Republicans Are Dominating State Politics, Destroying Science

jesus_dinosaurMany of us are enjoying our post-election schadenfreude, observing as the Republican Party increasingly marginalizes itself, demographically and politically, and scrambles to cut a narrowing path to the White House while also attempting to shove the tea party demon back into its cage.

Yet at the same time, we’re hearing more and more about all varieties of insanity at the state and local level where the party has been cultivating its power base for decades. Strategically, it’s a fantastic back-door to exploit.

While Washington is the primary focus of our national attention, and the president’s re-election victory offers the facade of Democratic dominance, Republicans in many states have been able to operate mostly unopposed.

I don’t mean to be a Debbie Downer here, but let’s do the list. Off the top of my head we’ve observed the passage or near-passage of voter ID laws, attacks on unions, sweeping legislation reversing reproductive rights, anti-abortion ultrasound laws, personhood amendments, gerrymandering and electoral vote tampering. They’ve blocked Medicaid expansion while refusing to implement the Obamacare health insurance exchanges. They’ve passed school voucher programs that privatize the public education system and they’ve slashed and burned social programs while protecting tax cuts for the rich. And the Republicans are doing a fine job of blocking new gun control legislation. Most of these measures have been successfully pushed through various state capitals by dominant Republican legislatures and governors. And on top of everything else, they’re pushing the antiquated process of nullification. As I wrote this week, nullification originated with the pro-slavery movement and, in today’s context, would theoretically block the federal government from overruling any of the above.

Suddenly, the Republican Party doesn’t seem as feckless and geriatric, eh? Before Democrats laugh and point at the GOP clown car, they ought to keep a very serious eye on the states because the Republicans are kicking their collective asses.

In Oklahoma yesterday, Republican legislators advanced a bill, HB 1674, through the state Common Education committee. If passed, the law would make it illegal for a teacher — a public school teacher — from giving a student a poor grade for answering questions about science and evolution with unprovable, untestable biblical mythology. In other words, if a teacher asks a test question about the lives of prehistoric humans, a student could suggest that cave men or maybe even Jesus himself used to ride on the backs on dinosaurs and science teachers would be unable to mark the answer as incorrect. A student could invoke the Great Flood and the talking snake in the Garden of Eden in a discussion about the provable science of evolution and not be corrected for it.

Additionally, the law would make it illegal for a teacher to grade a student poorly for debunking the climate crisis — global warming. The student could write, for example, that it’s snowing in the Northeast in February and therefore the global climate can’t be growing warmer and unstable.

In Kansas last week, Republican lawmakers introduced HB2306, which would force teachers to present evidence that debunks the climate crisis while also presenting alternate views on whether and why the climate is changing. The bill commands that public school educators “provide information to students of scientific evidence which both supports and counters a scientific theory or hypothesis.” Of course the twisted logic of this bill would allow a crackpot teacher to instruct his or her students on the existence of Bigfoot and the notion that dead people can become ghosts and subsequently haunt houses. In science class. As I’m sure you can deduce, without the scientific method and the results it generates as the basis upon which science class is taught, anything goes. And “anything goes” in science class is phenomenally dangerous.

Meanwhile, back in Missouri, another law, HB 291, the “Missouri Standard Science Act,” was introduced by Rep. Rick Brattin. The law would force teachers to give equal science class time to intelligent design, the idea of “destiny” and whatever other ridiculous theories about human origins are floating around out there. According to Mother Jones, the bill redefines important scientific precepts:

For example, a “hypothesis” is redefined as something that reflects a “minority of scientific opinion and is “philosophically unpopular.” A scientific theory is “an inferred explanation…whose components are data, logic and faith-based philosophy.” And “destiny” is not something that $5 fortune tellers believe in; Instead, it’s “the events and processes that define the future of the universe, galaxies, stars, our solar system, earth, plant life, animal life, and the human race.”

To anyone with even a modest respect for science, this law ought to be terrifying. Further terrifying is what Rep. Brattin said about the bill, “I’m a science enthusiast…I’m a huge science buff. This [bill] is about testable data in today’s world.” Um. Yeah. He’s not. He’s a far-right fundamentalist zealot who’s cleverly disguised himself as a science “buff.” And there’s nothing resembling testable data when it comes to intelligent design, just a lot of hocus-pocus conjecture based on wishful thinking. Besides, intelligent design isn’t an end in and of itself, it’s clearly a stepping stone to teaching creationism in science class.

