Conservatives and evolution

Ben Adler at the New Republic interviewed a bunch of conservatives about their opinions of evolution, intelligent design, and what should be taught in public schools. It’s quite a fascinating read.

I was particularly struck by James Taranto’s casual reference to public schools as "government schools" — a subtle echo of Grover Norquist’s more agressive statement that "The real problem here is that you shouldn’t have government-run schools." 

I was also dumbfounded by David Frum’s statement — after saying that he does believe in evolution — that "I don’t believe that anything that offends nine-tenths of the American public should be taught in public schools. … Christianity is the faith of nine-tenths of the American public. … I don’t believe that public schools should embark on teaching anything that offends Christian principle."

Ok, but does that mean that he thinks teaching evolution offends most Christians?  I think the vast majority of Christians agree with the theory of evolution and have no problems with it being taught in schools.  Interestingly, I argued the same point last week over at Raising WEG, in response to Mia C’s question "But will any of the religious parents be discussing evolution and atheism with their children?"


Updated: Via Right Magazine (found by following my inbound traffic), I’ve learned that Frum says he was misquoted.  He writes: "I have no idea what proportion of Americans object to the teaching of evolution, but I very much doubt that it’s 90% or even 50%."

That’s a relief. 

6 Responses to “Conservatives and evolution”

  1. Lauren Says:

    I really dislike the “government school” language for obvious reasons.

  2. John Long Says:

    What’s the objection to the phrase “government schools”? Are they not run by the government? The public is allowed to have religious opinions and preferences, the government is not. You tell me what organization runs the schools that you would prefer to refer to as “public”. If it is the government (and it is) then why is calling them that somehow offensive? Even if you think that government run schools are a great idea, why object to calling them what they are?
    Interstingly, in Asia they call them government schools as a matter of course. No one seems to mind over there. Are we just more touchy about the government running anything in the US?

  3. Jennifer Says:

    The reason any British derived Asian society calls them “government schools” rather than “public schools” is because in Britain, confusingly, public schools are the cream of the elite private schools (eg Eton). So called, I believe, because they were once open to anyone in the public who could afford the fees. So it is no way ideological, just practical.
    That said, though, I agree with your previous commenter. What is wrong with calling them government schools? They are, after all, run by the government (at least ours are).
    That said, though, I do find it hard to believe that even in a much more religious society than mine (Australia) that there could be anything approaching a majority that would be offended by evolution. I also wonder whether David Frum would think that if the majority believes that aliens have landed in the US and abducted people that that should be a part of the curriculum too. Or am I being too frivolous for such a serious subject?

  4. Elizabeth Says:

    My warning bells go off when I see the phrase “government schools” because it seems to be an obvious framing move to take something that is very popular (public education) and associate it with something that isn’t (government).
    And yes, there’s a lot of irrational opposition to “government” in the abstract even from people who like specific things that the government does (schools, social security, roads, policing, etc.). It’s sort of like the “What did the Romans ever do for us?” scene in Life of Brian.

  5. Mieke Says:

    I see Frum a lot here in LA and I always want to yell at him from across the playground. Would that be wrong?

  6. John Long Says:

    Elizabeth, I suppose it is a framing move. I would say calling it “public” to disguise that it is run by the government is framing also, but has more history as the “right way” in this country. It wasn’t thought of in that way. More like “public library” or “public road”, both of which also could be called “government”.
    Still, I think over time the “government school” moniker has become more accurate as the government part, particularly centralized state and federal governments, has come to have increasing influence over the running of these schools. Particularly with policies such as “No Child Left Behind” and other federally imposed nonsense, the “public” has had less and less direct control over how these schools have been run. I prefer “government”, but I wouldn’t accuse anyone of using public of anything idealogically charged. I just think it describes the way things are more accurately.

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