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Education Politics

Texas Textbooks Battle Is Actually an American War 1252

ideonexus writes "I've been lackadaisical when it comes to following stories about Texas schoolboard attempts to slip creationism into biology textbooks, dismissing the stories as just 'dumbass Texans,' but what I didn't realize is that Texas schoolbooks set the standard for the rest of the country. And it's not just Creationism that this Christian coalition is attempting to bring into schoolbooks, but a full frontal assault on history, politics, and the humanities that exploits the fact that final decisions are being made by a school board completely academically unqualified to make informed evaluations of the changes these lobbyists propose. This evangelical lobby has successfully had references to the American Constitution as a 'living document,' as textbooks have defined it since the 1950s, removed in favor of an 'enduring Constitution' not subject to change, as well as attempting to over-emphasize the role Christianity played in the founding of America. The leaders of these efforts outright admit they are attempting to redefine the way our children understand the political landscape so that, when they grow up, they will have preconceived notions of the American political system that favor their evangelical Christian goals."
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Texas Textbooks Battle Is Actually an American War

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  • by Mechagodzilla ( 94503 ) on Friday February 12, 2010 @03:44PM (#31117218)

    How much damage could a poorly educated man from Texas actually cause? It's not like he could become President or something...

  • by rugatero ( 1292060 ) on Friday February 12, 2010 @03:45PM (#31117230)

    ...dismissing the stories as just 'dumbass Texans,' but what I didn't realize is that Texas schoolbooks set the standard for the rest of the country.

    I knew this and am not even American. Every piece of coverage I've seen on this issue has explained how wide reaching the ramifications are. How can anyone have missed it?

  • Refreshing! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by hduff ( 570443 ) <> on Friday February 12, 2010 @03:45PM (#31117236) Homepage Journal
    Re-writing history to inure a political viewpoint? This is nothing new. At least these folks are being honest about their goals; that's a refreshing approach from narrow-minded zealots.
  • by geoffrobinson ( 109879 ) on Friday February 12, 2010 @03:47PM (#31117260) Homepage

    I asked a lawyer who believed in this, pre-market crash, if they believed in a "living mortgage." Why is the Constitution the only legal document we do that to?

    Anyone who wants to teach that is going for a particular point of view. Why is the opposite view nefarious but this one all sweetness and light?

    This whole summary is ignorant. Everyone is pushing a point of view. It has to be somebody's.

    • by zippthorne ( 748122 ) on Friday February 12, 2010 @03:52PM (#31117342) Journal

      Yeah, "living document" was definitely a rhetorical fraud or at least a rhetorical mistake made at some point. The constitution is valueless if it can be simply interpreted into the mores and norms of whatever the current age happens to be rather than debated and amended into the modern age as the framers intended.

      • by JerryLove ( 1158461 ) on Friday February 12, 2010 @04:11PM (#31117734)

        Yeah, "living document" was definitely a rhetorical fraud or at least a rhetorical mistake made at some point. The constitution is valueless if it can be simply interpreted into the mores and norms of whatever the current age happens to be rather than debated and amended into the modern age as the framers intended.

        Which means that there's no way to understand what the constitution says in the first place.

        "right to bear arms". What is an "arm"? Could the founders have intended it to cover a weapon they hadn't conceived of existing.

        "right to feel secure in person and property". Does that include data on your hard-drive? What if we invent a scanner that can perform an invasive search without entering your house? Are you secure or not? The constitution doesn't mention scanners (or wire taps, or computer sniffing, or infra-red cameras, or WiFi hacking equipment, or laser mics).

        It's "living" when it's applied to a new situation that did not in the past exist. The same as all laws (or do we need to make new copyright laws every time someone comes up with a new storage device?)

