Saturday, August 05, 2006

Relativism Run Amok

Since when did libertarians get so wishy-washy?
Creationists, after all, are just as sure that they are right about Darwin as evolutionists think themselves to be.

Of course, in education, Darwin is just the beginning: Is phonics-based instruction the right or wrong way to teach reading? Should American history be taught in a “traditional” way that focuses on the nation’s great achievements, or is it right to focus on the country’s flaws? What amount of time should students spend studying fine art instead of, say, physics? Is it wrong for a student newspaper to run an article critical of the school’s principal? And so on…

Clearly, when it comes to countless disputes in education, what is truly right or truly wrong is very difficult to know. With that in mind, we must answer the question: Is it better that government impose one idea of what’s right on all children, or that parents be able to seek freely what they think is right for their own kids?
Phonics-based instruction is controversial because the data are mixed. Evolution is controversial because some people reject the fundamental premises of scientific inquiry.

Now, parents can, if they so choose, pull their children out of the public school system and impose upon them any manner of ridiculous notions by sticking them in alternative educational environments. The government, however, has no obligation to subsidize such behavior. This is particularly true in the case of the evolution controversy, as the only reasons to reject evolution are religious.

But really, it's the relativism that's the problem - you just can't take it seriously. I, after all, am just as sure that I am right about school choice as libertarians think themselves to be. Is it better that the government impose one idea of what's right - in this case, school choice - on all children? It cuts both ways.

Well, actually, it doesn't cut at all.

P.S. - Why all these references to Darwin? The debate isn't about Darwin, it's about evolution. Darwin was a man; evolution is a set of ideas. Darwin contributed many of those ideas, but the only reason I can think of to frame the debate as about him is that you don't want to engage the actual ideas.


Tommaso Sciortino said...

I think maybe you can do a better job explaining this by noting that this vareity of libertarians mostly serve as a ideological front for corporate power. Right now it's served by a Republican party that also needs the votes of idiots so it's in their best interests to come up with a way of supporting them.

Rebecca C. Brown said...

We pick on Darwin for the same reason we say "pro-life": because it doesn't actually mean anything. Darwin didn't have everything figured out, therefore evolution is a flawed theory! I think it also reflects a gross ignorance of what principles are actually being taught in schools. I've spoken with smart, liberal people with master's degrees who think that teaching evolution translates into teaching a linear model whereby "superior" species supplant "inferior" ones. A lot of otherwise smart people still think that humans evolved from species nearly identical to modern non-human primates. These are the same misconceptions that fueled the fire against Darwin in his day.

If the government were obligated to reimburse me every time I opted out of their programs, they'd owe me a big chunk of change for not eating meat and taking advantage of tax payer-subsidized corn. Of course this example sounds silly, but that's because the premise of the government paying you for not using its services is ridiculous. That's now how democracy works.

And thank you for saying "data are" and not "data is." You just made my day.