The saying goes, All politics is state and local politics. And the Republican Party is remarkably dominent. Their efforts are going a long way towards the further Balkanization of science and our broader culture, not to mention civil and voting rights. So maybe it’s an appropriate time for Democrats to put down the schadenfreude and get to work.

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  • contribuable1963

    The way thing are going in the USA for teaching science, China will be the first one to
    walk on Mars, not the USA !

  • http://www.facebook.com/sharon.holley.142 Sharon Holley

    What caused the ice ages and end of same? Maybe the great dinosaurs were breathing out too much CO2!

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1249311423 Bernie Wolfe

      From what I understand Christians thought dinosaurs were demons. In our modern era someone told me there are people in his small town who don’t believe any other planet or solar system etc. exists outside of our system. Its a conspiracy. lol.

  • jjdoe

    Unfortunately, it’s because we, the mostly laid-back libs, don’t like a fight. We see shades of gray while the ‘nuts see stark B+W. We aren’t joining the police departments, the school boards, the city government, the higher offices. We don’t like rolling in the mud with the pigs. So the pigs make the rules.
    And THAT is why we are losing a contest that shouldn’t even be close. We don’t move and act as one. We aren’t like the connected bad guys in the Matrix. We mouth off on FB and feel like we’re helping.
    And I’m the worst example. I don’t even want jury duty – not that that helps decide anything relevant…

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1655290390 Steven Skelton

    School vouchers are a good thing, Bob. I live in the city of St. Louis. The public schools are unaccredited and an utter failure by every measure one may measure schools by.

    I have three choices for my two children. I can send them to unsafe schools where they won’t receive an education. I can buck up $1500/month to send them to private schools. I can move out to St. Louis County.

    Obviously, I will move to St. Louis County within the next 3 years and before my oldest goes to kindergarten.

    You may not like me, but I’m good for the city of St. Louis. I own and maintain two properties. I own a business in the city. I pay a crap ton of taxes and use next to no city resources. I think the city will be worse off when I leave.

    So, how again are we better off with a failing and unaccredited public school system then we are with vouchers with which I could use my tax money to send my kids to schools that will teach them?

    • http://profile.yahoo.com/7GHYTOHMHQ2KO5DIQNQNFJTYCE Harrison

      Because our tax dollars are funding your mythological story time in what used to be science class through private vouchers. If you want to severely limit your childrens’ future thinking capacities and their understanding of the world, that’s your (and your children’s) problem – don’t ask everyone else to subsidize your religious sermons. Vouchers can be a good thing – religious institutes that preach this pure hore-shit in the guise of science and history should be banned and disallowed from receiving said funds. The next generation needs to be smarter than the one’s calling the shots in these backward state houses.

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1655290390 Steven Skelton

        Where did I say anything about religion or religious schools?

    • drsquid

      Or you could move to the Metro East. Missouri schools blow, especially for special needs. The threshold for getting early intervention in MO is way higher than for IL, because they’re cheap and gleefully mean bastards in MO.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=663669914 Sean Richardson

      “So, how again are we better off with a failing and unaccredited public school system then we are with vouchers with which I could use my tax money to send my kids to schools that will teach them?”

      First off, your tax dollars are also being spent on the failing public school system. But, instead of addressing the problem, they take some of those tax dollars and instead give them to a different school system. So the problem still exists, since they’re doing nothing to address it, and if anything the problem gets worse because they’re taking money away from those schools.

      You’re creating a false scenario, where the only options are “do nothing” or “do what I think is best”. But the option that isn’t even being discussed, because the debate has become “are vouchers good or not?”, is “Should we do something to try to fix the failing schools?”

      So, remind me, how again is the state better off with a continually failing and unaccredited public school system just because you specifically no longer have to send your child there? Or, even better — how will you feel if, after having made such a strong pro-voucher argument, your child isn’t able to get in because every single parent is trying to get their child into those schools because everybody has given up on the public ones? Suddenly, I think the problem with the public schools would seem a lot more vital in that case.