        • by Chardish ( 529780 ) <> on Friday February 12, 2010 @06:45PM (#31121020) Homepage

          If there's consensus about what the Founders meant when they said something, there should not be difficulty in amending the constitution if its language is thought to be ambiguous. If there's no consensus, then it must be assumed that the Constitution means what it says. So yes, nuclear weapons are "arms." If you want to amend the constitution to forbid citizens from owning nukes, it should not be difficult to do so, since it's likely there's popular consensus on that matter.

    • by Rene S. Hollan ( 1943 ) on Friday February 12, 2010 @03:52PM (#31117346)

      The constitution is not the only legal document subject to modification. In fact many legal judgments and court orders are subject to modification.

      The key is that the terms of how and to what degree things can be modified are either part of the document itself, or established by statute.

      As with all things, there's often room for subjective interpretation of the terms of modification, and that's where case law and precedent come in.

      What distinguishes a constitution is that it is intentionally difficult to modify.

    • by $1uck ( 710826 ) on Friday February 12, 2010 @03:53PM (#31117358)
      What's living in the interpretation of the Constitution. Any sufficiently vague legal document is going to be open to interpretation which is going to change as society goes on. I guarantee your mortgage is not as open to interpretation as the constitution.
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Anonymous Coward

        There is no vagueness at all. The constitution is very simple and easy to read. Anyone and their mother can read the constitution and know exactly what it means.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by MozeeToby ( 1163751 )

      A mortgage isn't a living document because it is a contract between to organizations, a lender and a lendee. You could argue that the constitution is likewise a contract between the government and the governed, so where's the difference? The constitution lays out in it's contract exactly what needs to take place in order for the contract to be amended. Most notably, the contract can be amended without the support of, or indeed in opposition to, the government (realistically this would never happen but it

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        No one has ever argued that the Constitution can't be amended.

        The problem is that the Constitution is simply ignored.

    • by commodore64_love ( 1445365 ) on Friday February 12, 2010 @04:07PM (#31117646) Journal

      Because the Constitution was deliberately designed to act as Chains upon the U.S. Government and its leaders, and politicians don't like to be chained. They like to be free to act and control whatever they want. So what better way to achieve that goal than to pretend the Constitution is not a chain, but instead a piece of silly putty they can mold into any shape they please (or more recently - ignore completely). That gives the DC politicians the ability to do any damn thing that pleases them.

      IMHO they (and we) have forgotten what the Democratic Party's founder (Thom. Jefferson) called the most important part of the Constitution: "The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people."

      In reality the Constitution is a piece-of-paper with some Laws scribbled upon it, and it remains "fixed" for a long long time (two decades so far), until an amendment is added to it. Then it changes.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Waffle Iron ( 339739 )

      We don't live in an 18th century agrarian society anymore. If you don't want it to be "living", and you want to interpret every word with strict literalism, then it will have to be revised and expanded to properly define a government's actual real world role modern life and technology. It would probably take at least couple of thousand pages to do the job properly.

      (Note that it has never been taken literally since day one anyway. For example, for many decades slavery was allowed in spite of the fact that it

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by pluther ( 647209 )

      Yeah, I wish other legal documents could be amended, too!

      I own an automobile, and I think that the law, passed 1904, should be changed so that I don't have to drive under 5mph with someone walking ahead of me waving a red flag...

      But, I guess, that's just my "point of view", and I should accept all others as equally valid...

  • Nothing new here. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by couchslug ( 175151 ) on Friday February 12, 2010 @03:47PM (#31117272)

    It's worth revisiting the lesson of the sixties that the Hippies got right, such as not to trust the government and that the purpose of public education is to lie to you.

    Students should regard any political lesson taught in school as propaganda, should never trust their teachers, an in general fucking hate the government. Bible Thumpers have always sought to rule by infiltration and dominionism.
    Know this, fight back, agitate others to fight back, and above all disregard anything any religionist says to defend their superstition. We don't respect Scientology for obvious reasons, and there is no reason any other superstition should get a pass, especially on a geek site. We are modern people, and modern people don't need gods.

