News Network to complain about the sad state of American history education.

Specifically, I’m stumped and saddened by the continuing prevalence of neo-Confederate histories in America’s public schools.  Or, at least, by the continuing desire of some activists and authors to keep neo-Confederate histories alive.

In the HNN essay, I argue that there are clear parallels between this sort of history education and the long campaign against the teaching of evolution in public-school science classes.   Just as in that case, I think there are plenty of conservative intellectuals who will agree with me that neo-Confederate myths shouldn’t be taught as real history, just as there are lots of conservative evangelicals who dispute the young-earth style of creationism peddled by Ken Ham.  Just as I wouldn’t want history teachers to use Zinn’s woefully slanted leftist People’s History of America in their classrooms, I bet there are plenty of conservatives who don’t want American kids to learn that the Civil Rights Movement was no big deal, or that lots of slaves fought FOR the Confederacy in the Civil War.

Take a look and offer your comments over there.  Bonus points if you can make sense of my oh-so-clever title BEFORE reading the essay on HNN!

 

Barton and Evolution

You might be tired of hearing about David Barton.  I know I am.  But how about just one more point?  This morning, History News Network ran an essay of mine asking a new question about Barton.  In the essay, I ask what might happen if Barton was defending the notion of a young earth, rather than the notion that Thomas Jefferson was a devout Christian.

Thanks to the History News Network for running that piece.  Since I submitted to their editor, the Barton story has developed in ways that make me even more intrigued in the comparison between (some) conservative Christians’ views of history and creationists’ views of biology and geology.

In a piece that ran in the August 13 online edition of Glenn Beck’s Blaze newsletter, Barton defended his work.  According to the Blaze article,

“Barton seemed anything but shaken by the controversy when he spoke via telephone with TheBlaze. He freely answered questions about the controversy and explained that he’s prepared to respond to some of the critiques, while dismissing what he believes is an ‘elevated level of hostility that’s not really rational in many ways.’

David Barton Responds to Jefferson Lies Controversy and Warren Throckmorton

“While he stands by his central arguments about Jefferson, Barton isn’t pretending to be immune from error. The historian said that the book has already gone through three or four printings and that there have been word and text changes based on spelling or grammar errors along the way. Also, he addressed a willingness to amend historical items, should they be pointed out and proven wrong by other academics.”

What’s intriguing to me in this defense is the way it echoes the challenges posed by 1920s creationists.  Note the phrase “other academics.”  Barton here defends his position as one academic historian among others.

It has been a very long while since scientific creationists insisted that they were part of of the mainstream scientific establishment.  As Ron Numbers described in his classic The Creationists, after the Scopes trial in 1925 leading creationist scientists still fought for creationism’s acceptance in mainstream science.  But they quickly learned that such debates did not offer a real chance to convince mainstream scientists of creationism’s superiority.  Seventh-day Adventist George McCready Price, for instance, left one debate in London shocked and demoralized by the reaction of the crowd.  “Do not confine your reading wholly to one side,” Price pleaded in response to one scornful outburst from the audience.  “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.”  After this debate, Price left the stage feeling humiliated, and he never engaged in another public debate. (Numbers, ed. Creation-Evolution Debates, pg. 186).

This does not mean, of course, that creationists gave up.  No, it demonstrates that creationists moved in the 1920s, in fits and starts, away from fighting for acceptance by mainstream scientists.  Instead, they built their own powerful institutions: schools, publishers, and research organizations.  By 2012 no politician needs to retreat from creationist belief.  Similarly, no creationist feels a need to prove his or her claims to an audience of mainstream scientists.

David Barton, on the other hand, is giving us what might be a new Scopes moment.  Forced to endure the public humiliation of having his book withdrawn, Barton has taken a defiant posture.  He has insisted, like Price in 1925, that readers do more than “read only one side of the case.”  He continues to claim his credentials as one academic historian among others.  I wonder if soon historians like Barton will embrace their outsider status.  If so, as I argue in the History News Network piece, we might be seeing another sort of 1925.