Texas & England: Creationism & Its Dangers

Texas is reviewing its science standards, specifically with the desire to remove them altogether. Skepchick has a great discussion of exactly what this means, but here’s the short version:

  • Texas and California’s choices for scientific textbooks drives the availability of textbooks nationwide because of their massive marketshare
  • the Texas State Board of Education (TSBE) has been co-opted by creationists who want to “teach the controversy” (at best) or simply remove the scientific method from classrooms completely
  • TSBE will be voting on the new textbooks next week
  • Now: what you can do:

  • Texas residents: notify your representatives—all of them—State and Federal legislators, mayors and especially school board members. Skepchick has great resources for how to accomplish this and which school board members voted for ceasing to provide education to Texas children.
  • Everyone else: call your Texas relatives, blog about it, link to blogs about it, get the word out that this is going on. And watch the following:
  • Just to drive home the point that we need to actually educate our children, not just indoctrinate them, here is a recent BBC documentary (in 6 10-minute segments) about a 13-year old girl, Deborah, who lives on her parents’ farm with some of her 10 brothers and sisters (the ones who haven’t yet left home to spread the Good News.

    Deborah and her siblings have been home schooled and rarely leave the compound. When she does, it’s to give tracts out to her peers while they’re waiting for the bus. Her oldest brother has moved out and is working toward a chef’s degree. Deborah leaves home to go visit him in the fourth segment.

    The whole thing is worth a watch, even though it’s long. My favorite part (besides the general creepiness and the “omg, it’s my sisters!”-ness of it) is that her brother is specifically turned off by flirting women. I can’t wait for the follow up documentary after that one hits.

    13 Comments

    1. I watched part of the BBC documentary and I must take issue when people call this child abuse. The isolation and black and white thinking is disturbing and narrow-minded—and in ways the exact opposite of how I hope to raise my children, but to slap the “child abuse” label on this family situation is lazy thinking. And it’s overzealous.

      I got the feeling that this family is loving and trying to raise their children the best way they know how. To call them abusive parents without acknowledging that is to lump them in the same group as molesters and batterers.

      If that’s really what is intended, then that displays black and white thinking tantamount to Deborah’s saying that white lies will send us to hell. If that wasn’t intended, it would help people understand better to say what is really meant and advocate for a better way.

      And really, who among us couldn’t stand to know a little less about Britney Spears?

    2. I admit that lumping religious people in with child molesters is taking it too far and that we could all use a little less “pop knowledge”. That said, I grew up in a far less restrictive family and do consider some of the things done to me because of religion to be abuse. There is physical abuse and sexual abuse and emotional abuse. And, I would submit, spiritual abuse. I certainly suffered spiritual and emotional abuse but never physical abuse. Whether the misinformation provided to me about human sexuality constituted sexual abuse is unlikely, but abuse it was nonetheless.

      I did refrain from calling it child abuse & let the Atheist Blogger do that himself. But I don’t disagree with him.

    3. I don’t know, Jonathan.

      You’re correct, of course, that we could all use to know a bit less about Britney Spears (for example), but I don’t think our celebrity-mad culture is what is at issue here.

      I have to admit that I haven’t viewed the documentary which xJane linked to, but I’ve seen other similar presentations and know the drill…people who keep their children isolated in an attempt to keep them “pure” and unsullied by the world. They home-school them, they limit or prohibit completely exposure to the media, they even limit their contact with other children and adults who might have different outlooks and beliefs.

      At the very least, I believe such parents are not doing their children any favors, and in extreme cases I think that such behavior could, indeed, be termed child abuse. I believe this is so because by isolating their children in this way, they are leaving them completely unprepared to live in the real world where people do disagree and not everyone shares the same beliefs and values. They are trained to be so rigid in their beliefs that they don’t know what to do when they have to – and they will have to at some point – deal with anyone who is different from them in just about any way.

      Believe me, I’m not saying that this is the case with everyone who home-schools their children. I know people right now who are home-schooling their children in a way that opens them up to the diversity of the world. They have provided them with a wide range of experiences with a wide range of people who are very vocal about a wide range of beliefs and viewpoints.

