Western Education is Forbidden

note 8-3-17 I retitled this essay from Boko Haram Everywhere for clarity.

There is an anti-government, religious (Islamist)  fundamentalist group in Nigeria known by the name Boko Haram. This is not the name they gave themselves, but was given to them by people watching them in action and has stuck.

Boko Haram translates roughly into “Western education is forbidden.” Boko Haram is the group which kidnapped all the girls from a Nigerian girls’ school, among other acts.

In western Asia, particularly Afghanistan and Pakistan, there is another Islamist fundamentalist group who call themselves the Taliban, which roughly translates into “students.” They are not students in the conventional sense one might use in developed nations, but rather are students of Islam to the exclusion of virtually all else. Their name is not Western Education is Forbidden, but they forbid western education.

The Taliban is known for many acts, but one that stands out is the attempted murder of Malala Yousafzai, a young, female, pro-education activist in Pakistan.

These groups have in common a belief that modern, empirical, science and fact based education is suspect at best and, where it conflicts with religious teaching, should be prohibited.

In the United States the best known proponent of this world view is the Republican Party.

I am serious.

The Republican Party has long taken a stand against the teaching of evolution, expressly because it conflicts with the explanation of creation written in the Christian holy book.

The Republican Party stands foursquare against the teaching of atmospheric science, particularly global warming / climate change, not least because their religion tells them that humans can’t affect creation in this way.

If Boko Haram or the Taliban governed the United States, the White House Office of Science and Technology would be closed.

The Republican Party governs the United States and closed the White House Office of Science and Technology.

The Republican Party advocates home schooling and private schooling and has long been in opposition to public schooling. I have had the dubious pleasure of tutoring home schooled Missouri children in reading. In the course of these efforts I have seen their textbooks.

a brief digression:

Back in the 1970’s a group named the ZBS Foundation created several radio theater productions. Their first series starred Jack Flanders, who found himself in various places that start somewhere in our real world but extend past the boundaries of everyday reality. The plays are wonderful, especially the early ones.

In those halcyon days NPR stations would broadcast these programs, which were created as serials with 50 minute episodes, and hippies like us would schedule our lives so we could be near a radio to hear, first, The Fourth Tower of Inverness, followed by Moon Over Morocco and others.

In Moon Over Morocco the expat barkeeper, Kasbah Kelly, is explaining how the locals see the world differently from Westerners. I can’t quote it exactly, but I’ve been thinking about it a lot lately. In essence he says,

Everything is explained by the constant intervention of Allah. If you do A and B happens, you say A caused B. Not to them. Not at all. A happened. B happened. That’s all.

He goes on, but that is the crux of it: Everything is explained by the constant intervention of Allah. Except in American homeschool textbooks they call him (always him) God.

In 1974 it was the backward people of Morocco. In 2017 it is the Vice President of the United States.

We have a problem

Missouri homeschooled children are taught that the earth has existed for six thousand years, and that humans have resided here since the first, 168 hour, 7 day week. I forget which day; you don’t need to remind me.

Missouri homeschooled children are taught that any geological evidence that contradicts the above teaching is wrong. False. Science can’t be trusted.

Missouri homeschooled children are taught that physics is the expression of god’s will at work. Everything is explained by the constant intervention of Allah (God) but they try to keep it subtle.

Missouri homeschooled children are taught that our nation was founded by Christians and that enforcing Christian teachings as fundamental law is explicitly the purpose of our Constitution and other founding documents.

When these people say “Christian teachings” they don’t mean “The words of Christ.” That would be bad enough. Our government expressly can’t choose one religion over others. They mean, “Every word in the Bible, taken literally as empirical fact.”

Literally every subject in every text book is explained by God. The history, physics, geology, geography, and biology taught in public schools are only correct insofar as they can be shown to agree with and not contradict the Bible. The worst thing about public schools is that they teach children to not believe the Bible.

Betsy DeVos, Secretary of Education in the United States of America, confirmed by the Senate, holds expressly to that view. In 2017.

Across the entire world there is an active movement to halt the teaching and acceptance of science as the factual explanation of the world around us. We sit here in the United States and view groups like Boko Haram, the Taliban, the Islamic Republic of Iran, and ISIS / ISIL / Daesh with horror, but right now today the governing party of the United States has accepted the world view and governing policies of those groups. This has been said by others before me but I think the statement is usually viewed as hyperbole at best, if not hysterical, wild-eyed alarmism. But this is the literal truth: across the entire world in 2017 there is an effort, or more accurately an amalgam of parallel efforts, to replace science with the holy texts of various religions.

This is how the Dark Ages came to be. Greece, Rome, and the Middle East were all civilized, intellectually developed societies which traded and interacted with one another and gave us reading, writing, algebra, the zero, democracy, Socrates and Plato, and much of the roots of what we call civilization today. (Northern Europe not so much, at least not yet then.) Somehow all that collapsed into ignorance and superstition. We – those same regions and peoples, now with parts of Europe and the United States added in – are moving toward ignorance and superstition again today. Can we stop it? I don’t know.

One unstated but clearly operational objective of the governing Republican party of the United States of America is to replace fact-based, testable, empirical science with holy writ.

I don’t know why this is. In fact, I can’t comprehend how it even could be. It is, however, observably true. The basic point of the Trump Administration and the Republican Party is that we’ve had enough science, enough progress, and we need to stop exactly here, move into a holding pattern, and not offend God anymore with contradictions to His Holy Writ.

This process has been going on longer in the Middle East than it has here, so one can observe how it plays out a little better.

First, there is no such thing as Islam. There are many groups of people arguing over who owns the One True Islam, and killing one another over it. It is easy to live in a predominantly Christian society and say Radical Islamic blah-blah, but in reality ISIS has sworn to stamp out Hamas, Iran is certain that Iraq is a sewer of heresy, while Saudi Arabia has the One Holy City and therefore gets to cut the heads off people who disagree. I can’t keep up with all the players although, from time to time for a day or two, I’ll have in my head who are Sunni, Shia’a, Wahhabi, Alawites, sub-sects and bitterly warring factions among sub-sects. Because once the only thing that can be taught is the One True Faith, ultimately there can only be One True Teacher. Because at some point, at some level, no two humans agree absolutely.

By the same token, there is no such thing as Christianity. In Ireland during the Troubles otherwise reasonable human beings were killing one another over who was Christian, Catholic or Protestant. In Evangelical Protestant America there are more bitterly divided sects and sub-sects than you can shake a stick at. In Washington DC at the street theater / festival protesting Donald Trump’s inauguration I saw rabid Christian Evangelical street preachers with an 8 foot tall sign that said The Pope Is The AntiChrist. Yes, really.

Once one particular sect gets their writings in the textbooks the killing will start. Or accelerate.

Our two party system, which once represented two differing views of how to govern a modern, science-based, secular nation, has devolved into a literal clash of civilizations with one party which advocates teaching science and progressing by that means, and one which advocates outlawing science and teaching Christian holy writ and progressing through the constant intervention of God. So far too few Americans have noticed.

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