Thursday, May 31, 2018

Lies In "Lies In The Textbooks"

Lamar Smith returns from watching even more Kent Hovind videos.  Here is the original "Lies in The Textbooks" if you have a couple of hours of lifespan that you can't use in a more edifying matter.

For weeks now Kent has been running a series of videos that are billed as a reboot of one of his original for sale videos “Lies in the Textbook.” I’ve watched the original and was unimpressed with it then and am even less so with the extended Director’s cut. 

I adore movies both old and new and think they can make wonderful analogies that help people understand as well as get them to think. Joe Pesci did a fish out of water movie about a slick New Jersey lawyer venturing down to Alabama, I believe, to defend a family member wrongfully accused of murder called “My Cousin Vinny.” Vinny, played by Pesci, has to convince Ralph Maccio to allow him to defend the young man and his traveling companion. Vinny pulls out a deck of cards and holds up one flat surface facing his cousin. He explains that the prosecution’s case is like a wall of bricks that appears to the jury both substantial and solid. 

He then explains that, as a defense attorney, his job is to show that those seemingly solid bricks are as thin and flimsy as a house of cards. Since his cousin is innocent, this will be as easy as that and makes the card disappear.

Given that Kent has produced so many of these “Lies” videos, I’ll not be referencing any single video or even any single claim he makes. Suffice it to say with a very paltry amount of research every single one of Kent’s facts and claims can withstand as much scrutiny and are exactly as substantial as Vinny’s card.

I want to focus on what I believe is a larger and more dishonest line that Kent takes. Time and time and time again when Kent’s claims are refuted he has a standard fallback position that everyone who has listened to even one of Kent’s debates has heard.

If a debater says “You make this claim and that claim is wrong for this reason,” invariably Kent will fall back on the following: “Hey, I’m not asking for my thing to be taught at taxpayer expense, but you are asking for evolution to be taxpayer funded as both research and curriculum.”

Given Kent’s past most people can laugh out loud at the irony of Kent worried about where other people’s tax money goes. Please continue, though, because the irony doesn’t stop there.

[To be fair since the original DAL was not recognized as an exempt organization, Kent likely paid property taxes and also sales tax - PJR]

One of the “lies in the textbook,” according to Kent, is that “creationism can’t be taught in the classroom.” I feel justified in saying that that statement appears in no textbook because no textbook would cover that. In what class would that be germane? What subject would give a test on that issue? Math? English? History? In no textbook I’ve ever seen has the author written “I can’t tell you why I think what I just taught you is true because I’m not allowed to do so.” If anyone has ever seen such a preposterous statement I will be both extraordinarily surprised and retract my last statement immediately.

Kent explains that the Bible and creationism can be taught in public school and, in this, he is 100% right. For some reason, though, he chooses to leave out any further detail and those details are important to a complete analysis of Kent’s statement.

I taught World History for 12 years and had students early in the year read the 10 Commandments and compare them to selections from the Code of Hammurabi. I asked my students what the difference between them was and never failed to have at least one student in each class notice that Hammurabi listed both the crime and the punishment whereas the author of the Bible doesn’t make it plain in that passage what the actual punishment is or should be.

So, yes, I suppose I “taught the Bible” and did so at taxpayer expense. In the same way many high schools offer an upper level elective course on the Bible that was also at taxpayer expense. If passages are read in a unit on Literature in an English class they, too, would be at taxpayer expense.

In the field of education what Kent and I are talking about is called pedagogy. It boils down to what is taught, how it is taught and why it is taught. The Bible can absolutely be taught in school in History classes, English classes or in an elective class. The Bible can not be taught in any context I can think of in a science class.

Please notice that in the context I mentioned the truth of the Bible or the divine authorship of the Bible isn’t promoted. When studying the 10 Commandments in a comparative way to Hammurabi, I never asked “Which one was written by God?” or which one was Capital-T truth? I simply had students read the two passages and analyze their difference. 

Science classes are prevented from promoting any supernatural event or causation or being. This is true mainly because all science is currently unable to detect or interact with anything supernatural. It is neither wise nor prudent to teach that some event or outcome was caused supernaturally when science cannot, at this time, even detect anything supernatural. When science invents a means to detect the supernatural, things may change. Until then......

The more stiff-necked amongst you may still not be satisfied. The following scenario may not worry you but it is extremely worrying. You’re concerned about the student who asks his science teacher “Yes, but, where did it all come from? Who made the Big Bang?” You’re more concerned that you believe the teacher is prohibited from replying “Oh, yes, God did it.” You’d really like it if the teacher could and would say that.

If you’re really considering pedagogy, though, would you be ok with the same answer to a student asking “Yes but why is it i before e except after c?” or “Why is A squared plus B squared equal to C squared?” Is “because God said so,” acceptable then? I’m sure many of you just might think it is. 

In each of his “Lies” videos, Kent attacks individual examples, evidence and statements in individual textbooks. He’ll usually conclude each section with “Now get that out of there,” as if that will do it.

In various videos he volunteers his minions to go to schools armed with scissors and cut offending sentences out or paste pages together.

All of this is utter nonsense, though. If anyone wants to change any course’s curricula you don’t do this by defacing textbooks. Textbooks are written to State standards. State standards are tied to State issued tests. Even in high school we all know the most common question students ask after you’ve shared new information with them: “Is this going to be on the test?”

That is the filter through which students and teachers operate.  Kent has promised to continue his “Lies” series for many, many more installments. He’s rapidly approaching 60. Every installment features an uncited quotation by Adolf Hitler saying “Let me control the textbook and I’ll control the State.” He’s admitted he doesn’t know where this quote came from and stated he’s not at all bothered by that fact. 

His series will not achieve his goal of making a single change because what is actually, pedagogically, taught is only tangentially tied to the textbooks. Even if Hitler made that statement (and how, exactly, Kent isn’t trying to do the exact same thing remains beyond me) and if it was true of Nazi Germany, it isn’t true today. The academic standards control the class and teachers and administrators purchase textbooks that cover those standards.

If Kent was serious about his efforts he would sit on a committee that decides those standards and have to convince the other members to vote his way. It’s a democratic process subject to oversight but also locally controlled. If Kent was serious he’d also print up his own textbook. Surely he was a teacher long enough to know what the finished product should look like. He’s written books. It doesn’t seem like it should be beyond him.

Hovind would rather sit amongst like-minded folk and show his card to his audience and claim it’s as solid as a brick and he’s constructed an entire, solid wall of them.

Just don’t look to closely or you may just detect how the magician’s trick really works.

Lamar Smith who has taught history in high school in Texas for twelve years is working his way into being a regular contributor to Your Tax Matters Partner.

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