July 17, 2008

Proud Bastard

My first entry into the waters of ye Carnival of Elitist Bastards was this post on being a proud elite.

Now I'm proud to be a bastard. My Lovely Spouse was dismayed when I first joined this particular Carnival because of the name. I'd made a promise as an educator not to put anything too nutty in my blog so I didn't get fired or freak out my student's parents or what not. So signing up to proclaim myself an elitist bastard seemed a bit against that grain.

I beg to differ.

The whole point of our public education system is not to get good test scores. It is not so that our students can go out and get good jobs. It's not even to "create life-long learners," even though that's a big part of it.

The point of our public education system is to make better citizens.

The fight against anti-intellectualism is a big part of that and it's worth being a bastard about. Susan Jacoby gives the example of a questioner not caring about whether or not his mechanic can locate Iraq on a map. He just want the mechanic to be able to fix his car. What the questioner fails to realize is that the mechanic is also a voter. All voters ought to be able to find Iraq on a map, among other things.

We all, each one of us, need to fight against this anti-intellectualism which is the real elitism. What we are fighting for is different.

As PZ Myers said in a recent bloggingheads interview: "We can be accused of being elitist but I think when you get right down to it we're the opposite of elitist because we're saying there are all these good kids...that we shouldn't write off. We want them [children of creationists] to be members of our society--contributing members of our scientific community."

That's why we have to fight against the creationists and anti-evolutionists and for the First amendment and our Bill of Rights.

During the evolution/creation trial in Dover, Pennsylvania there was a moment that was important. Allow me to quote it at length:

"Q. Let's go to our final line of questions. Mr. Callahan, do you feel that, as a Plaintiff in this case, you've been harmed by the actions of the Dover Area School District and its Board of Directors?

A. Yes.

Q. And can you tell us how you've been harmed?

A. I think it goes to the heart of the complaint. It's a constitutional issue. I'm a tax payer in Dover. I'm a citizen of Dover. I'm a citizen of this country. I think the heart of my complaint, my wife's complaint, is that, this is just thinly veiled religion. There's no question about that in our minds.

If you were to substitute where it says, intelligent design, the word, creationism, which, in my mind, it is, there would be no question that this would be a violation of the First Amendment. I've come to accept the fact that we're in the minority view on this.

You know, I've read the polls. I think, you know, a lot of people feel that this should be, that this should be in, that it doesn't cross the line. There are a lot of people that don't care. But I do care. It crosses my line.

And, you know, I've been -- there have been letters written about the Plaintiffs. We've been called atheists, which we're not. I don't think that matters to the Court, but we're not. We're said to be intolerant of other views.

Well, what am I supposed to tolerate? A small encroachment on my First Amendment rights? Well, I'm not going to. I think this is clear what these people have done. And it outrages me."

I'm not going to. That outrage is justifiable.

In our schools we need to value questions and different points of view. We need to value different intelligences and ways of learning and allow deep, thoughtful study of subjects. We need to teach our students Faulkner's advice to "Read, read, read. Read everything."

We need to do these things because citizenship is our goal and we can't afford to be lazy. We need to stand up for what we believe in and go ahead and be bastards if needed.