Mon. Jun 24th, 2024

Written by Russ Baker

In the beginning, there was light. But then we became dim bulbs.


The other day, I saw two articles highlighted, separately, in the same publication. One mentioned that cases of dementia are destined to grow dramatically in America in coming years. The other explained how the state of Tennessee is intent on making students more stupid.

Tennessee has now passed a law permitting teachers to present students with alternatives to well-known scientific principles. The bill easily passed both houses of the legislature, and the governor let it become law without his signature.

Presumably he realized that he was in a difficult position—but aren’t we all? Louisiana has a similar law, and who knows what state will be next.

Why worry about our older citizens losing their minds on the one hand, while we’re rotting the minds of our children, voluntarily? Per Slate:

The new law bars schools and administrators from prohibiting teachers from “helping students understand, analyze, critique, and review in an objective manner the scientific strengths and scientific weaknesses of existing scientific theories covered in the course being taught.” But, as the effort’s critics have been quick to point out, the only examples the legislation gives of “controversial” theories are “biological evolution, the chemical origins of life, global warming, and human cloning.”

…The law’s supporters, including the Knoxville-based Center for Faith and Science International, argue that it promotes critical thinking skills. But opponents, who include the American Association for the Advancement of Science, Tennessee Education Association, the American Civil Liberties Union, and the National Association of Biology Teachers, argue that the new rules are essentially allowing teachers to depict evolution and global warming as scientifically controversial subjects, when the actual controversy surrounding them comes from the political and religious spheres, not from scientists.

Probably, soon, challenges to the earth being round…will get a good airing.

Not just an airing—America specializes in repackaging, artfully, the most improbable scenarios. Just as George W. Bush became a “compassionate conservative” and making life even harder for poor mothers with small children became “welfare reform,” one Christian-preferring God planning the world, warts and all, for the rest of us, gets labeled “intelligent design.”

Keep in mind that Tennessee is the state that in 1925 held the infamous Scopes Trial—in which a high school science teacher was convicted of violating a law prohibiting the teaching of evolution. (The conviction was overturned, but only on a technicality.)

With almost no national conversation on these kinds of big steps backwards, it is worth asking: in the near-century since the Scopes trial, really, how much have we progressed? And who, oh who, will want to hire graduates of Tennessee’s educational system?

About the author
Russ Baker is an investigative journalist and founder of the nonprofit reporting web site His book, “Family of Secrets: the Bush Dynasty, America’s Invisible Government, and the Hidden History of the Last Fifty Years,” is available in hardcover, paperback and e-book. Gore Vidal calls it “one of the most important books of the past ten years.”


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Ken Carman
12 years ago

Like a lot of states in the South the local Dems played it stupid: as things got more and more partisan, instead of finding a new base, Dems stuck with the corrupt good old boys, and other Dems so used to saying a whole lot of nothing but still talking a lot.
Hence Republican South.
There are many big pockets of progressive thinking folks in places like Nashville, (a bit less so since east TN has always been Repub.) Knoxville, Memphis and Oak Ridge. But the rest still has that Scopes sense to it.

Ana Grarian
12 years ago

One advantage to this law is that it does not preclude teachers from pointing out the problems of creationism as science. It protects both sides. Hopefully students will be exposed to teachers from varying positions.

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