    • by diamondsw ( 685967 ) on Friday February 12, 2010 @04:14PM (#31117806)

      Yes, because rejecting everything wholesale is so much better than accepting it wholesale.

      Having a reasonable mind that can think through issues and make decisions for oneself - that is what we should strive for. Precious few high schools teach this, however.

  • by Rene S. Hollan ( 1943 ) on Friday February 12, 2010 @03:48PM (#31117284)

    All it will take is a suit that the school board violates civil liberties.

    I wish it could go further. I wish that provably willful violations of civil liberties were treated as treason.

    • "I wish that provably willful violations of civil liberties were treated as treason."

      Christians regard any government practice that is not Christian as a violation of their civil rights to impose de facto theocracy by dominionism.

  • by J. T. MacLeod ( 111094 ) on Friday February 12, 2010 @03:55PM (#31117408)

    Regardless of "academic qualification" (Most people with the paper don't have the ethical or logical capability to be truly considered qualified), the Texas school board was responding to its own concerns about the insertion of bias into textbooks.

    Textbooks are already biased. How many people are around that are willing to stand against bias in ALL directions? I'm sick of bickering between defining "unbiased" as "suiting my own personal bias".

  • So Ignorant It Hurts (Score:5, Informative)

    by eldavojohn ( 898314 ) * <> on Friday February 12, 2010 @03:56PM (#31117422) Journal
    While the article is a bit biased as well as the people it covers, a lot of the things these people tout amount to plain ignorance.

    More elementally, they hold that the United States was founded by devout Christians ...


    ... and according to biblical precepts.

    False. The founding fathers (especially Thomas Jefferson) read so much philosophy and ethics that The Christian Bible was one of a hundred sources. One could easily argue that the nation was founded on principles of the League of Five Nations [] as much as anything else. Yes, the founding fathers most likely borrowed from heathen savages that populated a land where everyone went to hell before the Europeans got here.

    If the people in the article think the founding fathers didn't intend for a separation of church and state, let's visit what documentation we have [] from them:


    The affectionate sentiments of esteem and approbation which you are so good as to express towards me, on behalf of the Danbury Baptist association, give me the highest satisfaction. my duties dictate a faithful and zealous pursuit of the interests of my constituents, & in proportion as they are persuaded of my fidelity to those duties, the discharge of them becomes more and more pleasing.

    Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between Man & his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, & not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should "make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof," thus building a wall of separation between Church & State. Adhering to this expression of the supreme will of the nation in behalf of the rights of conscience, I shall see with sincere satisfaction the progress of those sentiments which tend to restore to man all his natural rights, convinced he has no natural right in opposition to his social duties.

    I reciprocate your kind prayers for the protection & blessing of the common father and creator of man, and tender you for yourselves & your religious association, assurances of my high respect & esteem.

    Th Jefferson
    Jan. 1. 1802.

    All men and women are created equal. Everyone has a right to practice what religion they so choose. So keep your religious crap out of our public schools.

  • children at risk (Score:5, Insightful)

    by fermion ( 181285 ) on Friday February 12, 2010 @03:58PM (#31117452) Homepage Journal
    Here is my favorite thing Texas has done in the name of promoting christianity. Adding "under god" to the Texas pledge that all Texas public school children are forced to say every day. Now, I have not problem with a pledge. It is a fetish thing when people want to show allegiance without have to do anything uncomfortable to demonstrate allegiance. I do have an issue with adding the notion of god, because that make it more a religious prayer than a country thing.

    Here is the problem. The bible, and jesus, pretty much considered the worst thing one can do it be a hypocrite. A hypocrite is one who does things in a crowd to make others believe he or she has faith. Here is a famous verse of prayer.
    Mathew 6:5-6"When you pray, you are not to be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on the street corners so that they may be seen by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. But you, when you pray, go into your inner room, close your door and pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you."

    We also know the verses on giving money to be seen. The idea is that one does these things because they are in our heart, not to gain profit. And we are putting our children in jeopardy when we ask them to do these things we know are wrong, such as acting like hypocrites.

