"I know no safe depository of the ultimate powers of the society but the people themselves; and if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them, but to inform their discretion by education. This is the true corrective of abuses of constitutional power." - Thomas Jefferson 1820

"There is a growing technology of testing that permits us now to do in nanoseconds things that we shouldn't be doing at all." - Dr. Gerald Bracey author of Rotten Apples in Education

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Sunday, October 31, 2010

Lost in Space...and Asheville, North Carolina

I've recently returned from a trip to the Asheville, NC area. It's beautiful in the Smoky Mountains, particularly at this time of year. Asheville is an interesting city, quite liberal in its political leanings, while the surrounding communities could be considered more conservative. North Carolina is considered part of the "Bible Belt" and you can still spot signs in peoples' yards in the shape of crosses inscribed "Jesus Saves" and many yards contain three crosses, remembering Jesus and the two others crucified.

The City of Asheville has the motto: "It's not normal to be normal in Asheville". The religious base of the small surrounding towns and the more secular leanings of Asheville create an interesting cultural tension. That tension was apparent in this recent editorial and subsequent comments in the local paper, the Asheville Citizen-Times, on Saturday, 10.30.10.

Entitled "Public Schools should teach Scientific Fact, not Religious Faith", the editorial ostensibly equates teaching creationism to teaching religious faith. The staff used the responses from the candidates to make this leap:

When asked whether the General Assembly should be involved in the issue of teaching creationism or evolution in public schools, not one of the five candidates who attended would say flatly that creationism should not be taught. Republican Tim Moffitt did not attend, though he showed up for a meet-and-greet afterward.

Democrat Jane Whilden said “both sides should be taught and discussed.” Democrats Susan Fisher and Patsy Keever said the matter should be left up to the state Board of Education. Republicans Mark Crawford and John Carroll stressed their Christian faith. Crawford said such decisions should be made by local boards.

Where in those responses does it state that religious faith be taught? I don't see that the candidates are espousing teaching catechism or specific religious tenets. I see candidates leaving it up to local or state boards for decisions on teaching a theory...whether it be creationism or evolution.

The editorial staff goes on to state:

There are not two sides to the issue; there is only one. Evolution is a scientific theory that has been validated time and again over the century and a half since it was promulgated by Charles Darwin.

Creationism is a religious doctrine based on a literal reading of the first chapter of Genesis.

Are these office-seekers so ignorant they do not know this? Or, and this is more likely, were they dodging the question in order to avoid the wrath of the creationists? In either case, it was a sorry performance.

This was astounding to me. According to the staff, "there are not two sides to the issue; there is only one". Really? This country was founded on Judeo-Christian principles. Whether or not a student believes in those principles is irrelevant. To understand the history of this country, a student needs a background on what Judeo-Christian principles entail. As expressed in "Lost in Space" by the Robot when danger was afoot: "WARNING WILL ROBINSON, WARNING!", that one sentence by the editorial staff speaks volumes.

If you erase the historical references to your history, you can rewrite it to your own design. This is choice architecture at its best...or worst, depending on your view and the importance placed on the foundations for the Declaration of Independence.

The editorial staff goes on to impugn the office seekers by calling them "ignorant" and indicating they had a "sorry performance". Is that because they dared to have a differing opinion from those who are more scientifically minded and allegedly smarter? Haven't we been hearing this label (among others) bestowed on tea partiers from leaders who don't want to listen to taxpayers?

Just a quick side story...we ate at a fabulous Southern restaurant, Tupelo Honey. You MUST stop and eat if you visit the area. It has unbelievable grits, biscuits, frog legs and fried green tomatoes. We were at the southside location (just outside of Asheville proper); it is the second location of the original restaurant in the city. We had a perky and fun waitress who told us we were at the location with the good bar, but it WAS away from civilization...we were maybe three miles from the city limits. I got a good chuckle from that little tidbit. We "southsiders" were not quite up to par with the city dwellers.

I guess that's how the editorial staff thinks about those poor souls with the "Jesus Saves" crosses in their yards. They believe students shouldn't receive instruction on creationism, a theory important in the crafting of the Declaration of Independence. Barack Obama, when talking about this document, omits any reference to the Creator. The founders understood the meaning and success of our country depended on the understanding and belief that our rights were bestowed to us by a Creator, not a government:

Ask yourself: Without the “endowed by their Creator” phrase, does Obama’s paraphrase adequately convey the true meaning of the Declaration? It certainly could be argued that Obama’s reference to “all men are created equal” suggests a Creator, and that his reference to “inalienable rights” (“unalienable rights” in the actual Declaration) suggests that these rights transcend government. But there is also no doubt that his paraphrase is far weaker than the original — so much so that many who hear only the paraphrase without recalling the missing words will not understand that the uniqueness and greatness of America stems from the recognition that rights come from God.

That recognition of the fundamental foundation of the American republic is badly needed today. This is particularly the case when government operates as if it there are no restraints on its powers, and the people as a consequence become increasingly fearful that the freedoms they’ve enjoyed in this wonderful country of ours could become a thing of the past.

The newspaper editorial represents Choice Architects at work. The Asheville Citizen-Times is following this administration's cue. Warning, Will Robinson. Dr. Zachary Smith (aka the Citizens-Times editorial staff) is out to rewrite American history and our understanding of the role of government. Why else would it insist there is only one side to the issue of existence?

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