I thought of that equation the other day when I read in the Star Tribune that the Minnetonka school district is tiptoeing away from the teaching of evolution:
"The Minnetonka school district may change its guidelines for teaching evolution to emphasize that it is a scientific theory rather than proven fact.
The school board, which reviewed the district's science curriculum last week, is considering changes suggested by board member Dave Eaton, who was a member of a state committee that revised science standards in 2003.
Eaton said the existing Minnetonka guidelines regarding evolution contain 'careful wordsmithing' to create the impression that evolution has been established as fact. He said the district's science curriculum must get away from dogmatically teaching the theory as fact."
This development--or should that be "devolution"?--coincides with a recent analysis piece in the New York Times, with the snappy title "Intelligent Design Might Be Meeting Its Maker." The thrust of the piece is that latter-day creationism may be multiplying fruitfully as a political movement but it's not making much headway in classrooms:
"Behind the headlines...intelligent design as a field of inquiry is failing to gain the traction its supporters had hoped for. It has gained little support among the academics who should have been its natural allies. And if the intelligent design proponents lose the case in Dover, there could be serious consequences for the movement's credibility.
On college campuses, the movement's theorists are academic pariahs, publicly denounced by their own colleagues. Design proponents have published few papers in peer-reviewed scientific journals.....
While intelligent design has hit obstacles among scientists, it has also failed to find a warm embrace at many evangelical Christian colleges. Even at conservative schools, scholars and theologians who were initially excited about intelligent design say they have come to find its arguments unconvincing. They, too, have been greatly swayed by the scientists at their own institutions and elsewhere who have examined intelligent design and found it insufficiently substantiated in comparison to evolution."
The article underlines the fact that thoughtful conservatives have embraced ID about as warmly as they would Hillary Clinton at a carnival kissing booth. The Washington Post's Charles Krauthammer, for instance, asserts, "Intelligent design may be interesting as theology, but as science it is a fraud." And it goes on to describe the Dover school board trial as "a fight over evolution that is so anachronistic and retrograde as to be a national embarrassment."
Meanwhile, as Mike Mosedale reported in City Pages a few weeks back, intelligent design sideshows continue to draw standing-room-only crowds at the U of M. So is Minnesota riding the rump end of the trend curve here? While Governor Pawlenty has spoken little on the issue, his deposed commissioner of education, Cheri Pierson Yecke, monkeyed with state science curricula to enable the teaching creationism.
In fact, Pawlenty's politics at large seem to lag behind the times like the novelty t-shirt rack at a dollar store ("I Believe Anita Hill!"). While Pawlenty was sticking to his no-new-taxes pledge, Republican governors in such liberal bastions as Indiana, Colorado, and Alabama were proposing tax hikes to sustain public schools and basic services.
So how's this for a new description of Minnesota's current cultural consciousness: Bible Belt politics equal Minnesota politics minus ten years. Minnesota politics equal Bible Belt politics plus five years.