Close on Pope Francis laying claim to a special privilege for Christians to use their 'faith' as an excuse to abuse minorities, comes news of another mighty blow for lies, disinformation and child abuse by fundamentalists in Florida, USA.
Parents were incensed when they discovered that Heritage Middle School in Deltona, Florida had given students an assignment designed to help them understand the difference between scientific terms like 'theory' and 'law', and how the scientific meaning of these terms differs from their use in colloquial language. The assignment had included the statement:
Next time someone tells you evolution is just a theory, as a way of dismissing it, as if it's just something someone guessed at, remember that they're using the non-scientific meaning of the word. If that person is a teacher, a minister, or some other figure of authority, they should know better. In fact, they probably do and they are trying to mislead you.
Despite it's factual accuracy, parents objected to the final sentence, claiming it violated their right to misinform their children and mislead them about the Theory of Evolution as part of their 'faith'.
As PZ Myers pointed out, it's difficult to understand what their objection to their children being taught this fact is. Are they arguing:
- that it’s true that evolution is just “something someone guessed at”?
- that there is not a difference between the colloquial and scientific meaning of “theory”?
- that teachers, ministers, and figures of authority should not know better?
- that authorities teaching false information is not intentional, but simply a case of ignorance?
It's clear that the fundamentalist Christian parents who forced the school to withdraw this assignment and promise not to use it again, have no regard for truth, or even for the integrity of teachers, ministers and figures of authority who, when teaching children do have a responsibility to be truthful and accurate and not to pose as experts in the face of ignorance. They certainly have a responsibility to not teach them disinformation disguised as fact.
Ignorance posing as expertise is as dishonest as deliberately lying to children, yet these fundamentalist parents see it as right and proper. And this tells us much about the moral character of those who purport to occupy the moral high-ground because their morals come straight from the magic creator of morality.
The grovelling apology from the school, is almost as shocking. Remember, this is the body charged with educating and informing children, part of which surely is to teach them the value of truth, even an inconvenient truth. To teach them that they can pick and choose their own facts by 'faith'; that faith trumps facts, and that evidence counts for little is surely a form of child abuse of vulnerable young minds.
Recently in 8th grade science assignment titled “Not just a theory,” was distributed in an attempt to address current science standards for differentiating scientific theory and scientific law. The reading does meet this criterion up until the last two sentences that state, “If that person is a teacher, or minister, or some other figure of authority, they should know better… In fact, they probably do, and are trying to mislead you.” Upon this coming to our knowledge, the lesson had been retracted. In fact, please know that we apologize for this resource being used and take comfort knowing that it will not be used again. At no time, is it our place to interfere with authorities of household beliefs. Should you like to discuss this further then please do not hesitate to contact me.
So, the unfortunate children of Heritage Middle School in Deltona, Florida are to be denied learning the truth if it conflicts with the lies their parents would prefer to be inflicted on them in case they learn too much and questions the disinformation that is keeping them tied to the infantile superstitions of the Bronze Age from the infancy of our species.
Did we ever imagine that fundamentalist Christians want their children prepared for life in the 21st-Century, and equipped with a knowledge of the world that enables them to form their own informed, evidence-based opinions?
The very idea! God hates truth!