Monday, September 29, 2008

Of wars, white papers and science education

Today in 1923 the British mandate over "Palestine," under the auspices of the League of Nations, officially came into force (source: Britannica Online). Incorporating the Balfour Declaration, it obligated Britain to establish in Palestine a national home for the Jewish people. Jews in "Palestine" and elsewhere entertained high hopes that a Jewish state would soon become a reality. The Arabs of Eretz Israel had other ideas, and their rioting soon prompted the British to issue a White Paper severely restricting Jewish immigration to Eretz Israel, even as the Nazis were making the Jews' position in Europe increasingly untenable. The British, of course, were fighting the Nazis and the Jews of Eretz Israel (the hilonim [secularists] at any rate) had no intention of sitting on their hands while the Jews of Europe were being slaughtered. They joined the British army in droves (thereby gaining valuable experience for the War of Independence that would be fought later), vowing to "fight the war as if there was no White Paper and fight the White Paper as if there was no war."
Today we American Jews are in a somewhat similar situation politically. For the first time, I find myself a "one-issue voter" and I gather I am not alone. It's not the economy, stupid. It's the war. I intend to vote for John McCain, because he strikes me as the candidate most likely to prosecute the war against Islamic fascism to victory and thereby keep us safe. Indeed, only he seems to understand that we are fighting not two wars, in Iraq and Afghanistan, but one war on, for the time being, two fronts. The enemy is the Islamic Mafia, whose various subgroups are forever at one another's throats but united in their determination to destroy the Little Satan, Israel, and the Great Satan, the U.S.A. However, his prospective Vice President, Gov. Sarah Palin, is a Christian conservative who has expressed support for teaching a pseudoscience called "Intelligent Design" in biology classrooms as science. Like many of her ilk, she is ignorant of science and her policy would perpetuate that ignorance in the next generation. But McCain's victory, and even Palin's accession to the Presidency should the 72-year-old McCain not live out his full term, would not be a new departure. President Bush also expressed support for teaching "Intelliget Design," at least before a federal court found it merely religion in disguise and therefore unconstitutional to teach. I voted for President Bush in 2004, bucking my own union. When the President came out in favor of teaching pseudoscience in science classes, I sent the following letter to John Marburger, the President's science advisor:

As a high school biology teacher with a doctorate in the subject, I am outraged by the President's recent statement endorsing the teaching of the pseudoscientific concept of "intelligent design" in science classes. You have gone on record stating correctly that the theory of evolution is the cornerstone of modern biology and that intelligent design is not a scientific concept. It is your job to set the President straight before he makes a fool of himself and a laughingstock of our country. As for me, if I am ever required to teach astrology, flat-earth, geocentrism, intelligent design or any such nonsense as science I will not do so. Fire me if you will (I and my union will fight vigorously); my academic integrity and the standards of my profession are more important than any job.

So, if McCain is elected, and certainly if Palin becomes President, we science educators will have our work cut out for us. Even as we support the President's conduct of the war, we will vigorously fight him or her on injecting religion into science class and we will uphold our academic and professional intgegrity. Fight the war as if there was no White Paper and fight the White Paper as if there was no war.

I wish all my readers a ktiva v'hatima tova. May we see only good in the coming year.

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A ksiva v'chasim tova to you and yours.

Mon Sep 29, 04:59:00 PM EDT  
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