Slippage

Ignorance is.... A) Guaranteed by the Bill Of Rights; B) Evidence that our schools are working; C) Bliss

For the record: I am deeply religious. I pray a lot. I believe one cannot claim to be a cultured human being without knowledge of the great religions, their histories, and scriptures. The Bible hit America's shores 300 years before the Constitution and no one unfamiliar with the Bible can claim to understand America (which disqualifies many so-called intellectuals). The great religions should be required study in every high school and college, if only because there is no greater historical force than religious passion. But religion should be taught as religion, not as science. To take the Bible literally, in opposition to confirmed scientific data, is mere superstition.

Hostility to science is spreading, like an infection, to history. The Politically Incorrect Guide to American History, by Thomas Woods Jr., "is being snapped up on college campuses and helped along by plugs on Fox News... [soaring] to No. 8 on the New York Times paperback nonfiction bestseller list." The book features far-right revisions of the Civil War, the Marshall Plan, Jim Crow, and the New Deal (NYT, Jan. 26). It is "one of a wave of books like this." They include Michelle Malkin's In Defense of Internment, which claims that the World War II internment of California's Japanese-Americans was justified and benign; also, a booklet used in a North Carolina school called Southern Slavery: As It Was, claiming slavery to have been "a relationship based upon mutual affection and confidence." This isn't history. This is propaganda. (You don't justify old internment camps unless you hope to build new ones.)

The teaching of history is usually slanted one way or another, but not long ago the blatant distortion of science would have been unimaginable. The Soviet Union, Nazi Germany, and Maoist China excluded or distorted whole branches of science that conflicted with their ideologies; not long ago no thinking person imagined it could happen here. But it is happening. On a massive scale. From the highest levels of government to the littlest rural school. Power-savvy factions are spreading an easy-to-digest but ultimately fatal ignorance. Poorly educated, well-intentioned, fearful people, craving order in a chaotic world, are eating it up. They're no more or less stupid than the well-informed, but they haven't the resources for research and they've no body of knowledge by which to weigh what they're told. The poorly skilled and scantily educated have nothing to judge information by except whether it satisfies their emotions. If it makes them less afraid, it must be right.

Sam Adams, like many of our founders, believed democracy would flourish "as long as education was extended to the masses." An ignorant people cannot remain a free people.

Reprinted from the Austin Chronicle.

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