      I also know parents, including relatives of mine, who either pretty much isolated their kids from any “evil” influence or else indoctrinated them with the idea that they must avoid contact with those who are different from them (not necessarily religiously speaking, but from those of other ethnicities or other political viewpoints), and this has, in most cases I know of, produced adults who don’t really deal all that well with the world.

    4. I think you and I probably agree on the big picture, Elaine. I assume that neither of us like to see people treated as stereotypes or dismissed by the application of simple labels. I think this is happening in this case.

      I suggest you watch at least part of the documentary. The narrow-minded way the parents raise their children concerns me. Their use of fairy tales of hell to make their children believe in the need of a savior leads—in my experience—to emotional problems. However, Deborah appears to be a rather articulate, thoughtful, intense, teenage girl. In many ways, she’s ordinary girl for her age.

      She’s not as isolated as some would like you to believe. She has a computer in her bedroom, with internet access. She has a blog where she’s willing to mix it up with those who don’t believe the same things as she does.

      Anyway, all I’m trying to say is that calling this child abuse is little more than a shock tactic that doesn’t communicate anything useful by itself. If that’s all we say, we’re just trying to demonize the people we disagree with. Isn’t that what we criticize them for doing? At the very least, I would like to see someone follow up that label with a reasoned critique explaining how these parents could do better and how those conclusions are justified.

    5. Yeah, Jonathan, we probably do agree on the big picture.

      For the record, I’d object just as much if the parents were pushing any religious/social/political agenda to the point they were demonizing anyone who didn’t agree, so I’m not just trying to criticize those I don’t agree with.

      I’m also in a cranky mood this morning because I didn’t sleep well last night, so I could be over-reacting just a tad.

      Good to know, at any rate, that the girl in the documentary isn’t as isolated as all that. I’ll have to let viewing the documentary slide until I’ve got my high-speed back up and running. Dial-up just doesn’t get along with viewing video.

    6. Kaimi

      Hmmm.

      I’m not a fan of creationism in textbooks. But I think that some anti-creationist arguments get overstated.

      For instance, the idea that Texas should listen to the views of lots of non-Texans, because the country largely follows Texas decisions. (So Texas apparently has a duty to be especially enlightened?) That seems problematic.

      If Texas wants to be a backwards state, if parents there want their kids to learn Intelligent Design or whatever else, and if that’s what that community wants — well, then, there are democratic legitimacy arguments for respecting that decision made at the community level.

      In other words, the idea that “Texas needs to be more non-backward as a state, because if Texas is backward the rest of the country will follow them off the cliff like lemmings” seems to be pointing attention in the wrong place.

      If the rest of the country is really dumb enough to simply accept whatever Texas says, that’s a much bigger problem than Texans wanting to put creationism into textbooks.

      Rather than saying, Texas should stop being stupid, I think the more important response is that other states need to stop stupidly following Texas. Let Texas jump off a cliff if they really want to (how much micromanaging are we capable of doing); let’s focus on whether intelligent decisionmaking is happening accross the board, not just in Dallas.

    7. Kaimi, I think the problem is that if Texas doesn’t buy textbooks which teach evolution, textbook publishers are much less likely to publish them. Texas is such a big textbook market, that it becomes economically difficult to publish anything that you can’t sell there. Or so I’ve been led to believe.

    8. EBrown

      I didn’t know Texas had ever been enlightened. So I’m surprised that it’s current educational standards can be lowered any further.

    9. leisurelyviking

      I had issues with the way the documentary portrayed this family. It seemed to focus too much on how weird it was that the daughter didn’t like things that other people her age liked, and criticized the fact that she was unfamiliar with celebrities and didn’t like parties and loud music. My family encouraged us kids to be a little ‘weird’ and not caring too much about what your peers think can be a valuable innoculation against the risks of adolescence. Yeah, it may have kept me in the LDS church longer than it would have otherwise, but it also meant I felt no shame about being a girl who was good at science and math and was not interested in loud parties or alcohol (not that there’s anything necessarily wrong with the parties, I just don’t think people should see them as the only way teens have fun). If the documentary had focused more on her lack of exposure to reasoned opinions that opposed hers, it would have made its point much better. Departure from the norm does not make something bad.

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