Institutionalized Ignorance

Bible and flag
The less you know, the easier it is to be a Republican. Intellectual powerhouses are not welcome in today's GOP, where their perception of the average, everyday American is Joe the Plumber or Sarah Palin. The right values ignorance, because the facts so often are contrary to their ideas. Take a spin through the right wing blogosphere and you'll see very little actual reporting; you'll see links in opinion pieces that lead to other opinion pieces, you'll see comments written by people who are ignorant as all hell -- and damned proud of it. Right wing talk radio is dominated by mindreaders who tell you what liberals believe, while being 100% wrong.

The Republican party is the party of two constituencies now -- the wealthy and the dumb. Anyone who thinks that the CEO of MegaCorp wastes his time listening to Glenn Beck or reading Michelle Malkin is a fool. The guys in the boardrooms need news, not ignorant blather. They read newspapers. All the right wing media nonsense exists for the chumps. The only way to get the average person to vote Republican is to turn them into an idiot who'll believe anything.

This hasn't been working so well lately, as Americans reject Republican ideas left and right. As things get more desperate for the Grand Old Party, the electorate is stubbornly refusing to get stupider. Luckily, Republicans have a remedy for this lack of idiocy among the populace -- they want to institutionalize ignorance.

As is always the case, the proving ground for this new strategy is in the depths of RedState-istan --this time, in Texas. Texas children are leaving school too well-informed and something is being done about it.

[Wall Street Journal:]

The fight over school curriculum in Texas, recently focused on biology, has entered a new arena, with a brewing debate over how much faith belongs in American history classrooms.

The Texas Board of Education, which recently approved new science standards that made room for creationist critiques of evolution, is revising the state's social studies curriculum. In early recommendations from outside experts appointed by the board, a divide has opened over how central religious theology should be to the teaching of history.

Three reviewers, appointed by social conservatives, have recommended revamping the K-12 curriculum to emphasize the roles of the Bible, the Christian faith and the civic virtue of religion in the study of American history. Two of them want to remove or de-emphasize references to several historical figures who have become liberal icons, such as César Chávez and Thurgood Marshall.

"We're in an all-out moral and spiritual civil war for the soul of America, and the record of American history is right at the heart of it," says Rev. Peter Marshall, a Massachusetts minister shipped into Texas to become an education "expert" for the state. Marshall will join another right wing nutjob, David Barton, in recommending retooling the state's education system to teach BS.

"Never mind that Marshall and Barton are absurdly unqualified to be considered experts by any objective standards," reports the Texas Freedom Network. "Barton, who founded an organization that opposes separation of church and state, has a bachelor’s degree in religious education. Marshall also has no advanced degree in the social sciences. In truth, their 'expertise' is in promoting political agendas, not social studies education."

In fact, Barton is a professional BS artist, making his living rewriting American history to favor conservative views. In Barton's world, the founders wanted a bona fide theocracy. Barton says he's on a mission from God to uncover "America's forgotten history and heroes, with an emphasis on the moral, religious, and constitutional foundation on which America was built." Despite his lack of scholarship in the area, Barton says he's an "expert" on the "original intent of our Founding Fathers in the areas of faith and family."

According to People for the American Way, "Whereas people like James Dobson and Pat Robertson are well-known right-wing figures, Barton operates mostly under the national media’s radar, speaking to small groups of activists all over the country and churning out an array of resources that provide the pseudo-historical foundation for much of the right-wing agenda on everything from reigning in 'judicial activism' and impeaching judges to defending the phrase 'under God' in the Pledge of Allegiance and decrying homosexuals in the military."

With Barton and Marshall at the helm, Texas schools would erase inconvenient facts from history, replacing them with an emphasis on how Christian everybody was. They "say they believe that children must learn that America's founding principles are biblical," reports WSJ. "For instance, they say the separation of powers set forth in the Constitution stems from a scriptural understanding of man's fall and inherent sinfulness, or 'radical depravity,' which means he can be governed only by an intricate system of checks and balances.

"The curriculum, they say, should clearly present Christianity as an overall force for good -- and a key reason for American exceptionalism, the notion that the country stands above and apart."

To give you an idea of how based in reality these ideas are, consider that Marshall "preaches that Watergate, the Vietnam War and Hurricane Katrina were God's judgments on the nation's sexual immorality," Yes, he's that crazy and that ignorant -- and conservatives believe that's exactly what a good American school kid should be. Kids should leave school uncritical enough to believe anything.

It's not guaranteed that this new curriculum will go through. The reviewers were chosen by board members and half the board seems insufficiently crazy. WSJ reports that "three reviewers appointed by the moderate and liberal board members are all professors of history or education at Texas universities" -- i.e. actual experts, not pretend experts like Barton and Marshall.

But we all know that the professional BS artist's expertise isn't in informing, but deceiving. It may turn out that their arguments, though boneheaded, turn out to be more persuasive. People with an agenda have a strategy and people without one don't think they need a strategy. If they can make gains in denying global warming and evolution, they can make gains in denying history. They don't have to actually prove anything, they just need to cast doubt. "Someone has to stand up to the experts!" said former Board Chairman Don McLeroy of evolution education. Now someone has to stand up to the experts on history, because -- godammit! -- those kids are going to believe what they want them to believe. Truth be damned.

So this is the future of the GOP... At least, if they continue on their present course. Public education debates won't be about school funding or redistricting, they'll be about just how smart we're going to allow our children to be. If they're too smart to fall for Republican talking points, then they're just too smart period. And the wealthy CEO of MegaCorp? What does he care? His kids go to private school and his workers don't need to know history -- especially labor history, like the life and work of César Chávez. People like that need to be airbrushed out of the text books, like a former soviet leader who's fallen out of favor with the party.

In the end, this ought to tell you all you need to know about today's Republican party -- the truth is their enemy and the electorate is hampered by being too well-informed. When your arguments require that everyone be an idiot, how good can those arguments actually be? When you have to go back and change reality to fit your worldview, wouldn't that suggest that there might be a tiny little problem with that view?

Give them a generation and no one will ask questions like that, because they won't ask questions at all.


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