Creationism and Vouchers

As the son of a public school teacher, I have always been protective of public education. By protective, I don’t mean defending those school systems that do not do an adequate job educating students. I mean that I am protective of the system of public school education from efforts to undermine the system by the religious right.

The founding fathers did not advocate for “school choice.” They advocated for a public school system that provided equal access to all children. They viewed public education as an essential foundation of democracy. I agree, which is why we should all vigorously oppose the taxpayer funded charter school/school voucher movement being funded by right wing extremists, such as the Koch brothers.

Recent data has shown that, as a whole, charter schools do not deliver better education to students. In fact, when you include data from religious-based schools receiving tax vouchers, it is clear that their students not only do poorly on testing, it would be fair to say that they are getting less of an education than indoctrination. Let’s talk about one reason why.

Americans for Prosperity (the Koch-funded extremist group) has been spending millions to elect state legislators who sponsor vouchers to schools with explicit requirements to teach Creationism — a religious doctrine that teaches that the universe began 10,000 years ago and that mankind appeared virtually at the same time in the same form as today.

Creationism began as a reaction against the theory of evolution, but has had to expand to challenge some of the basic tenets of science and of scientific discoveries in the last 100 years. For example, Creationist classes reject basic mathematical principles that form the basis of inventions as varied as CT scans to survey instruments to computers.

Creationist curricula indoctrinate students to reject the scientific method and personally attacks scientists such as Einstein, Hawkings and others with discoveries that contradict Creationist dogma. They reject the idea that light travels at a speed faster than sound, because they have to reject scientific findings of galaxies billions of years distant. It’s crazy, but religious dogma can be that way sometimes.

It’s easy to understand why students in these schools score low on testing and pursue degrees in science far less often than public school students. It’s also easy to understand why increasing numbers of Americans believe the earth is flat, that climate change is a myth and that our ancestors rode on the backs of dinosaurs. The “Flintstones” cartoon is scientific fact in these schools.

It also explains why Southern and Bible belt states are economically lagging behind while continuing to vote for men with beliefs and policies that are keeping them behind the blue states. It also points to why public education, if not science, is the target of the religious right. An informed electorate is essential to a vital democracy.

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