Richard Day, who we identified last week as a retired adult male of the species grapheocrates educativus erectus, has responded to my piece on whether we should consider someone's past disbelief of Darwinism as a potentially disqualifying factor for the position of state schools' chief.
Day, one of the most intelligent and reasonable members of the species ever taken into captivity (more than once we have poked at him with a rhetorical stick, and he has responded amiably and with good humor), expresses his appreciation of my fanciful simian metaphors for his profession, but protests that what I have accomplished in the way of humor, I have more than compensated for in the lack of accuracy of my characterization of the search process for the Kentucky Commissioner of Education.
We have taken a notepad in hand and have transcribed from the various vocal utterings and complicated hand movements some of his main points:
First he takes note of the fact that Cheek has changed his view on the subject of human origins, a point, I might add, that I alluded to near the end of my piece. But then he quotes Cheek in regard to the Dover decision:
I concur [says Cheek] fully with the very well-reasoned and well-articulated opinion of the judge in [Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District in [Pennsylvania] that these positions have not led to anything yet that qualifies as science. Deciding precisely what is or is not science is admittedly a bit hard to pin down fully since the demarcation arguments regarding science are still quite robust among professional philosophers of science. The judge found that the [Intelligent Design] views are fundamentally religious (I would also add metaphysical) in nature and do not belong in the science classroom as part of the formal scientific curriculum.This, says Day, should count as points in his favor. I beg to differ. I fully realize that, among many members of his somewhat effutive species, acknowledgment of the authority of the Dover decision serves as something of a totem. But to call the Dover decision's reasoning on the nature of Intelligent Design and its relation to science "well-reasoned" betrays a lack of understanding either of the decision or of reason itself--or both.
I have pointed out elsewhere the fundamental problems with the reasoning in the key portion of the Dover case:
I had pointed out that Judge John Jones affirmed a blatant contradiction in his opinion. He argues that the alleged unsoundness of the argument from irreducible complexity is a blow to Intelligent Design, since it is "central to ID", and then later argues that even if irreducible complexity were true, it wouldn't confirm ID because it isn't central to it, but "merely a test for evolution, not design."In other words, not only was the decision not "well-reasoned," it was blatantly contradictory. So we rational animals can be forgiven our suspicions when a candidate for the highest education post in the state--and those expressing opinions on him--can't tell the difference between good reasoning and atrocious reasoning.
Now in my original post on this issue I did not say anything about Cheek's own views on the issue of creationism or Intelligent Design themselves. I was more interested in the clamor among those who presume to be publicly vetting him. But I hardly find Day's defense in this regard convincing.
In fact, one wonders what to make of a group of hominids that champions demonstrably contradictory arguments and then accuses those who pointed these contradictions out as irrational.
But maybe my intellectual standards for the educational community are too high. After all, it is a poorly hidden secret that those with the least amount of learning are the ones running our institutions of learning, and many of us who are accustomed to walking erect have to send our kids to schools which are operated by people who, intellectually speaking, are still walking on all fours. This is obviously a generalization, and one that admits of exceptions for those who, like Day, have achieved a higher evolutionary stage.
Cheek at least has one real Ph.D, some would say two, although one is in education, which is arguably just one of the many modern tentacles of what William James once called, "the Ph.D octopus." But let's not mix metaphors here.
Is it possible that Kentucky’s next education commissioner – if he or she maintained creationist views - might promote programs or act in ways that put the state at odds with the Constitution or established court rulings? Would the state end up wasting time and paying more money to ACLU attorneys?Heaven forfend that we do anything that could possibly cause the ACLU to sue--anything like, say, standing on our principles. I have always wondered about this argument. Should school districts really just roll over and play dead whenever the ACLU threatens a lawsuit? Does that mean that if Christian groups become as successful at extorting money through lawsuits as the ACLU, that schools should then do the opposite? Does might really make right in the education kingdom? Is this all it takes to send a troop of public education bureaucrats scattering into the trees?
In fact, one wonders, if Dover had gone the other way, would the educational establishment now be enthusiastically implementing laws that allowed for the teaching of Intelligent Design on the grounds that courts had declared it constitutional?
I doubt it. I think they would be throwing coconuts down on anyone who would even hazard the suggestion.
I have no problem with Day hunting around and gathering information on the backgrounds of commissioner candidates. It's a dirty job, but someone's got to do it--and there's no person with a more prehensile grasp of the issues of Kentucky schools than Day. My problem is with the smelly little orthodoxies (to use a Tom Wolfism) that pervade the public education mentality, such as that anyone with traditional religious views on a subject is potentially unfit for an educational leadership role in our schools.
Day compares Cheek to another commissioner candidate, Michael Sentance, who
once became sufficiently riled up at a youth soccer game that he not only got a yellow card, and a red card, but whatever color he got when he was suspended for the balance of the season. You want dominant male? I give you Michael Sentance.I don't know about Day, but I kinda' like the spirit this shows. We could do a whole lot worse than a commissioner who would kick butt and take names. I mean, it isn't like we've never seen good coaches who lose their cool in games before. If he had a regular habit of throwing chairs, that's one thing. Or maybe if he was ejected in a game in which he was coaching Kindergarten girls. But getting a red card in a competitive sport? This is unusual? Has Day had kids in competitive middle and high school sports recently?
My chief concern is that Sentance was only red carded once. Day needs to do some more digging. We don't want a milquetoast on our hands.
But then Day notes a difference between Cheek and Sentance:
Sentance immediately acknowledged his mistake, took full responsibility and served his suspension. He followed that up by returning to coaching and behaving himself.Is this supposed to be analogous to having had what Day admits was a principled objection to the Darwinist theory of human origins? Is this a punishable offense in the Lost World of the educationalists? Does the guy really have to do public penance for it? Is this grounds for declaring someone subhuman?
I'll give this to Day: it is perfectly legitimate for him to criticize a candidate for not coming clean on past indiscretions. My criticism is with the pervasive attitude among his fellow educationytes that considers someone's traditionalist views on human origins as an indiscretion in the first place.