When cooking, your basic building block is generally always going to be a recipe. It is not uncommon, however, for one to add a little something of their own to take if from “cooking” to “culinary art.” But what if the recipe's author goes out of their way to include a list of ingredients to specifically not include in your dish? For example, if a certain combination of ingredients turned into a deadly poison when cooked together, and the author knew this, would it not be wise to pass this information along to prospective recipe users?
Fortunately, the founding fathers of the United States of America were in quite a comparable situation, and they made the right call. When they were writing the recipe for our nation's government, our Constitution, they warned us all of a deadly combination; religion and government. In fact the Establishment Clause of the Constitution reads;
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion...”
They included this clause because they were all too weary of the effects that this mixture had. In fact, when they were still colonies, our states were originally founded partially in response to and in order to escape from the religious tyranny of the Church of England. After escaping such tyranny and having a chance to begin a new country from the ground up, they knew the best course of action was to build a solid, brick wall between the church and the government.
Despite this, although not too surprising, we still suffer at the hands of those who would rather not respect this clause. Many of our politicians constantly push for more religion, despite peer reviewed evidence that certain religious beliefs correlate positively with national crime rates. We as a society are subject to endless tirades against our freedom from state religion. The most divisive political issues today, if 100% of our society understood and agreed with this clause, would not be issues at all. Marriage inequality, the debate on abortion, and the “controversy” between evolutionary theory and intelligent design, are all fights picked solely by the religious right.
More than simply divisive, the perceptions these anti-Constitutional attitudes often create can be downright slanderous and utterly harmful to society. In fact, atheists, or nonbelievers, are actually the most distrusted minority in American society today. There are laws, unconstitutional mind you, on the books today in five states that ban atheists from holding public office. Atheist discrimination is a topics that hits close to home. Unfortunately, a close friend of mine lost his job with a talent agency in 2011 when he changed his religion on facebook to from “Christian to “Atheist.”
More disturbing than any of these religious invasions into public society, however, is religious intrusion into public schools. I can almost tolerate “In God We Trust” on our money. I can almost tolerate “One Nation, Under God” in our pledge of allegiance. But when you make it about the children, when you start taking advantage of young, malleable minds, you have made it personal. I have no children of my own today, but when I am good and ready to have them, the last thing I want is for one particular group's interpretation of one particular dogma to be taught to them as fact. The last thing I want is for them to be taught that they deserve to be tortured by fire eternally unless they submit to undeserved authority, gathered by brute force. The last thing I want is for them to think that the way to utopia is through blood sacrifice.
One of, if not the worst offending states in our nation is Texas. We rank 49th in public school funding. We spend $66,000 less than the national average per elementary school class. We rank 38th in average teacher pay, with teachers making $8,200 less than average.
Why do you think this is? I have a couple of ideas.
Our wonderful governor, Rick Perry, is notorious for and even brags about rejecting Federal funding for education. He does this in order to avoid meeting Federal education standards.
He also thinks it is acceptable for taxpayer money to be apportioned to private, for-profit Christian schools.
He also thinks it is acceptable to revise history by eliminating any references to the majority of the founding father's deism or secular thinking in general.
This refusal of funding also opens the door for “Intelligent Design” to be included in science coursework alongside Evolutionary Science. Never mind the fact that Evolution is a proven fact. Never mind the fact that “Intelligent Design” is just another name for pseudo-science. Never mind the fact that the belief in an afterlife and deities and a denial of evolution are directly related to discomfort with mortality.
Masking religious indoctrination as public education seems to be a theme among Republicans nationwide. In fact, the Texas Republican GOP education platform reads
“We oppose the teaching of Higher Order Thinking Skills (HOTS) (values clarification), critical thinking skills and similar programs that are simply a relabeling of Outcome-Based Education (OBE) (mastery learning) which focus on behavior modification and have the purpose of challenging the student’s fixed beliefs and undermining parental authority.”
Essentially, Texas Republicans as well as Republicans in many other states believe that in any case in which a child's parents and school's teachings contradict, the initial, parental beliefs should be preserved. If your parents taught it to you, you should never think critically about the issue or attempt to make a decision for yourself, as you might make the wrong decision. You can't make this stuff up, people. Read it. It's right there, in black and white.
Rick, let's call this what it really is. This is not an attempt at a fair, secular education for all American children. This is an attempt to simultaneously corporatise and theocracise our school system in order to preserve religious belief despite any scientific evidence to the contrary, as well as just to make a quick buck.
If you agree with me, I propose you stand up with me and say to Rick Perry and all other Republicans,
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