BAT 2010: The Secular School

This is my belated contribution to Blogging Against Theocracy.

I heard of a student who was asked to stop singing during an exam. It was an exam in a high school social science class, and it was a religious hymn, and the student has been disciplined before. She tends to preach during class.

I often hear about students approaching teachers to ask about the teacher’s religion. This often happens about the time that evolution is being discussed or is about to be discussed. These seem to be students who are somewhat savvy and understand that evolution is a tricky topic. The students sometimes want to know if the teacher is going to teach real evolution, or if the teacher is a creationist who teaches some off-color version of evolution with the snide remarks and sidelong glances that constitute the dog whistles creationists use to communicate with each other in public school classrooms.

Either way, the students also want to know which students are going to be in the classroom. Will the creationists who carry around Bibles and Answers in Genesis literature be in the class? Or will it be the commie-atheist students? Or both? I’m sure some of the students are betting on which way the teacher goes the first time a challenge to evolution is brought up. And I think some of these savvy, inquiring students are observing because they themselves are not sure which way to come down on this issue, while others are primarily interested in the entertainment value.

It is not uncommon for a student to come to biology class (or or some other class) prepared to challenge the science, challenge evolution, and to introduce religion. Sometimes such students try to convert other students to their religion. The hymn singing student I mentioned above seems to have done something like that in the past.

These tensions, questions, disruptions are not random, and they are not simply students not knowing how to act. They are ultimately the result of systematic attacks by the religious right wing designed to distract, disrupt, and delay any form of secularism … including the very basic and constitutionally guaranteed religion-free public school. This is the same technique Republicans used in their ill-fated and internationally embarrassing attempt to stop health care insurance reform. The students who come to class to convert the other students and to disrupt the teaching of evolution are part of an organized effort to change what happens in public schools in an extra-legal and extra-constitutional way because the legal and direct methods have failed, as they should.

They are nascent teabagggers. They are showing up armed and dangerous to work, as needed, in an extralegal way to ensure the spread of stupidity because their legal efforts failed. They are pathetic.

And, most importantly, they are opposed by the state but feel very strongly that they should be supported by the state.

Theocracy is the state with religion. We have a government, in the US, which is guaranteed to be religion-free, which is not a theocracy. The point I’m making here is a very simple one: The question of theocracy is not strictly one of how government should work, or what courts and legislatures should or should not do. It is an assumption, or a value, being fought for by a very large part of this society, and against by roughly the same number of people. It is part of the culture war, and it is part of the bread and butter served along with the more specialized rhetoric regarding health care reform, reproductive rights, and many other issues we deal with on a day to day basis.

The presumption of Theocracy and the presumption of Secularism is at the heard of the right/left, regressive/progressive, Republican/Democratic divide. And, of course, Theocracy is wrong.


  1. #1 NewEnglandBob
    April 7, 2010

    “And, of course, Theocracy is wrong.”

    And, of course, Theocracy is immoral.

  2. #2 MadScientist
    April 7, 2010

    You mean there really is a cabal out there specifically training mindless drones to be a nuisance in class? That’s disgusting; one more reason that religious brainwashing should be unlawful if the victim is under 18 years old (or better still under 60). Hey kids, superstition is for those old folks!

  3. #3 Gerry L
    April 8, 2010

    Just remembered: The other night, while watching prime time network TV (can’t recall the channel) I saw a commercial paid for by Answers in Genesis. For real. Gave the URL.

  4. #4 Greg Laden
    April 8, 2010

    They have a whole network.

  5. #5 Lynn
    April 8, 2010

    The question of theocracy is not strictly one of how government should work, or what courts and legislatures should or should not do. It is an assumption, or a value,… part of the culture war,… the bread and butter …

    Is it a “biblical worldview“?

  6. #6 Gerry L
    April 8, 2010

    AIG has a cable network, you mean? (I don’t have cable or dish. Just broadcast channels.) But a commercial running on a mainstream network? It was either CBS or ABC. That was unsettling.

  7. #7 Greg Laden
    April 8, 2010

    I think it’s a cable thing, maybe a part time network like the shopping networks.