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L. Neil Smith's
Number 580, July 25, 2010

"When you've lost the joy, you've lost the cause."

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Conservative Shortcomings
by Sean Gangol

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Special to The Libertarian Enterprise

I recently wrote two articles about the controversy surrounding the changes that were made to the textbooks by the conservative members of the Texas Board of Education. The first part of the article discussed the rhetoric that conservatives received from the left and the mainstream media over the changes, which was overblown for the most part. The second part of my article discussed the left-wing bias which is prevalent in almost all public school textbooks. After having the second half of my article published, I realized that conservatives have had their own shortcomings when it comes to education. So I decided that it was only fair to call the conservatives on their own blunders.

One of the things that the conservatives love to shove down the throats of students in government controlled schools is abstinence. Many conservatives like to cling onto the notion that life is like a fifties sitcom and that teenagers don't have the natural urge to fornicate with everything in sight. Instead of teaching students how to properly use condoms or various other forms of contraceptives, they would just rather tell hormone infested teens not to have sex. I am not saying that abstinence shouldn't be taught as an option. After all, it is the only birth control that is 100% effective. Nor would I advocate teaching Kindergarteners how to put condoms on cucumbers (yes, sometimes they do go too far). However, I think hormones and ignorance is a dangerous combination. Teenagers are never going to stop having sex. They have been doing it for thousands of years. Don't count on it stopping anytime soon. At the very least, we should teach them how to reduce their chances of being infected with STD's or having to deal with pregnancy at such a young age.

What conservatives like to talk about more then abstinence are drugs. For nearly four decades, conservatives have spent much time beating their chests about the so-called War on Drugs. During the 1980's the DARE (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) program was created as a curriculum for public schools in LA and would later expand to places outside the United States. I remember this program from when I was in the fourth and fifth grade. They basically had a police officer lecture us about the dangers of drugs and alcohol. Later on I found out that much of what the DARE officers taught us was only half true. Sadly, the kids being supplied with misinformation wasn't the worst aspect of DARE. It would be many years before I found out that DARE would sometimes turn kids into little snitches who would turn in their pot smoking parents for free Pizza Hut certificates. Do the words Gestapo or KGB mean anything to anybody?

Conservatives also like to waste tax dollars on PSA's that promote half-truths and down right lies about marijuana. They want kids to believe that marijuana is every bit as dangerous as heroine or cocaine. What they don't seem to realize is that they are actually compromising their own credibility when they push this concept. Kids are not stupid. If you are lying or just slightly stretching the truth, they will find out that you are not being truthful, especially when we are living in an era where they have an overabundance of information at their finger tips. Not to say that America's youth shouldn't be warned about the dangers of drugs. It's just that honesty should not only be the best policy in this case, it should be the only policy. Once you start lying to kids, they will stop listening to anything else that you have to say.

In the case of the religious right, their favorite subject is creationism. They like to pretend that there is an actual debate brewing in the scientific community between evolution and creationism (also known as intelligent design). They believe this despite the polls that have shown that 99% of all scientists support evolution. That doesn't seem to leave much room for debate. I could spend time bashing creationists such as Ray Comfort and Kirk Cameron who try in vain to poke holes in evolution or spend even more time reciting the overwhelming evidence that supports evolution, but then I would have to end up writing a completely different article.

What I would like to point out is that there really shouldn't be any debate about what should be taught in a science course. We have evolution, a theory proposed by Charles Darwin in the 19th Century, which has been supported by the discoveries of transitional forms in the fossil record (which the creationists claim don't exist) and genetic evidence that shows that chimps share about 98.3% of the same DNA as modern man. Intelligent design on the other hand would teach the science of how God magically created the earth in six days, created Adam and took a rib from him in order to create Eve. It would continue teaching students how God wanted to keep his children ignorant by forbidding them to eat from the Tree of Knowledge, only to have his efforts undermined by a talking serpent. Is there really any question of which one should be taught as science?

After I had published the two articles about the text book controversy, I was told by one of my readers that all of these petty things would become non-issues, if we were to go back to the days when education remained in the private sector. She was absolutely right. All of the controversies that I have written about in my articles (including this one) would certainly become non-issues if schools were to be privatized. Unfortunately, we can't expect that to happen anytime soon. Considering that people in the public school establishment have been fighting voucher programs and the creation of charter schools tooth and nail, it would be a miracle if we ever saw total privatization in our lifetimes.

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