We Don’t Need Your Thought Control, Science Denier
Matt Mead finally signed off on new science standards for K-12 schools in the state he governs. I’ll save you the google; that state would be Wyoming. This may be one of the most environmentally important developments in education in the last year and you have no damn idea that it happened, or what it means. I only know because I live here. But every climate science denier is jumping up and down in dollar-bill-sign-powered joy.
This is the recurring theme playing behind the crowning of Potentate Trump, a melody meditation on the disconnect between America’s urban coastal “well-educated” liberals and the midwestern and southern (“I love the poorly-educated”) conservatives. The surprise felt by everybody who was “with her” was at least a little bit the realization that we’ve forgotten about the farmers and ranchers and miners and other white laborers who form the backbone of this great nation; hell, who make up nearly half this country.
Amid the cries of pain and calls to protect minority citizens from empowered bigots, there’s a constant refrain dfrom the left: “How can they be so stupid?”
The answer is complicated: They have great fonts of knowledge most urban and suburban Americans have forgotten and so while we chalk it up to stupidity, they chalked “Killary” support to the same.
So we follow up with “Fine, yes, in our own hubris we forgot that there is obviously a lot we have to learn about our fellow Americans. But let’s break it down to simple irrefutable facts all children should learn in school: How can they elect a president who denies the climate change? And a vice president who doesn’t believe in evolution?”
The answer is simple: while we (I’m referring to my former life as sportcoat-and/or-tie-wearing young “professional” in Baltimore and San Diego and L.A.) have been pushing for the best, most progressive boards of educations and highest standards and finest teachers in our backyards, we (see above) have ignored the standards that other states have set. Instead of pushing for greater federal requirements as to what schools can teach as science, especially considering the fact that most of those schools receive some level of federal funding, we’ve simply joked that those rednecks are innocently backwards, haha, they think the world is 6000 years old, what harmless rubes. But that’s not true. Poor education in any part of our country affects us all, regardless of our A+ rankings and dearth of ivy-league-feeder academies.
Back to the Cowboy State. Why are the Wyoming science standards concerning for all of us? In many ways they’re an improvement, the first update in 13 years, yes, that should be commended. But they were first proposed in 2014 and rejected by lawmakers. Why? Because those state standards specifically linked climate change to human activity. So now Governor Matt Mead has finally received an approved sheet from lawmakers after they changed it to say that students should use the scientific method to come to their own conclusions about human hands in climate change.
That’s not how science works. Scientific progress works by building on the conclusions reached by the scientific community, and usually by the most accomplished scientists with the most in-depth methods and best technology at that. So why would Wyoming turn over the climate debate, one that has been resoundingly answered by the larger scientific community (the consequences of which are the very future of our planet), to its high school kids? It all comes down to one simple fact — Wyoming is the country’s #1 coal provider. And if their children to learn the truth about climate change, they might challenge the staus quo.
We Don’t Need No Education Standards
When you tell somebody somethin’, it depends on what part of the country you’re standin’ in… as to just how dumb you are.” — The Bandit
I agree with Burt Reynolds on this one. When I first moved up to Wyoming, I realized that my (half-assed)encyclopedic(borish) knowledge of films and literature little relevancy bore. I needed instead to learn what different types of cloud formations meant, how wind directions could affect the weather of my day. To know what was north, south, east, west, at all times. To understand snowpacks and then to figure out where the fish are, how rising and falling CFS affects your float. What do you do if you encounter a bear? A lion? A moose. I could probably lecture forever about films and books to a Wyomingite or Idaho native and they’ll nod politely; then they could show me how to track a deer, kill it, clean it, quarter it, and butcher it to provide food for my family. If you want to realize how little you know despite your liberal arts degree, go big game hunting in the middle of the country. Or duck hunting in, say, South Carolina.
As humans we should always be trying to get out of our comfort zones and the best way is by learning something completely new and unrelated to all that had informed our worldviews.
That said, there are certain basic truths that need be taught to our children, things that profoundly affect their worldview and will lead to their successful lives. And then they can decide whether they want to dedicate their lives to agriculture, or hunting, or programming apps or writing novels or painting. Those are the basic laws. Laws of grammar and letters. Laws of mathematics. Laws of science.
Currently there are 14 states where creationism is taught in schools despite receiving federal funding: Arizona, Arkansas, Wisconsin, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Oklahoma, Utah, Indiana, Ohio, Texas, Tennessee. Even a few DC school districts receive federal funding to teach kids to look for evidence of the great flood, the Sumerian one; no, I mean the Babylonian one; no, the Brittannic ones; the Norse one? No, of course, the only “real” one, the Christian Old Testament (aka the Jewish Torah) one. Those others were made up.
