Theory and fact 

Cobb County gives up the battle to undermine evolution

Uh oh. Just as this year's war on Christmas was winding down, the Cobb Country school board threw in the towel and decided to end its battle to paste stickers warning that evolution is "a theory, not a fact" into textbooks.

The school board's decision brings to an end a four-year legal battle between creationist parents and those who filed a lawsuit asserting that the stickers represented government-imposed religious beliefs.

Cobb County's school board became a national laughingstock over the issue, as they deserved to.

The county's elected officials seem to have a proclivity for proudly stupid declarations. Recall that in 1993, the county commission adopted a resolution declaring the homosexual "lifestyle" incompatible with community standards. Then they voted to discontinue funding of the arts because Theatre in the Square produced a play about AIDS.

The utterly stupid resolution, condemning up to 10 percent of the county's own population, resulted in Cobb losing rights to host the 1996 Olympics volleyball games.

What's next? How about a law requiring the pastors of all Cobb evangelical churches to strip naked and view both gay and straight pornographic videos? Anyone who gets even a mild erection from the gay porn will be prohibited from teaching the Gospel and will have to move out of the county. (I suggest that bored creationist parents, having lost the evolution battle, redirect their civic energies by volunteering to measure the erections of the pastors.)

Most of the other baby boomers I know complain constantly about growing old, but nearly all of us agree that we're happy we didn't have to contend with this kind of insanity when we were kids. It certainly was no picnic to be a closeted gay teenager in a time when your sexual orientation was criminalized as well as pathologized and declared a sin. Much of that has changed, at least officially. But I can't imagine what it would have been like to hear government officials issuing edicts that, by their hateful public utterance, actually authorized persecution.

Even more stunning is the disrespect of science, part of a broader movement in the culture brought on by people such as George W. Bush who value "belief" over demonstrable fact. And when the facts are clearly contradictory to expedient belief, as in the case of global warming, these people have utterly no qualms about eliminating the truth from discourse. (Thus, they develop pseudo-science such as "intelligent design" when wacky belief, such as creationism, gets effectively shredded.)

I cannot imagine what it must be like to be a public education teacher now. It's obvious that graduates of the schools are not taught to think critically and most of them don't seem to have even a basic understanding of civics. To this day, I still often think of three teachers I had in high school: Mr. Smith, Mr. Clark and Miss Pace.

Mr. Smith was my history and civics teacher who encouraged fiercely independent thinking. Besides teaching several of my classes, he sponsored the philosophy club where he taught us about everything from Kant to Marx. Of course, a few parents -- including my own mother, seeing me reading "The Communist Manifesto" -- grumbled that he was advocating socialism, but nobody got paranoid enough to organize against him. Our parents had learned a lesson from the McCarthy era.

My English teachers, Mr. Clark and Miss Pace, cultivated both my love of literature and writing. Mr. Clark, widely regarded as a monster, forced me to learn perfect punctuation. He gave two grades for every paper we wrote -- one for content and one for punctuation. I got an A/F from him early on and, in a rage, stormed out of the classroom. He was cold in many ways but he also flattered me as a writer. I have never worked as an editor when, observing the lousy punctuation of well-educated writers, I haven't said a prayer of thanks to him.

Miss Pace not only urged me to write, especially poetry in the style of this or that poet, she saw in me what I think my own parents failed to see -- the depth of my wounds. She saw the self-contempt that underlay most of my humor and she was the first person to tell me to become more, not less, of myself. I remember she even made a book for me of cartoons she clipped from magazines such as the New Yorker. The narrative was an argument against my already deeply pessimistic life view. I carried it around for years, but lost it 10 years ago.

Do kids in the public schools still have such experiences? I hope so. I just can't imagine growing up amid the directly intrusive stupidity of people such as Cobb County's elected officials.

Cliff Bostock holds a Ph.D. in depth psychology.


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