Science and education in America
Published: Wednesday, October 17, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, October 17, 2012 16:10
In early October, a 14-year old Pakistani girl, Malala Yousufzai, was targeted for assassination by the Taliban. Her crime? She just wanted to go to school. And outspoken advocate for girls’ education, she was accused of “promoting western thinking” and marked for death by the infamous fanatics. She was shot twice, once in the head and once in the neck. Two other girls were injured in the attack.
Since then she’s received an outpouring of support, not just from the usual crowd outside her home country, but from the Pakistani government and people. A bounty of ten million rupees (about $250,000) has been offered for the capture of her would-be assassin, and the school for girls has reopened, its officials refusing to give the terrorists the victory.
As the father of two girls, this hits home particularly hard for me. The notion that anyone’s daughter could be targeted this way, just for standing up for her rights, is horrifying. The idea that anyone would so devalue half the human race in such a barbaric fashion as the Taliban does, should shock even the most complacent observer.
The incident also got me thinking about the state of education in our own country. It’s fantastic that so many people have come out publicly in support of Malala. She is, after all, a child of whom any parent would be justly proud. But at the same time, we have our own set of problems to deal with in America that, though they’re vastly different in intensity, are just as damaging.
Take the House Science Committee. It’s currently chaired by Rep. Ralph Hall (R-TX) who, in a recent interview with Science Insider, said about climate change, “I don’t think we can control what God controls.” Profound words. It’s nice to know we’re completely helpless when it comes to undoing the damage we’ve caused. It’s all up to God, right?
Sitting with him on the committee is Rep. Dana Warbacher (R-CA), who thinks the answer to global warming is clear-cutting forests. “Is there some thought being given to subsidizing the clearing of rain forests in order for some countries to eliminate that production of greenhouse gases?” Warbacher asked during a hearing in May 2011. Yes, because what we need now is fewer trees. Let’s all just ignore the science.
And how can we possibly forget Rep. Todd Akin’s (R-MO) recent comments on rape, pregnancy and abortion? Just to remind you, he seems to think that in something called “legitimate rape,” the female body is capable of preventing itself from getting impregnated. He didn’t explain what “legitimate rape” was, nor did he retract the statement as factually, medically and scientifically wrong. He sits on the Science Committee as well. Despite being criticized by his own party, he refused to withdraw from his hotly-contested race against Claire McCaskill, and now the GOP is lining up to support him. Who needs logic and reason when you have ideology?
That’s not the worst of it. Since the Tea Party takover of the government in 2010 it seems the GOP has been assigning important committee positions to the least qualified, least educated, and least capable people imaginable. It’s as if they’re deliberately trying to sabotage American scientific research and education.
Rep. Paul Broun (R-GA) called evolution “lies from the pit of hell.” He also sits on the Science Committee.
Take Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC), who displayed her stunning ignorance of modern reality last year when she said she had “little patience” for anyone with high student loan debt, because she paid for college on her own. You know, back in the stone age.
With friends like these, who needs the Taliban? If the GOP has its way, Pell grants will be cut, it’ll be harder to get student loans, and education will be reserved only for the wealthy few.
Throughout history, ignorant and uneducated men have sought to elevate themselves by beating down those who stand against them. Some do it with bullets. Over here we have a more civilized way – we give them the power they want.
This November we face a choice. We can elect leaders who value science and education, or we can continue to put ignorant fools in charge. We either value education or we don’t. If we do, then we must work to replace or at least marginalize people like Akin, Broun, Foxx and Warbacher. They don’t belong in government – they belong in the history books. If we allow them to continue their sabotage of American education, we’ll have none but ourselves to blame for the inevitable decline.
So if, like me, you truly honor what Malala Yousufzai fought for, and is still fighting for, please take that to the polls next month and vote for smart, educated people who care about education, and kick the idiots out.