Op-ed: stop teaching Christian crap to kids in Florida schools
Ever since he took office, Donald Trump has been feverishly working alongside evangelical Christians to remake America in their own image: an idiocracy.
Fortunately, America still has writers who have the courage to stand up to this trend: writers like Lauren Ritchie whose op-ed in yesterday’s Orlando Sentinel excoriated Florida schools that teach “fake science and distorted history – all because uneducated charlatans have figured out how to intimidate state legislators.”
Some of these schools – 80 percent describe themselves as ‘Christian’ – use textbooks that claim people lived with dinosaurs. Heck, Noah had a couple in the ark. Some say God saved North America from Catholics and gave them South America instead. Others teach that slaves who ‘knew Christ’ had ‘more freedom’ than non-believers who weren’t captive. Babble. Just sheer babble.
The only reason these fringe ‘Christian schools’ are getting away with sucking up millions in education funding is that Florida legislators are afraid of offending them. Elected types are so terrified of the instant howling about ‘Christians’ being ‘persecuted’ that they never seriously considered demanding the course of study in voucher schools meet the same standards taught in public schools. They’re just happy to buy votes with millions in cash. Your tax dollars.
Ritchie went on to point out that these schools are
Neither real schools nor, scholars will argue, are they Christian. They’re just little money-making engines for benighted fraudsters whose only other chance at a paying job is the Sears hardware department.
While conceding that not all voucher schools “act like science is just a different religion – some are excellent schools with deep community roots,” Richie referenced the Sentinel‘s series “Schools Without Rules” which revealed some voucher schools hire high school dropouts and felons as teachers, and even one fellow criminally charged with inappropriately touching a student popped up in three different voucher schools.
Stop it right now. The US Supreme Court has ruled that vouchers aren’t a violation of the First Amendment because they’re given to parents who then make the decision on where to educate their children. That doesn’t mean these schools should get away with teaching gibberish. They should meet the same curriculum requirements as every public school.
Ritchie quoted Tim Dees, Director of Downey Christian School in east Orange County, where 90 percent of his 275 students rely on state scholarships to pay tuition, as saying:
We believe our way is correct. We focus on creationism because that’s what we believe.
No problem. Do fundamentalists want their kids to learn a bunch of hillbilly science? Handle venomous snakes? Learn that God looks down on Catholics, that America would still have slavery except ‘some power-hungry individuals stirred up the people’? Knock yourself out. Just don’t expect anyone else to pay for it, and stop calling it ‘education’. It’s not. It’s more like a 12-year sentence to some anamorphic Sunday school class from hell with no time off for good behavior.
Ritchie then quoted Richard Parker, an Episcopalian Christian and a lecturer at the Kennedy Center, as asking:
Who gave them the inner road to Jesus versus others professing Christian faith? This is all about political power, not religion.
It’s an embarrassment. It’s like trying to argue with your pre-adolescent. Think of evangelicals as teenage Christians – there’s a lot of enthusiasm but not a lot of wisdom.
So, Florida keeps providing money for schools that require third-grade students to face the very challenging task of differentiating between a pie and a cake, while public school third-graders must take a rigorous literacy skill test that requires them to read two passages and answer some questions in full sentences to progress to fourth grade.
Florida has plenty of money to subsidize religious education. But not enough to keep students safe. Not enough to treat substance abuse in prisons. Not enough to repair crumbling roads, help homeless veterans or offer affordable housing for theme-park workers.
A full percentage point of a record-breaking $88.7 billion state budget has to go to substandard voucher schools so Florida can look like the ignorant idiot nationwide. God bless us. We’re not even smart enough to save us from ourselves.