    The problem with these nut cases in Texas is they have no faith. No amount of science will sway me from what i feel to be true. No amount of world religions will change my mind what I know to be right. This does not mean I am inflexible, but that flexibility comes with experience, not cult brain washing. And because these people have not faith, how can they build faith in their children. They can't. So they limit their exposure to the world knowing the false faith could never withstand the truths in the world.

    In some ways I agree with this. If one is not able to build faith in a child, then ones options are limited. What I disagree with is making all the rest of us suffer. Sure, a parent may have a right to screw up their own child, but that does not mean they have the right to screw up everyone else's. The parent can home school, turn off the TV, but there is no reason that those of us who are responsible should have to suffer because a few are irresponsible. It would be like saying I can't buy a beer because some children weren't taught discipline, or because genetically they can't have beer, and haven't been trained to stay away from it.

    • by Anonymous Codger ( 96717 ) on Friday February 12, 2010 @04:09PM (#31117704)

      I wish I had mod points: +1 insightful. You are especially spot-on about these people's lack of faith. I pity the poor creationist whose weak faith can't survive the scientific realities of evolution. Someone with a real, abiding faith in God wouldn't be affected by evolution or other scientific theories - they would just adapt. Christianity survived the discovery that the universe doesn't revolve around the earth, and it can survive evolution.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by sconeu ( 64226 )

        Yeah. Again, my sig (quoted below in case I change it) seems relevant as well...

        "People who need govt to enforce their religion must not have much faith in the power of its message."

      • by dido ( 9125 ) <{hp.muirepmi} {ta} {odid}> on Friday February 12, 2010 @05:39PM (#31119808)

        I myself had most of my primary and secondary education at Roman Catholic school, and one of the things they taught us in religious classes is that the conflict between science and religion is completely bogus. Science is there to answer the how of the universe, whereas religion is there to answer the why. It is unimportant that the ancient Sumerian cosmology reflected in the Old Testament creation stories is at odds with the findings of modern-day science, that's not the point. The point behind the creation story is not to explain how man and the universe came to be, but rather why they came to be, and their purpose. It seems that this was how the Catholic Church came to resolve its once-turbulent relationship to science since the days of Galileo. As Cardinal Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI has said:

        We cannot say: creation or evolution, inasmuch as these two things respond to two different realities. The story of the dust of the earth and the breath of God, which we just heard, does not in fact explain how human persons come to be but rather what they are. (emphasis mine)

        Further, he says in a book published in 2008:

        The theory of evolution does not invalidate the faith, nor does it corroborate it. But it does challenge the faith to understand itself more profoundly and thus to help man to understand himself and to become increasingly what he is: the being who is supposed to say Thou to God in eternity.

        The Catholic Church seems to have come a long way since the 17th Century. Unfortunately, it looks like fundamentalist Christians in the United States are all set to repeat many of the mistakes made by the Catholic Church back then, but with far greater matters at stake than the life and reputation of an old scientist.

  • by dpilot ( 134227 ) on Friday February 12, 2010 @04:00PM (#31117498) Homepage Journal

    Two immediate responses are prompted by this article...

    First is to call to mind the fate of the Muslim civilization in the second millennium. The Muslims kept the lights on during the Dark Ages. They're the reason we know about the ancient Greeks. In those days, science was considered good, because it was discovery of God's world and ways. Somewhere about the middle of the second millennium the Muslim civilization encountered other pressures (like invasions) and turned their backs on science in favor of religious dogma. (Don't know if there was cause and effect there, coincidental timing, or some other relationship.) They've never been at the forefront of civilization since. We're starting to do the same thing here in the US. One key part of science is to face the world truthfully, whatever it tells you, and deal with it. Religion can help you deal with it. But when you impose religion as a "truth filter" between you and the real world, you've lost it.

