I attended the first night of Don Patton's lecture series---eventually. More on that later.

Before I could catch the first part, however, I found myself on the receiving end of a determined remote tongue thrashing on the part of KMJ 580 talk radio host Inga Barks.

Like many of KMJ's regular hosts, and in fact like much of Fresno County, Inga leans to the right. Now, I know what some of you are thinking: you can't trust the other side of the aisle, and such, but really, does this platinum mother of three look completely unreasonable? I think not, but you could've been excused for thinking otherwise listening to her stump speech against a nameless 'Bullard science teacher'. She had apparently had Patton on her show and talked up the notion that folk at the university or at my high school were attempting to torpedo his appearance. And she began reading right from my blog, quoting part of the post entitled 'Mayday!', and she wasn't happy.

Inga was under the impression that people like me are trying to undermine what students have been taught by their parents. Well, it's understandable why people get this impression. The actual science does appear to contract literal interpretations of some parts of the Bible, as we all know, and some of these claims are near and dear to some folk's hearts. And, in practice, many students (and teachers) fail to think about what constitutes the proper domain of scientific claims. It is bad science to declare, for example, that science can definitively rule out the existence of the supernatural. And, perhaps most importantly, it's immoral to use the bully pulpit of the classroom to push your own metaphysical views on impressionable young people, and quite possibly illegal.

So, anyway, I got on Inga's show, and to her credit, she let me on the air even though I had identified myself as the mystery blogger who drew her ire. I thanked her for allowing me to appear on the program. I gave my name. I asked if I could give the name of my blog on the air. She OK'ed it, so I did. I pointed out that I never advocated denying Patton or Sun Garden Church of Christ use of the facilities, and in fact in my post 'What Should Be Done?' advocated otherwise. I disassociated myself from the tone of some of the comments on my site and made it clear that I myself am a Christian. When I mentioned that I was a Methodist, Bark's quick (joking!) rejoinder was "That's your problem right there!', alluding to the fact that both Bush and Clinton are Methodists. Hey, they are conservative talk radio, after all.

But, you know, when you can take a josh, the frost factor tends to go out the window, and with toned-down rhetoric the two of us had a reasonable exchange. I made the point that what teachers should teach is the state standards, repeated the (factual) claim that Patton's presentations are at odd with the standards, and I challenged her and her audience to check the standards out for themselves.

And, as I put it, if you find any religion in the state standards, you should make it your business to get on a committee and work toward reforming them, because religion shouldn't be in the science standards. But I added: if you don't find anything in there but good science that is the best fit to the available data, then perhaps you should recognize then the idea that 'evolution is a religion' isn't supportable. I was assertive, but pleasant, and I felt it was a productive conversation if for no other reason people know what the truth of the matter is. We science teachers may not think that Patton's appearance on a high school campus is appropriate, but it is lawful and some of us will be there to (lawfully) document the proceedings.

And speaking of documentation and what-not, this song just seems appropriate. "I want to bite the hand that feeds me!"


R. Moore said...

As an FUSD parent, I believe that Patton and SunGarden should be banned from the high school campus. If that means all outside groups are banned, then so be it. As is common on our modern society, a few extremists ruin it for us all. But I consider our public schools to be a "safe haven" for students, not propagandists that stand opposed to the interests of the school. Free speech, as in all other venues, ends at the sidewalk. Our schools district's meager grubbing for a few outside dollars is a bad lesson to be communicating the the children they are entrusted with.

Madhu said...

Wow - I wish I'd heard that radio conversation, Scott, instead of the drivel Patton was dishing out inside the auditorium. I hope you can get that mp3 of the segment you went looking for after the lecture - I'd like to hear it if possible!

Meanwhile, I've posted my own first impressions of the lecture, including some of the stuff you missed. I may write more on specific parts of it...

Scott Hatfield . . . . said...

I understand the parent's complaint, but I'm not sure that the recommended prescription wouldn't do more harm than good. How can we ever encourage our students to have 'The Great Conversation' if we universally exclude a certain class of speech from our school sites? Really, we play more into the hands of the reactionaries and the foes of public education by doing that, because our curriculum will become ever more narrowly focused on their desired end, which is to the say people who won't think for themselves and easily manipulated consumers and voters. So while I definitely understand the frustration, I'd hate to think that the only solution is to let the bad apples spoil it for all of us.

Madhu said...

I feel the same way Scott. I am doubly frustrated by these relentless propaganda tactics both as a university teacher who has to try and clear the confusion in young minds muddled by these people, and as a FUSD parent like r.moore. My response, however, is not necessarily to try to shut them down. I prefer a different (much much harder) approach - doing our best to make sure the students learn and hone good critical thinking skills so that they can sift through the chaff themselves. I may be a dreamer in thinking this might work on a large enough scale, but I'd rather put my energies there than in trying to "protect" young minds for that would be no different from what the religious fundamentalists do!

R. Moore said...

I believe we should have the "Great Conversation", -- you miss my point. I want my children to be guided by trained,professional, credentialed individuals in this topics. Not traveling salesmen. Why else pay the enormous costs of our public school system? If parents wish to teach their children outside of the school that is fine, but what hope will we have for the future if our public schools become the domain of the propagandist? Banning Patton from public schools during school hours is drawing the line in the sand, separating the secular from the non-secular, science from psuedo-science. It sends the clearest message possible.