Today’s lesson: the wingnut past of Kansas’ education board

Topeka Capital Journal
August 16, 1999

On a roll, after winning the battle to have creationism played up and evolution played down in public schools in Kansas, social conservatives on the Kansas State Board of Education are ready to take the next step. Some observers believe that now, having cast considerable doubt on the theory of evolution, this moral majority will take dead aim at the theory of Copernicus and the solar system.

It will be another epic struggle for these representatives of the social conservative wing of the Republican Party, known as the Wingnuts, but if they can brush aside evolution, they can do the same with the idea that the Earth moves around the sun.

The Wingies can point out that nowhere in the Bible does it say the Earth moves around the sun, and nowhere does it say Copernicus, and his chief booster, Galileo, were anything more than a couple of scientists, no better than those guys pushing evolution.

Word has it the state board soon will ask the Catholic Church to rethink its recent acceptance of the teachings of Galileo. It was only a few years ago the church decided to agree with him, after letting stand for more than 300 years a ruling he was wrong.

As a result, the solar system has become pretty well accepted, but it must be realized it is no safer than the theory of evolution was before the Wingnuts got hold of it. Now, no scientific truth or theory is beyond the reach of these self-proclaimed scholars. For absolutely no reason, and with no coaxing, they can convince themselves the Sun moves east to west and the Earth just sits here.

The Wingies also can say, the church conceding it was wrong in the first place was the decision made by a bunch of Vatican Johnny-come-latelies, overriding a judgment made in the night in the 1600s by a bunch of solid thinkers who had Galileo right there in front of them. They finally made him say the Copernican theory was wrong, and they sentenced him to prison for having once said it was right.

Our state board is not above that. The deeply religious rightists can convince themselves anyone is wrong, regardless of what you’re peddling, if they happen not to agree with you. They won’t toss you in jail, but that doesn’t mean they wouldn’t like to.

If it turns out that teaching the solar system will be discouraged in Kansas, what will the board do next? Anything it wants to, probably, because all it takes is six Wingies thinking alike, and on a normal day they all think alike, unless one of them has the hives. What they think about most is dragging religion into politics. Not just any religion, but their religion.

The Board of Education thinks it’s leading a crusade, but in fact it is leading a retreat. Here are some possible new objectives:

Doing away with computers, which obviously are tools of Satan, full of lies, half-truths, and pornography. Calculators and other electronic or mechanical mathematical problem solvers will be banned as schools return to the slide rule, the times tables, and encyclopedias, with answers found the way God meant for them to be found.

Doing away with indoor restrooms, a luxury schools can do without. The space can be used to train cheerleaders for Junior Wingnut Religious Right rallies.

Placing, a tight rein on interscholastic sports and all forms of exercise. The board will point out that the benefits of physical activity are, like evolution, only a theory, and the time should be used for prayer.

Downplaying the space program, and replacing it with more practical experiments. The board will point out that space travel so far has been a waste of time and money, and there is no absolute proof there is anything out there worth discovering. The money now burned in space would be spent on Kansas customs officers, who would make sure no scientific nonsense is smuggled into the state.

Experiments would stress the importance of religion in all activities. For example, driver education would have students trying to drive while taking talking on a car phone, tuning in the radio, drinking a milkshake, and saying the rosary, all at the same time. Students would be taught the milkshake has to go.

Students always would be made aware that science is the enemy of real education, and the Christian coalition is the answer. This would be emphasized with gripping tales from history, where religion triumphed over science.

One such story is about Galileo, who was only 25, and teaching at the University of Pisa, when he discovered the famous law of falling bodies. He learned that if you dropped a 300-pound politician and a 150-pound lawyer from the Leaning Tower of Pisa at the same time, they both hit the ground at the same time.

This discovery disputed the teaching of the famous Greek philosopher, Aristotle, and made some church people so angry they forced Galileo to leave the university. This is a classic example of the church trouncing science, and something every Kansas student should know.

One thing’s sure: Kansas education has become an oxymoron, like Army intelligence. We’d better hope the board of education’s future lasts only until the next election, and that the Wingnuts will be unceremoniously and unscientifically voted out.

Another Birthday to Forget to Remember

(Editor’s Note: The 100th anniversary of Dick Snider’s birth is March 20, 2021)

Topeka Capital-Journal
March 27, 1992

I had a birthday a week ago, on the first day of spring, as usual, but it went largely unnoticed. A few days before the date, I mentioned my birthday on the phone to two of my children, but to no avail. One of them said, “When is it?” and the other said, “When was it?” Neither sent a present.

Five heartless children have caused me to grow old and weary before my time. They make me remember what my mother used to say: “How sharper than a serpent’s tooth is the sting of an ungrateful child.” Of course, she wasn’t talking about me when she said it.

My wife, who knows me best and obviously thinks of me as a pillar of strength, gave me a card, along with a nice gift. But other than that, the only card I received from anywhere in the family came from my brother, and it wasn’t what you’d call a joyous greeting. Continue reading

Maybe This Will Be the Year

Topeka Capital-Joural
Jan. 1, 1996

The new year holds some promise, even though the Czars exhibit is gone and there will be no downtown building to blow up. My crystal ball says one big story will be Glen Mason winning the Republican primary for Senate, but then changing his mind and deciding to remain as KU football coach because he just can’s bear to leave all those wonderful folks in Lawrence.

But will those wonderful folks in Lawrence say, “Oh, go ahead, Glen. Don’t let us keep you.” Some day. Maybe.

The early news spotlight also will be focused on another one of your favorite newsmakers. You want to guess who? Fred Phelps will be heard demanding that the police officer who called his gang a “cult” be reprimanded. Continue reading