Watched Inherit the Wind (1960) last night which led me to try to understand the real Scopes trial (1925) again. Amazing how clearly it set the terms for the modern-day culture wars.
A Tennessee state rep named John Washington Butler created the Butler Act b/c he heard kids were coming home from school saying they didn’t believe in God. He figured they must be being taught atheism somehow—or that their parents were rubes, or that God was dead, or something.
But they weren’t. All of the teachers, more or less, were practicing Christians. Like Darwin, the teachers probably would have said they “believed in God” but really didn’t teach about theism OR atheism in school. Sundays for religion. Weekdays for civics.
Of course you can hardly teach *any* secular text that’s not at odds with the Christian Bible’s description of history and science.
For example: any time a teacher or administrator talked about the calendar in a way that suggested that the earth revolves around the sun & not the other way around, they were at odds with the Bible.
Any time they catalogued about natural disasters and didn’t include the fictional flood that wiped out all people and animals except the ones on one boat, they were at odds with the Bible.
But Butler and co. settled on the idea that one unit in some biology classes called “evolution” — Butler admitted he didn’t know what the word meant — was a course on “Bible denial” which was also a course on “your parents are ignorant hayseeds and you’re better than they are.”
So the act was passed, prohibiting the teaching of “evolution” bc it was “at odds with the Bible”—again, like virtually everything else kids learn in school. And because it contradicted the Bible (& Torah, Quran, astrology, Book of Mormon, etc) it was called atheistic preaching.
But the HUGE fear for Butler & other farmers & laborers in town was not that their kids would believe something about natural selection or even doubt something about Adam & Eve and God’s existence.

It was that they would become educated & snooty & consider their parents hicks.
This is, to be fair, a primitive fear of almost all parents — that their kids will assimilate into a world that they parents don’t understand & marry out of their tribe & leave town & spend their lives laughing at their backward parents.
In the play, some fearful townsfolk are brought around when a rich man says hey I want our Tennessee kids to be educated in coin w/the north. He admits: “Maybe I even want my boy to go to Yale.” He’s asking parents to drop anxiety abt losing their kids & pick up ambition for them
But “evolution” becomes a completely empty proxy for this conversation — do we want loyal or ambitious kids? Do we want fealty or greatness from them? Tribal affiliation or assimilation? What are the downsides of each of these approaches?
And liberals who heard about the Scopes trial did no better than Butler unpacking the psychological implications “evolution.” They just piled on. “Southerners are backward superstitious idiots who believe Jesus had a dinosaur.”
The “anti-woke” crowd still fears secular education because they believe its taking their kids away from them. See: Grace Church School dad.

And educated liberals tend to think the anti-woke people are fundamentally bigots who need lessons in systemic racism.
But these conversations are not about evolution or a heliocentric universe or critical race theory—except insofar as those things represent seismic paradigm shifts that middle-aged people believe they can’t keep up with.

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More from @page88

6 May
One the most striking things about @davidmweissman’s story is how much his political transformation improved his mental & physical health, relationships & prospects in life.

It’s American pragmatism at its best: Worldviews take hold when they come with practical rewards.
In pragmatic terms, a sign of a short shelflife for current far-right views is that they’re highly inelegant (see: the gibberish of QAnon), risky & lawless (see: the Big Lie), and potentially deadly (see: anti-mask/vax).

Even if they’re initially exciting, they’re unsustainable
And, of course, it’s an enormous cognitive strain to believe and circulate lies.
Read 5 tweets
27 Apr
This country will flourish only when we all collectively withdraw from the culture-war bloodsports.
It’s absurd listening to recordings of Jerry Falwell Sr from the 60s ranting and raving like a lunatic about pornography, drugs, leftists, Blacks, gays, feminists, intellectuals, communists, universities, secularists, Satan.

But he sounds like Bill Barr. Jordan Peterson. QAnon.
Sounds like Fox News every single minute since it launched 24 years ago.
Read 8 tweets
21 Apr
Four developments in one year have introduced a disconcerting squishiness to the whole notion of taxes. (Of all things.)

1. The confirmation that self-styled billionaires like the former president just don't pay them.
2. With the relief and infrastructure bills, the introduction of a monetary policy not predicated on taxes & budgets.
3. No protests among even conservative economists about these things.
Read 5 tweets
19 Apr
And 69% approval rate for one Joe Biden.

Maybe White House victories have less to do with hinky “culture wars” than we’ve been told?
Maybe politics are downstream from public health?
...or good government?
Read 5 tweets
18 Apr
This is one of the best things I’ve read in a long time.
The evolution of individual American intellects — like the brilliant one @espiers gives here—is almost the only thing I want to read.

Did you split with your parents on culture or politics (like Elizabeth)? Are you afraid of your kids splitting with you (like Mad Dad)?
My question for the expanding group of antiwoke parents: What does your perfect private school teach? If you pull your kid out of Brearley what’s your best antiwoke option? And what does the curriculum have in place of CRT? Locke/Virgil/scripture/home economics/“leadership”?
Read 5 tweets
17 Apr
With 30% of adults fully vaccinated, 50% with one shot, what’s left are <18s and the vaccine-hesitant.

Scare stories abt the superstitious & the GOP refusing the vax miss the fact that there are various types of hesitancy & not all are absolute.
Most public health campaigns have to persuade people to take action. Get out the vax. Peoples’ reasons for not getting the vax are rarely ideological or religious. Many more fear needles; lack tech skills; are defeated by red tape; find it inconvenient; overestimate side effects.
Vaccine hesitancy is the new public-health issue.

If you’re persuasive, have a car, or are good at finding appointments, you can encourage someone who’s hesitant and make sure they get to their appointment.
Read 4 tweets

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