    • D_C_Wilson

      Vouchers are lifeboats on the Titanic. A lucky few will get lifted out while the majority will still go down with the ship. It fits in perfectly with the modern republican philosophy of “got mine, screw the rest of you”, but it doesn’t fix the underlying problems in our schools.

      St. Louis might lessened by the removal of your greatness to the county but your business will still suffer as we continue to create a permanent underclass who are virtually unemployable and unable to contribute to the economy.

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1655290390 Steven Skelton

        Better for everyone to go down?

        • D_C_Wilson

          Yes, because clearly, I said nothing about fixing the systemic problems in our schools.

          /sarcasm

          • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1655290390 Steven Skelton

            You need a new analogy. The Titanic was un-savable.

          • D_C_Wilson

            Yes, because when I used that analogy, I also meant that the schools have literally hit an iceberg.

  • ffakr

    Unless I’m missing something, the OK bill is being blown way out of proportion by rational people. It clearly is aimed at enabling the fringe-right’s attempt to program children to deny reality [what they perceive as liberalism]. However the wording that I saw makes it appear as poorly constructed as the arguments against evolution and Climate Change that it seeks to empower.

    The Bill aims to prevent teachers from marking down papers that try to debunk settled science but my reading is that it will only prevent teachers from marking papers down bases solely on that point. In a perfect world, we shouldn’t mark down a paper just because it is controversial though no one honestly thinks a grammar school kid is going to debunk Anthropogenic Climate Change in a general science class so no I don’t buy into con. I just agree with the bill to the extent that papers should be read, and not bin’ed after the grader reads the first sentence.

    Imagine this passes. What would it REALLY mean, if I’m reading it correctly? Just because a teacher can’t give Timmy and F for writing a paper with the title “evidence that Jesus rode a Dinosaur”, I haven’t seen anything that would prevent that teacher from giving Timmy an F because he can’t support the claim that Jesus rode a Dinosaur. This is where the bills author fails.

    In reality, I’m sure this would cause havoc. The author(s) don’t believe Timmy can find errors in some Climatologist’s Fortran90 climate model code [god forbid Timmy’s got to go back to F77.. there’s still quite a bit out there :-( ].
    It’s not meant to get a paper past a teacher on merits. Of course, it’s meant to discourage teachers from attempting to deprogram fundie kids.

    This is the sort of standard that’s expected and required when you reach the post-graduate levels of education where you’ve, hopefully, gone past simply regurgitating what you’re beign told and you’re starting to do research. I work in HigherEd. We don’t give out PhDs for memorizing text books to pass tests.
    This isn’t the standard for grammar school students or even 99.99% of high school students though. I wish we had more kids in HS that were both motivated and capable enough to up-end accepted science but that’s not a realistic expectation to justify a law that gives everyone else a get-out-of-F card for writing BS.

    The unintended consequences could be great though. What if, with a supportive adminstration in the school, winger parents encouraged their little Timmys to submit papers debunking climate change and to their dismay, their the teachers were encouraged [forced] to step up and include a devastating take-down with the big red F. I suspect there’s far too many Fs and not enough “this is why you got an F”s going around in grammar school.
    I can dream, can’t I? :-)

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1730451827 Jane Phillips

    I see participation in elections as a key factor in creating the veto-proof Republican majority here in Missouri. When the right wing gets mad, they get out and vote. When the left gets mad, they stay home and pout. The voter suppression tactics are adding to that tendency.

    • http://www.facebook.com/veda.williamsseutter Veda Williams-Seutter

      Not a very good example as the democrats got mad enough to get out and vote against Akin and his goofball ideas! As Democrats we got mad enough to vote back in (D)Jay Nixon as our Gov., again in St. Louis (D) Mayor Francis G. Slay,…..

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1730451827 Jane Phillips

        You are correct. There are exceptions to every generalization. It seems to take so much more to rile us up for some reason. Those made up conspiracy theories just don’t carry the same weight with the left.

