Machan's Musings - Why Teaching Intelligent Design is Such a Problem

removed's picture
Submitted by removed on Sun, 2005-12-04 19:35

Whenever a controversy arises in government funded and administered educational(?) institutions, no one in the mainstream media mentions the real source of the problem. Whether it is making the study of sex, environment, or, currently, intelligent design mandatory, the real issue is systematically avoided. This is whether there ought to be government education in a free society at all.

It is widely recognized that there should not be a government newspaper to which everyone must subscribe and which must be read by all. For good reason. The press must be free from entanglement with the government, with an agency that has as its sole job in a free country to protect individual rights. The tools and methods required for this job are entirely out of order when it comes to producing newspapers. Newspapers report on what the publishers and editors deem to be vital issues within the various layers of community of readers are members. We have local, state, national and international coverage, all important to some readers, but none of these is government’s job to accomplish. So in a free society there is likely to be a wide variety of approaches to news coverage, not to mention to editorializing. Government must adhere to the rule of law, which is supposed to be the same for all. It is naturally a one-size-fits-all undertaking.

Sadly, the fact that education should be in exactly the same position as the press within a human community simply hasn’t gotten recognized, probably because once some profession has gained the government’s support, it isn’t likely to give it up no matter how many problems arise from this. Look at PBS and NPR and Amtrak and the US Postal Service’s first class delivery. They are all well entrenched governmental undertakings and have produced a firmly loyal constituency that will not let go. Look at all the subsidies and protectionism certain industries receive—none want to give it up.

Public elementary and high school education administrators and teachers are no different, nor are those at public colleges and universities. They have a government protected monopoly, a job with tenure possibilities and in no danger of falling prey to the volatilities of free markets. Sure, millions of people are not finding work in these government run institutions because those who are there have managed to achieve job security. Sure, many subjects do not receive any attention from the teachers because giving them attention would reveal the malpractice perpetrated. History courses are virtually all taught with blatant bias, as are public finance courses, those in civics and so forth. But never mind, the faculty has a guaranteed position and hardly any elementary and high school, nor again state college or universities, ever goes out of business (the way private businesses routinely do). And what cannot be seen, isn’t missed much.

Now we have this hoopla about intelligent design—whether public schools should or should not teach it, make mention of it in biology courses, and all the rest. A case is pending in Kansas and if the judge rules in favor of public schools there having to include mention of it, the issue may end up in the highest court.

In a free country, however, there would be no such problem. Within a given school, college, or university the matter could surface, just as it could now at various private schools, colleges, and universities. But it would all be decided by their administrators and faculty independently of government, just as is the content of newspapers. It could not become a national political issue.

It is because governments run schools that these matters become so politicized and dealt with by legislatures and courts. Sadly even the private entertainment sector may be faced with government intervention—legislators in Washington are threatening to regulate cable and dish television content!

With the public sector growing by leaps and bounds, soon it’ll be a political issue whether one may part one’s hair or worship in this or that church.


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Tibor,

Tenyamc's picture

The comparison between journalism and education is interesting. I hadn't thought of it that way before. I like it. Thanks.

public schools

Christy L's picture

Hi, Tibor. I taught high school journalism for four years in a public school system before coming to my senses.

I don't think teachers appreciate the potential benefit of a competitive salary. Pay varies by school district, funded by taxpayers, of course, but over time as one district can amp up the pay via bond levy for a few years, then another catches up, I think the discrepancy is minor.

What angers me, though is the public school "step" process: Based upon your level of education and years of service, you have a predetermined salary figure. So if you taught with a fellow third-year teacher who was incompetent and lazy, you still earned the same pay.

That said, Tibor, I think it's difficult to say that teachers flock to "a guaranteed position" that pays so poorly that they can't qualify to buy a house on their own. Nor do the educators I know teach biased material, nor can incompetent ones save their skin. That is my limited perspective based upon two medium-sized (2,000-plus students) public schools where I worked. As one of those was in ID-friendly Kansas, you can understand that I wasn't exactly in an enlightened area, either!

As you say the curricula are

Ali Hassan Massoud's picture

As you say the curricula are politicized. The political process makes the decisions on what and how to teach in public schools. Public employee and teacher unions dominate this process. This should not come as a surprise because as the late Speaker of the US House Sam Rayburn once noted, “You just can’t take the politics out of politics.”

And except for the most extreme go-it-alone educational institutions (like Bob Jones University and such) even private schools and colleges are de facto branches of the public education system if they take even one penny of “public money”.

Eloquent and Timely

Robert's picture

Both sides of this argument believe it is moral to pay for their educational vision with taxes partly taken from their opponents. All that has happened in the intervening years between the Scopes Monkey trial and the upcoming trial in Kansas is that the shoe has been moved to the other foot.

You have my thanks for an essay that cuts to the heart of the issue.

Mr. Machan:

Ryan Brubaker's picture

Mr. Machan:

Very good article. This argument is so simple to grasp it's frustrating when people still can't see past our current system. The focus is on those who might get "left behind" in a private system, which unfortunately ignores those who are held back in our current system.

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