This has countless tragic results. A lot of these anti-science states are strongly anti-stem-cell-research states because of this religion bullshit. Stem cells have been used to fight certain types of cancer and imagine if stem cell research could end cancer; hell, if we all embraced stem cell research we might just be able to figure out a way to end cancer. Tell me religious ideals of divinity trump scientific progress the next time you see a 7-year-old kid fighting cancer.
But back to Tennessee — in Tennessee they think it’s cool to teach people creationism as an alternative to evolution (and this as I watch a Nat Geo special on the Galapagos and Darwin)(again, though, if Darwin wasn’t wealthy beyond the need to work, he never would’ve discovered this — what good, one could say, is knowledge attained by some rich boy who never had the dirt of labor under his hands?). Though this pales in comparison to Louisiana, the other “most extreme” state when it comes to teaching religious doctrine as fact in school and to the point where it is certifiably disastrous for the children in its state.
Purchasing Louisiana’s Future, 1 Science Denier at a Time
Louisiana. For everybody outside, it’s this weird train-smokestack-shaped city. Most “enlightened” folk have visited New Orleans, where Easy Rider had his last great moments before the rednecks killed him. Maybe you’ve been to Baton Rouge. Otherwise, it’s just the backwoods wasteland popularized by “True Detective.”
But there are real people in Louisiana. And they’ve been hammered by the movement of time. And yet they are doing everything they can to fight to discoveries of the modern world. Yes, plenty of schools there teach creationism. They’re also a state that allows people to teach abstinence-only as an alternative to sex ed. Thus the reason that abstinence-only superhero Congressman Bill Cassidy’s daughter was knocked up at 17.
I’m pointing to Louisiana but pretty much every state with a big push for abstinence-only sex ed has a dangerously high teen pregnancy rate (Louisiana’s rate is going down, of course, all the way to 5th-highest teen pregnancies). So this leads to more families with children they cannot support, which leads to a greater need to work NOW instead of after getting the education or experience necessary to demand the money necessary to support a family (unless you’re rich so your parents can support you all) which leads to a whole chunk of our country that doesn’t have the luxury of worrying about what is best for the future of the environment or the future of our economy (fewer welfare families?) because they just have to worry about how they’re gonna put meat on the table tonight. Because that’s the thing about education, it all comes down to one thing — the future.
The Future Of The World
Back to Wyoming, possibly the place that presents the greatest microcosm for our environmental chess game. It’s a big state; considering its sprawling area and its low population, its the least populous state in the country. There are two big industries here — coal and tourism. The northwest corner is home to Yellowstone and Teton National Parks and Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, which drive over half a billion dollars worth of commerce. These places are some of the ground zeros to conservation because, well, people don’t spend that money to soak in the remarkable architecture. Global warming will lead to the death of species and glaciers and trees and everything else that draws people to our natural places. And since even Mead admitted we need to continue researching renewable technology, Wyoming needs a sustainable industry. Tourism and outdoor sports are just that.
So here’s the problem: If kids aren’t taught that most of the scientific community attributes global warming to human actions, they won’t realize that they need to train in new technologies to push for solar and/or wind and/or biofuels. And what should be the last pro-coal generation will instead be the second-to-last, or third-to-last, and people will keep banking on a future pulling carbon deposits out of the land and doubling down on coal power plants. And when those industries finally go away, we have another generation disenfranchised and caught behind the progress of science when instead they could be progressing alongside it. If only their parents would let them.
You see, while Trump has become the president on some vague promise of making America great again, he never specifically said what that meant or how he would. Oh sure he would bring back jobs by somehow single-handedly rebuilding steelworks and shuttering factories in China and Mexico so that hardworking Americans could take those same jobs paying 3 dollars an hour without benefits or bathroom breaks. I would venture to say that much of America’s greatness in the past was linked to its innovation and specifically in the arenas of science and engineering. Sure, there was our heartiness, our gumption and bravery, yes, but let’s not forget we cemented our role as the #1 global power when we dropped a bomb whose explosiveness came from the very act of splitting the building blocks of the universe.
Trump meanwhile rails on threats from Asia, saying we’ve slipped as untouchable global superpower because of bad trade deals we’ve made. Yet according to a 2015 OECD report, the top 5 countries for math and science were Singapore, Hong Kong, South Korea and Japan and Taiwan. Then some of those nations some people point to as examples for social policies and others point to as weaklings, nations like Finland, Switzerland, the Netherlands. Estonia’s in the top 10. America is number 28.
This is why it’s so concerting that we don’t have national scientific standards. Because the children really are the future, absolutely, without a doubt.
So maybe the key to “Making America Great Again” isn’t cutting taxes on the rich, alienating all our allies, practicing state-run religious discrimination, shutting out the needy and gutting environmental regulations so dying industries can enjoy a last gasp. Maybe it’s as simple as ensuring our children learn scientific facts that the nations currently passing us already understand to be true.
Because denying them facts to fulfill a science denier political agenda is nothing less than brainwashing and every bit an act of child abuse.