Thursday, November 23, 2017
Opinion

Ruth: Book 'em, Danno, on Ignorance 101

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We all know where this is likely headed — somewhere around 1859.

For if state Sen. Alan Hays, R-Fire and Brimstone, gets his way, Florida's school districts could well find themselves thrown into academic anarchy.

Hays is sponsoring a bill in the Florida Legislature — not to be confused with a citadel of the Enlightenment — that would remove the state from selecting public school textbooks, leaving the choice solely up to individual school districts. Think of Hays' addled idea as an attempt to introduce Common Snore Standards into Florida classrooms.

The senator got his hairshirt in a wad after a dispute erupted last year in Volusia County when the school district started using the obviously satanic/extremist/communist-inspired Prentice Hall World History textbook. A Facebook posting printed in the Daytona Times newspaper from a page set up by textbook opponents Rick Sarmiento and Earl Tony Ledbetter may have put it best: "We cannot allow our local, state and federal governments to take away our Christian heritage and indoctrinate our youth with that of one religion over all others. This is AMERICA for God's sake."

Apparently the critics are perfectly fine with theologically indoctrinating the kiddos in public schools — just as long as it involves a crucifix.

The pillar-of-salt grumbling concerns 36 pages in one chapter dealing with Muslim civilizations. The book's other 33 chapters address ancient Egypt, the Roman Empire, the Middle Ages, the Renaissance and Reformation, the French Revolution, the Industrial Revolution, imperialism, World Wars I and II, the Cold War and the developing world. You know, world history stuff.

It is impossible to teach world history without addressing the role of religion in general and the influence of Islam in particular. This is called learning stuff. It's all the rage in civilized societies. Ledbetter, Sarmiento and their fellow antediluvian travelers ought to try it sometime. Apparently they have so little faith in the ability of public school students to intellectually comprehend Islam's role in world history, they think that after merely being exposed to 36 pages of book learning they will suddenly want to start wearing burkas and dreaming of 80 virgins awaiting them in paradise. The Ottoman Empire? Avert your eyes!

If Hays is able to jam his proposal through the Florida Legislature, the state's 67 school boards would be confronted with a special interest pie fight as groups lobby to have their religious and cultural biases reflected in the materials provided to students.

There could well be regions of the state where students will be taught that evolution is merely a passing fancy. They will be taught man rode on dinosaurs, or Earth was formed a mere 6,000 years ago. They will be taught there is no such thing as climate change or the Holocaust. They will be taught that fluoride will turn you into a newt. And it's entirely possible they might be taught that Glenn Beck is a noted historian.

They might possibly be taught that the South actually won the Civil War. On second thought, delete "possibly." And would anyone be shocked that if Hays' Leave No Delusion Behind textbook proposal wins approval, some of the state's children will be taught that Elvis is still alive?

And if the proponents of Race to the Swamp get their way, the state's textbooks will tell our children that unless they adhere to a born-again Christian ideology, they are infidels consigned to eternal damnation. Extra credit for speaking in tongues as a second language.

Some school districts will resist the balkanization of textbook decisionmaking. Some won't, leading to a perverse educational segregation of Florida schools just as damaging to students as racial discrimination. Large swaths of students could be subjected to an education grounded in stupidity, fear and political influence.

Public schools need uniformity in curriculum and selected textbooks for Florida to compete nationally and globally. If Hays succeeds in preventing professional educators from selecting textbooks, Florida will be hard-pressed to compete with the Dogpatch School District.

Still, this is a teachable moment. The state's schoolchildren are learning a valuable lesson about what happens when uninformed religious radicals wage war against expanding educational horizons.

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