    Second, a more tactical response, is to quit following Texas' lead on textbook purchases. Is there any reason we have to let them set the standard, or is it a combination of laziness and their purchasing power?

  • by skydude_20 ( 307538 ) on Friday February 12, 2010 @04:02PM (#31117534) Journal
    you refer to people as "dumbass Texans".. if you're so smart, why not reason with them and fight the good fight instead of dropping below their level and resorting to name calling. those "dumbass Texans" are winning...
    • by Scrameustache ( 459504 ) on Friday February 12, 2010 @04:31PM (#31118168) Homepage Journal

      you refer to people as "dumbass Texans".. if you're so smart, why not reason with them

      Because he's smart enough to know that no amount of intelligent, thoughtfull discussion can sway these people from their emotional beliefs. We're talking about people who go "if evolution was true, why would there still be monkeys?" as if they'd pulled some irrefutable argument instead of profoundly ignorant tripe. You can't reason with them: they're immune to it.

    • by tthomas48 ( 180798 ) on Friday February 12, 2010 @04:32PM (#31118190) Homepage

      Obama does this every day from the highest bullypullpit in the land. You know why you can't do it? Because they're not "for" anything, they're only against Democrats. Every time he concedes a point. Every time he gives Republicans what they want. Suddenly it's not what they want anymore. You wanht lower taxes? You want balanced budgets? Well, sure, but not if a Democrat's doing it. If a Democrat's doing it, it's going to destroy the very fabric of our nation.

      The reason that you can't reason with the textbook manufacturers is that they honestly believe that if they somehow "fix" the textbooks there won't be any more Democrats in the United States and it will be one homogenous white Christian nation. The failure of reality to match up with that expectation means they have not gone far enough and must keep going. It's not a matter of reality. It's a matter of frustration at not being able to fix the world using the ideals they have faith in.

      Most Christians in Texas who are aware of the situation think these people are ridiculously extreme, but it's nearly impossible to get rid of them.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by 0xdeadbeef ( 28836 )

      if you're so smart, why not reason with them and fight the good fight instead of dropping below their level and resorting to name calling. those "dumbass Texans" are winning...

      That would be giving them the credibility they want. They are not our equals. The only reason they do this is to annoy us, to try to force the educated and influential to pay them the attention they crave.

      They are only "winning" in the sense in that they are playing their roles as pawns in a larger game effectively.

  • by tjstork ( 137384 ) <> on Friday February 12, 2010 @04:02PM (#31117538) Homepage Journal

    Is that, some would argue that the present "living document" and history as given in textbooks from the 1970s and later was done by a concerted left wing effort to make the country swing left.

    Instead, it backfired miserably.

    My 1970s textbooks in grade school and high school went out of their way to define progress as a big march to the nanny state.. and as I remember flipping through pictures of poor people doing nothing, along came Ronald Reagan, to say that, well, it was all a bunch of crap.

    Propaganda for kids doesn't work, because, the truthful documents are there. The truth is this: The wingers have this much of a point: The constitution is a strict document that defines powers given to the government, not, giving people rights, and the framers did base their ideas on Locke, that, because we've all got souls, we've all got rights. But what wingers also neglect to mention is that the framers were decidedly against much of their agenda too.

    The founding fathers, in particular, want a standing army or a standing military at all. Indeed, up until the 1900s, the USA was barely a 2nd rate military power and looked on European military spending as a colossal sort of stupidity.

    The founding fathers envisioned no federal power to regulate drugs or marriage or anything else. They would tax whiskey, and that was about it, and that was only to pay down the debt from the revolutionary war.

    Bottom line is this, if you believe in the Constitution as it is written, there may not be any federal right to entitlements making, but there's no right to having a big army or any of the stuff the right wing wants, either.

    The founding fathers were libertarians.

