Darwin and dog whistles

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The dog whistle has been blown, the genie is out of the bottle, the horse has left the barn – we’ve heard these clichés before.

However, this particular dog whistle happened to be an item pulled from the Clay County School Board’s January meeting agenda concerning science textbook adoptions for the district.

In preparation for this month’s Feb. 1 meeting, school board members are being bombarded with thousands of emails from residents crying fowl over the issue of Darwin’s Theory of Evolution being taught in the schools. Well, guess what it’s been taught for many decades, meaning that it not just all of a sudden pulled out of a dusty filing cabinet.

Look for this week’s meeting to look very similar to meetings held in the run-up to the 2012 election. Remember those days?

Those were the days that one school board member turned the entire school board meeting room into kabuki theatre, thoroughly derailing the scope and purpose of what a school board meeting is supposed to be about – the care and education of our students.

The only difference this time is that it’s not Charlie Van Zant Jr., but board member Ashley Gilhousen. At the January board meeting, Gilhousen used cloaked language to basically say that Darwin’s groundbreaking discoveries about the origin of species were flawed and is ‘just a theory.’

Could it be a surprise that this posturing comes up in the year she is running for re-election? She’s asking that the Clay County School District add ‘other theories’ to the science standards to go above and beyond the state standards. Pish posh. The bottom line is that she wants ‘creationism’ taught as if it were science while it's never been proven to be science. Proponents of creationism began using the term ‘intelligent design’ in the early part of the 2000s to cloak it even further and present it as if it were some sort of new science. Sarah Palin said you can put lipstick on a pig, but it’s still a pig.

At the January meeting, Gilhousen also questioned the manner in which the age of the earth is calculated and then went on to tie in dubious language about climate change. Let’s go for a grand slam while we’re at it, huh?

In 2016, Clay County voters woke up and decided to re-focus on children by going to the voting booth and electing an educator to lead the school district. In his short tenure, Superintendent Addison Davis has worked to develop more transparency and rapport than ever within the district and among the school board.

However, all it takes is a wedge like Evolution – and one board member to seek attention like this – to come in and begin to cast doubt on all of it. Let’s create some division, so I can get some ink and TV airtime so I can get re-elected. The sad part about the Gilhousen publicity stunt is that the voters whose ears have already perked up to the dog whistles don’t even know they’re being played. It’s easier to get people riled up than it is to bring people together.

Elected officials in Clay County keep saying they want economic development and businesses to locate here and grow. They also say they want high-wage jobs here to lower the number of people who commute to Jacksonville and elsewhere for work. Well, that is never going to happen without science.

No school board member should be allowed to force their personal religious agenda on to the community, their fellow school board members and, most of all, our students.

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