  • http://twitter.com/SugaRazor Razor

    But what do you do in states like Kansas, Oklahoma and Missouri where the people WANT their government to be a theocracy? Obviously there are liberals in these states, but they’re clearly outnumbered by batshit insanity… what’s the “work” that can be done? I realize that sounds defeatist, but these are regions of the country that have repeatedly voted against themselves on every major issue. I don’t know how you fix that kind of disconnect.

    • http://twitter.com/tlavely Tony Lavely

      Thank you for putting my question so succinctly! While gerrymandering may account for some of the success, I believe, as you do, the people’s will is being done. Their will may be based on lies and fantasy, but it is their will, I suppose.

      We can stop it with fact based education to overcome the faith-based stories coming out of the churches. Except, of course, they don’t want that either. And think how they’d holler if the Federal Government took on the role of defining education standards. You think guns cause an uproar?

      • Christopher Foxx

        And think how they’d holler if the Federal Government took on the role of defining education standards.

        Yeah, better to keep the federal gov’t as far from those folks as possible. I’m sure they’d much rather do without any federal interference. Of course, that means they should do without federal funds as well.

        And when they finally get tired of the crumbling infrastructure in their state, and the higher state tax rates, and the lack of gov’t services, and the exodus of jobs to other states perhaps they’d decide teaching actual science isn’t so bad after all.

    • http://drangedinaz.wordpress.com/ IrishGrrrl

      You left Arizona out of that list and it REALLY belongs there. And yes, there are liberals here but we are so outnumbered it is ridiculous. I could campaign until I dropped for Dems here (and I have in the past) and it wouldn’t make a damn bit of difference.

      The one hope that AZ has, down the road, is the burgeoning Hispanic population. Then again, the state lost about 200,000 Hispanics as a result of SB1070. So these GOP state governments can make life so miserable for minorities and liberals that they just up and leave, further strengthening the lunatic majority in those states.

    • drsquid

      Exactly. These are three bad examples – they were going to be GOP regardless.

      Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Ohio, on the other hand…

    • Christopher Foxx

      Economic self interest trumps philosophical points nearly every time. Given a choice to starve while pushing creationism or eating well by staying silent, most will take the bread.

      If more reasonable folks control the federal government, action can be taken at the federal level to encourage stupid states to not be so stupid. If a state passes anti-science legislation, they lose federal funds.

      For the most part, the anti-science states are also the one who receive more than they give. (Funny how that works.) If they want to be stupid, they can. But there are consequences.

      • http://twitter.com/SugaRazor Razor

        But these deep red states have proven that assertion wrong time and time again. This is what Obama was talking about in the infamous guns and religion “gaffe.” These people have given up on the idea of the government helping them economically, they think they only people the government helps are welfare queens and immigrants, so instead they vote based on god, guns and gays.

        • Christopher Foxx

          I believe we’ve pretty well established that what they think has very little to do with what really is. They may think the gov’t does nothing for them, but they’d be very, very upset if that truly happened.

          These are the type of folks who demand “Keep your government hands off my Medicare.” OK, sure. Happy to. And when getting what they want means Medicare has disappeared, they will be demanding the gov’t do something about them not having medical care.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1655290390 Steven Skelton

      I live in Missouri. I’m not a liberal. I don’t want a theocracy….nor do I know anyone who wants a theocracy. I go to church every sunday and I’ve never heard the preacher talk about wanting to run the government.

      • http://twitter.com/SugaRazor Razor

        And yet your neighbors are electing representatives that want creationism to carry weight in science class.

        • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1655290390 Steven Skelton

          That’s a whole lot different than a theocracy….

          • D_C_Wilson

            Not really. It’s one of the primary goals of the theocrats.It’s called the Wedge Strategy. First you “teach the controversy” by offering up bogus criticisms of evolution. Then you push a little harder to get “equal time” for “alternative theories”, which means intelligent design (we’re not really saying that the designer is the Christian god, but nudge, nudge, wink, wink). Then once you’ve destroyed the kids’ ability to think critically, you drop the last bit of pretense and go full blown “Answers in Genesis”.

      • http://www.facebook.com/veda.williamsseutter Veda Williams-Seutter

        No, He just told you to vote republican and they will do the rest!

      • Christopher Foxx

        I’ve never heard the preacher talk about wanting to run the government.

        Has he spoken out against those who would deceive children?