  • by G-Man ( 79561 ) on Friday February 12, 2010 @04:09PM (#31117688)

    You know, I have to chuckle every time I see one of these stories. When I was back in school, it was pretty standard classical stuff - the Greeks, Shakespeare, Newton, the Scientific Method, etc. Now, it happened to be that dead white guys came up with most of that stuff, but that was just how it was. But sometime after I left, the Deconstructionists, the Postmodernists, the Moral Relativists, and the Frankfurt School got their hands on the reigns. No ones 'truth' was any better than another. The scientific method was no more valid than animism. Everyone got their own truth.

    Well, guess what, folks? Now the Christian Fundamentalists (and the Islamic Fundamentalists) are pressing for their own 'truth'. Remember, yin and yang - everything contains within itself the seed of its opposite. That's one piece of non-white guy wisdom that holds up pretty well.

  • by presidenteloco ( 659168 ) on Friday February 12, 2010 @04:12PM (#31117750)

    I figure that there should be mandatory classes, at the mid to upper high school level,
    in basic epistemology and metaphysics (i.e. meta-level topics such as):

    -How to think carefully, logically.

    -How to search.

    -How to formulate good questions.

    -How to recognize bias; people who are "speaking for effect"; trying to
    influence you, and some of the common motivations why people do

    How to form beliefs using epistemic responsibility.

    Then set them free to explore the information from a billion sources
    that we have available to us at a mouse click today.

    The scariest kind of graduate is one who has been taught only to
    parrot, and to conform to orthodoxy, and who does not know how to question.

  • Open it up! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by justfred ( 63412 ) on Friday February 12, 2010 @04:21PM (#31117926) Homepage

    This (and other reasons) is why I believe public school textbooks should be free/open source (as in speech, as well as as in beer, aside from a nominal small printing/distribution charge - which will not be needed once all schoolchildren own iPads or other e-readers) and wiki-editable with review before publishing. Get the textbook companies out of the business of making massive profits off the backs of our school system, and involve the public in the education process. Find a way to review that will weaken agenda-driven edits.

  • by SuperBanana ( 662181 ) on Friday February 12, 2010 @04:29PM (#31118124)
    As the NY Times discusses- the Christian nutjobs pushed themselves onto school boards over the last 20 years, and that's how we got into this mess. It's time for the rationalists, atheists, and humanists to do the same.

    Hold more than a bachelor's degree, or a degree in education? Run for your local school board. Especially if you live in Texas. You're running against dentists and hair stylists. Just remember to not appear to be some anti-god nutjob.

    Meanwhile, everyone lobby their state representatives and education boards to refuse to use any textbooks Texas does. Sue, if necessary. Make Texasisms so toxic that textbook companies will have no choice but to produce books for texas, and books for the rest of us. If they want to turn themselves into a hellhole of ignorance, so be it, but they can do it alone.

  • by bugs2squash ( 1132591 ) on Friday February 12, 2010 @04:42PM (#31118460)
    from Benjamin Crowell []. I liked it so much I payed for a printed copy from lulu. It seems to me that these are the textbooks of the future, not created by school boards, but chosen by individual teachers from a wealth of free or low-cost online material. If you don't like textbooks, write one, publish it online and at lulu and give teachers the right to choose their own materials for teaching.
  • Dominionism at play (Score:5, Informative)

    by magus_melchior ( 262681 ) on Friday February 12, 2010 @04:53PM (#31118726) Journal

    Dominionists, for those who don't recognize the term, are Christians (usually evangelical Protestants, though some Catholic groups exhibit dominionist theology) who believe that God's "laws" or moral wishes supersede any law drafted by men. To these folks, abolishing abortion by legislation or by Supreme Court reversal, banning homosexual rights (and possibly even recognition as humans), and creationism (along with a general rejection of scientific consensus) are all crucial and pressing policies that must be enacted in any government.

