a few words on the texas textbook controversy

The problem with any "debate" about the Texas textbook controversy is the illusion that there needs to be "balance" in the way history is presented; that the goal of the education system is to present "both sides" of any given issue. In all cases of history, there is not a liberal historiography or a conservative historiography, but simply history itself.  The idea that we need to "balance" history is absurd.  The goal, rather, is to strive for a general, objective overview of world, national, and state history that will be taught to kids in our education system here in Texas.  This not only applies to conservatives who wish to gloss over inconvenient facts that conflict with their political ideology (e.g. the secular nature of the Constitution), but also to post-modernist/deconstructionists who wish to impose a world-view hostile to empiricism and replace it with the notion of relative truths.

We need to get outside this frame of mind that celebrates the balancing of two mutually exclusive "truths" and instead focus on the idea that history, even inconvenient histories, should be taught to students despite the inevitable cries of protests of special interests groups and stiffing parents.  Likewise, educators do not have the right to make moral or political claims about historical events because ideological groups will always try to indoctrinate children to support their own viewpoint on a given matter.

As a scientifically minded individual, I am always in favor of teaching kids critical thinking skills.  Critical thinking, however, is always endangered when ideologues try to influence not only what is taught, but how one should think and feel about a historical matter.  If given the mental toolkit in order to think critically, we need to trust kids to learn history and interpret the causes, the effects, and the morality of those events on their own and amongst themselves.  If we cannot trust them to think for themselves and instead feel the need to teach them the "proper" histories, then this paternalism negates the purpose of teaching critical thinking.

In the end, however, the children and teens of Texas (and other states) will get a stilted textbook that is devoid of any interesting history that will lead most students to disdain any future references of historical matters.  This bothers me more than anything else about this whole controversy.

it's about fairness, isn't it?

I understand the sentiment behind hate crimes legislation: I understand the well-meaning people who want to end the continuation of hate crimes

I understand the seeming high-minded and noble belief that we, as a society, must combat despicable human attitudes like racism, sexism, homophobia, xenophobia.

I understand.

Yet I cannot support hate crime legislation, despite the good intentions behind it.

Despite the good intentions, the "noble" idea of enacting hate crimes legislation, I believe the end result is not a solution of discrimination but rather a perpetuation of discrimination.

The most noblest, high-minded ideals, when enacted and legislated, can result in evil.


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sickening support for sterilization

A few weeks ago a story emerged that a Massachusetts woman, who was both a mother of nine children and was receiving welfare, was accidentally sterilized after requesting a contraception to be inserted to prevent any future unwanted pregnancies. You can read up on this story here:  http://abcnews.go.com/Health/mother-sterilized-lawsuit-claims/story?id=9474471

I will not comment on the litigation filed against the doctors who either botched the operation or purposely sterilized her.  No, I will write about the many people who have thrown their support to the doctors who sterilized the woman.  These people tend to pop up in comment threads on various news sites praising the medical mishap of the operation and moralizing against having 9 children while on welfare.

Now, before I go on, let me be clear that I have nothing against the notion of personal responsibility and I have nothing against saying that this woman should have been more careful as to protect herself from getting pregnant.  Birth control is readily available and cheap to buy, especially in comparison to the money to raise a kid.  There was no reason for this woman to get pregnant and give birth nine times.

That being said, my opposition is to those people in support of sterilizing this woman.

I might be someone on the fringe of society for saying this, but who has ownership of your body?  Society?  Institutions such as religion or governments?  Your spouse or family?  I'd figure most people would unequivocally say that the only person who has ownership over your body is you.  You have absolutely zero right to tell someone what they can do over their own body.  If society was to demand that you be sterilized, would you agree to this demand and peacefully comply?

You may counter,"this woman was getting welfare!  If she is accepting the public dole, then society has the right to demand a change in her lifestyle...or enforce it upon her."

On an emotional and visceral level, this may make sense.  This course of action feels right.  But it is not if something feels right, it's if that something is an anathema to the purpose of governmental institutions and is an inherent contradiction to highest ideals our society is built upon.

What do I mean by this?

The main argument that the supporters of the doctors who sterilized this woman point to the fact she gets welfare as proof that this woman was irresponsible and thus deserving of her misfortune.  This argument falls apart when you consider how much taxpayer money is drained up to support everyday activities that take a larger chunk of taxes than an irresponsible woman.  Our society is in love with automobiles and our highway system.  Tens of million of dollars are spent on the building of new roads and buying new cars...but also clearing up the mess when accidents occur.  Tens of thousands of people die every year on motorways.  Thousands more are injured and disabled permanently as a result.  The deaths and disability of thousands of people each year means that the productivity of these people they would have done during their lifetime is erased.  The cost to emergency responders to the wreckage of accident scenes is in the millions of dollars.  The societal costs of automobiles exceed the cost of welfare queens.

If it is okay to sterilize a woman because she got pregnant 9 times, then it follows that cars should be banned.  It's an idiotic line of reasoning, but if the infringing of a woman's right over her body is perfectly acceptable to save society money, then the banning of automobiles to all will also do the trick, right?

Same thing with alcohol: the societal and economic costs of alcoholism, liver disease, and drunk driving exceed that of welfare queens.  But no one in their right minds will respond to these costs by pushing forward another era of Prohibition.  But why not prohibition when it's okay to sterilize a woman against her will?

What I'm trying to get at is that when we pay taxes, we are already paying for other people's mistakes and fuck ups.  When we fund welfare, we ideally hope that we will support people who are down-in-there-luck.  But there are the people who exploit and leach off the system.  Likewise, we fund our fire departments and police force to not only protect the community, but to protect the community from the idiocy and mistakes of people in that community.

No matter what you may want and feel that you need, tax money will be used to fill in the costs caused by idiots and people who are socially irresponsible.  To try to infringe on the civil liberties of a person because you want to save a dime is akin to torturing people to prevent a crime.  It may "feel" right, but it is something easily said by people who cannot realize they will fuck up and leach off the system as well.

Civil Liberties are another part of this story.  I will not dwell on this too much, but I will say that I am someone who is pro-choice.  I feel that a woman has the right to end a pregnancy.  A woman has the right to her body, after all.  If a woman has the right to her body, she has the right as well to have as many kids as she wants.

You can't pick and chose what civil liberties you want to fight for and which ones you want to dismiss and ignore.  It's all or nothing.