Louisiana School Voucher Decision Banishes Children to the Bronze Age

Bobby Jindal
Photograph by Scott Olson/Getty Images.

Delusion runs rampant in Louisiana. Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal’s new private school voucher program will, reports Right Wing Watch, “exempt private schools receiving vouchers from participating ‘in the state testing and accountability program imposed on traditional and charter public schools.”’ The new system, which will bring to the fore Bible-based church schools, goes into effect this fall.

Jarvis DeBerry, in an opinion piece appearing in the Times-Picayune last week, wrote that “Gov. Bobby Jindal dismissed every concern about his school vouchers bill as yelps of pain from the status quo. Even folks whose reform credentials shouldn’t have been questioned got the brush off from Jindal, who programmed his spokespeople to say the same thing of every question asked of them: Parents are the best accountability system we’ve got.”

But as the Times Picayune reported in the wake of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education’s July 24 decision,

The independent Bureau of Governmental Research released a report Monday criticizing White’s plan as too soft, both for excluding schools with fewer than 40 voucher students from facing consequences and for setting such a low bar for those with 40 or more.

“Short of no accountability standards at all,” the report reads, “it is difficult to imagine a lower standard of performance than what the proposed system offers. Yet the proposal also allows waivers in some circumstances.”

We will call this the “it’s okay to be dumb if you’re Christian” program, because as RWW goes on to say, those Christian students won’t have to “pass state exams to advance to the next grade level and won’t even receive state letter grades meant to evaluate student performance.”

And believe it or not, Christians are celebrating their right to be left behind.

Hard to believe just a few years ago Evangelical hero George W. Bush was selling America his No Child Left Behind Act, and now his former supporters can’t wait to backslide into the Bronze Age.

What happened?

Well, a neo-Luddite reaction to a fast-paced modern world is part of the problem. Change – technology and globalization – just scares the hell out of conservative religionists, Christian and otherwise. You have only to look at recent offerings like Wallace Henley’s Globequake (2012), which purports by reminding readers of the “unshakeable promise of God” to protect believers from the shifting sands of a cultural “globequake.” Conservative Christians want a life-line. The past is a life-line.

The difference is, conservative Christians have the clout to regress while conservative religious minorities are dragged into the future, like it or not.

They’re the lucky ones.

Who ever thought privilege and power could be a handicap? But it is – at least in Louisiana.

Rev. Gene Mills of the Louisiana Family Forum, who prayed over Jindal at his group’s Christmas Gala, said RWW on Monday, “told David Barton and Rick Green today on WallBuilders Live that the program will increase student exposure to ‘religious material’ and ‘release the Word of God’ to children.”

You would think learning how the world works – how people work – would be more important than what people believed 3,000 years ago. Instead, a reversion to Bronze Age science and technology, what people believed about the world before they had the means to know anything about it, seem to be major selling points. And that’s the problem with technology: it contradicts the inerrant Word of God. Something has gotta give, and you can bet your Virgin Birth that in Louisiana it won’t be the Bible.

RWW lays out the problem to be faced by the next generation in God-besotted Louisiana:

And who is rallying the opposition from the “teachers unions and the government bureaucrats”? Why, Satan of course. “There is no doubt it’s going to have its impact and it’s going to hit its target and it’s going to strike fast, and that’s why the Enemy is kicking back,” Mills said, “He realizes what’s going to happen when all of the sudden these kids come into a knowledge unlike their former secular humanist seminary, they are being rooted and grounded in foundational and fundamental, timeless principles that can change a person’s eternity.”

If science disagrees with the Bible, it’s gotta be Satan to blame for reality’s liberal bias just as he is for teacher’s unions. It can’t be that advanced 21st-century technology backed up by scientific proof actually means anything compared to the intellectual efforts of Bronze Age man.

Mills said on WallBuilders Live that “For those of us who have a faith background, the idea that the truth can still set kids free, can you imagine what would happen if you uncapped religious clubs, religious speech, student body prayer, religious material, as is the case in most private or parochial schools.”

The truth can set kids free but the kind of truth kids need is the kind grounded in reality and in the findings of modern science. Ignorance doesn’t set anybody free; ignorance is a prison.

Elsewhere in the industrialized world, children are being taught mathematics and science and learning to cope with a world that is racing at breakneck speed into the future. In Louisiana, you have to wonder if the medieval innovation of crop rotation won’t soon be too advanced for a state increasingly dedicated to the days preceding the wheeled plow and the horse collar.

Benighted Louisiana Christians can pretend the modern world does not exist, but they cannot stop living in it no matter how hard they try. The world will be out there waiting while they sink into oblivion. And where will their children be then?

But Rick Green insists that “It’s not just reading, writing and arithmetic they’re gonna do better, they’re gonna become better people.” Better people with no realistic knowledge or understanding of the modern world?

Ignorance has never had such a champion as those who rub elbows with David Barton. Takes Mills for example:

When you remove the federal courts and you release the power of the word of God, there is no doubt it’s going to have its impact and it’s going to hit its target and it’s going to strike fast, and that’s why the Enemy is kicking back. He realizes what’s going to happen when all of the sudden these kids come into a knowledge unlike their former secular humanist seminary, they are being rooted and grounded in foundational and fundamental, timeless principles that can change a person’s eternity. They will be equipped, and they’ll be educated along the way too, but they’ll be filled with character capable of making insightful decisions towards the future.

Release the power of the word of God and the modern world goes away? Luddite fantasies become reality? Creationism in place of evolution? The evidence of paleontology will go away and dinosaurs will have walked with humans? The Grand Canyon will suddenly be created by Noah’s flood, science be damned, or, as Reuters reports, “Bible-based math books that don’t cover modern concepts such as set theory”? Can’t have that 1870’s thinking in our schools!

But because a child is challenged in math is no reason to take math away.

How, exactly, does the “word of God” benefit Louisiana’s children if “he” wants them to believe things that are demonstrably untrue?

The tragedy here is that because of a few, all Louisiana will suffer. DeBerry makes point:

The money that funds public schools — and now these vouchers to escape public schools — comes from everybody, not just people with children in the system. Consequently, the public — including members of the public who’ve never had children — is within its rights to demand that its money be spent wisely, that it not be thrown away by ideologues who believe without exception that the private sector does everything better.

We’re not talking here about a damage that will be limited to a year. We are talking about damage that will be permanent; something that will scar these children intellectually for the rest of their lives. In this very technological, highly competitive world, there is no room for the Bronze Age.

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