    Naturally, that theology runs afoul of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment (Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion...). They will, of course, try to argue that they're not trying to establish a Church of America, but nevertheless the consequences of their success are no different. Furthermore, trying to reason with them is usually futile, as they perceive the US to be a rebellious state against God that was originally founded by Christians (which is a poor reading of history at best)-- and since their theology unnaturally blends Old and New Testaments, they think that if the US continues the status quo or adopts policies left of conservatism*, it will meet the same fate as ancient Israel when it was conquered by Babylon, or when it rebelled against the Roman Empire. No amount of arguing from Paul's letters or "render unto Caesar" will do any good, because as far as they're concerned, they have absolutely nothing to lose-- the Kingdom on the earth must be established, but they will not recognize that it was never meant to be a literal kingdom or government built by the hands of men.

    But in their minds, they've already lost several times-- the conservative Supreme Court has at least ruled conservatively where social issues were concerned-- as in, they relied more on precedent and the Constitution rather than Christian morals (though we'll really see their true colors when the CA Prop 8 trial is sent their way), they only got what was no doubt in their minds a watered-down abortion/stem cell ban from Congress, and they've now lost a very reliable friend and ally in the White House due to term limits and a charismatic Democrat-- not that the former Alaskan governor did much to help them at all. They refuse to believe that their allies in government (the Republicans) failed them, because their allies are their leaders and to them, "one of us". If you're a member of the congregation, you don't speak ill of "one of us", though you can heap criticism and vitriol on "one of them". Therefore they see the electoral losses in 2006 and 2008 not as defeats, but as "them"-- non-dominionists-- having conspired to destroy the Church (or euphemistically, the "good things about America"). You'll notice that this duress argument is used commonly in the big Tea Party rallies and by some right-wing media men.

    So the way they see it, because the "liberals" and the "atheists"** cheated, they're going to fight back just as dirty-- but of course they'll justify their own actions as "saving the children", as that has demonstrably worked to enact skewed legislation for generations. Their efforts to mess with public school textbooks is but a taste of what these extremists are capable of, and are willing to do. The greatest shame is that they will think they have brought another Enlightenment and Revival to the US, when in fact they will have consigned their children to academic inferiority as China, India, and other nations progress. The conservatives who are participating in the name of ideological "balance" are digging their own graves as well, as they are more interested in indoctrination, not building up thinking skills in our children. I suppose that, given their permanent self-victimization, they'll blame our relative failure on the "liberals" and "atheists" too.

    * Given the "small government" creed of conservatism, dominionism has always been a strange bedfellow, but I suppose Frank Schaeffer's father leveraged his connections well to cement the alliance...
    ** And here's where Dawkins' movement really hurts those who wish to bring some of these folks back to reason... Yes, I know reasoning with them is usually futile, but that doesn't mean I'll stop trying.

  • by BlackSupra ( 742450 ) on Friday February 12, 2010 @04:59PM (#31118884) []

    • Judging Books by Their Covers

    After the war, physicists were often asked to go to Washington and give
    advice to various sections of the government, especially the military. What
    happened, I suppose, is that since the scientists had made these bombs that
    were so important, the military felt we were useful for something.
    Once I was asked to serve on a committee which was to evaluate various
    weapons for the army, and I wrote a letter back which explained that I was
    only a theoretical physicist, and I didn't know anything about weapons for
    the army.
    The army responded that they had found in their experience that
    theoretical physicists were very useful to them in making decisions, so
    would I please reconsider?
    I wrote back again and said I didn't really know anything, and doubted
    I could help them.
    Finally I got a letter from the Secretary of the Army, which proposed a
    compromise: I would come to the first meeting, where I could listen and see
    whether I could make a contribution or not. Then I could decide whether I
    should continue.
    I said I would, of course. What else could I do?
    I went down to Washington and the first thing that I went to was a
    cocktail party to meet everybody. There were generals and other important
    characters from the army, and everybody talked. It was pleasant enough.
    One guy in a uniform came to me and told me that the army was glad that
    physicists were advising the military because it had a lot of problems. One
    of the problems was that tanks use up their fuel very quickly and thus can't
    go very far. So the question was how to refuel them as they're going along.
    Now this guy had the idea that, since the physicists can get energy out of
    uranium, could I work out a way in which we could use silicon dioxide --
    sand, dirt -- as a fuel? If that were possible, then all this tank would
    have to do would be to have a little scoop underneath, and as it goes along,
    it would pick up the dirt and use it for fuel! He thought that was a great
    idea, and that all I had to do was to work out the details. That was the
    kind of problem I thought we would be talking about in the meeting the next
    I went to the meeting and noticed that some guy who had introduced me
    to all the people at the cocktail party was sitting next to me. He was
    apparently some flunky assigned to be at my side at all times. On my other
    side was some super general I had heard of before.
    At the first session of the meeting they talked about some technical
    matters, and I made a few comments. But later on, near the end of the
    meeting, they began to discuss some problem of logistics, about which I knew
    nothing. It had to do with figuring out how much stuff you should have at
    different places at different times. And although I tried to keep my trap
    shut, when you get into a situation like that, where you're sitting around a
    table with all these "important people" discussing these "important
    problems," you can't keep your mouth shut, even if you know nothing
    whatsoever! So I made some comments in that discussion, too.
    During the next coffee break the guy who had been assigned to shepherd
    me around said, "I was very impressed by the things you said during the
    discussion. They certainly were an important contribution."
    I stopped and thought about my "contribution" to the logistics proble

  • by Animats ( 122034 ) on Friday February 12, 2010 @07:01PM (#31121292) Homepage

    One of the weirder bits of right-wing belief is that U.S. Constitution was "divinely inspired" []. This is an official Mormon position, and some of the more right-wing Christian groups have picked up on it.

    What's so weird about this is that we have the Federalist Paper and the debates of the Constitutional Convention. There's not much mystery about how it was put together. The major players all wrote about their thinking.

    The basic parameters of the U.S. Constitution came from the constraints the authors faced. They already had the Articles of Confederation of the Continental Congress in force, which set up a confederation of states, somewhat like the United Nations or the European Union. This was a weak federation, and it ran into the problems of most weak federations - too many decisions required unanimity. so it was hard to get things done. So they needed something with more central authority. Britain was still a threat. "We must hang together, or we will assuredly all hang separately". The key point to remember about the Constitutional Convention was that the delegates knew that if their new government broke down, they'd end up being hung for treason by British soldiers. (This was not a theoretical risk. See War of 1812.)

    But the states didn't want too much central authority. Almost everyone agreed that a king was a bad idea. (Well, Hamilton wanted a king. He wanted to be king. Didn't fly.) Direct democracy was considered, but the French Revolution was getting underway at the time (the storming of the Bastille occurred during the convention), and that wasn't looking too good. Especially since many of the delegates were aristocrats. Most of the states already had a two-house legislature and a governor, so that looked like an acceptable model to follow. So that was the basic model.

    Once it became clear that a strong president was needed, the problem was making sure he didn't become a dictator. All the players knew what had happened to Rome. This led to some basic safeguards. Congress can impeach the President, but the President cannot dissolve Congress. There are also some subtle safeguards not often mentioned; the President has a fixed term of office and it runs out at noon on inauguration day. It's the clock, not the swearing in, that makes the new President. So an outgoing president can't stall. (Nixon's cronies once considered that option.) So when the time comes, the old guy has to leave, like it or not.

    On the rights side, the debates are well known. Again, existing models were followed; the Bill of Rights looks a lot like the Virginia Declaration of Rights. The notion of an established religion was rejected; Britain had that, and it led to several civil wars. So the delegates agreed on a "hands off" approach to religion.

    All this stuff was argued out. What made it work was that the delegates all knew that if they screwed up and a divided nation resulted, Britain would move in. The knowledge that one is to be hanged at dawn concentrates the mind wonderfully.

I've finally learned what "upward compatible" means. It means we get to keep all our old mistakes. -- Dennie van Tassel