Ham and Eggheads

March 25, 2011 | By | 31 Replies More

Ken Ham is the head of Answers In Genesis, an organization that promotes and perpetuates the Creationist view that the Earth is less than ten thousand years old, that homo sapiens sapien trod the same ground at the same time as dinosaurs, the the story of Noah is literally true, and that evolution is All Wrong.  He’s an Australian and a biblical literalist.  He built the Creation Museum in Petersburg, Kentucky, in 2007.  Check the link for an overview by an (admittedly) biased source, but for simple clarity is hard to beat.  It is a fraud of research, flagrantly anti-science, and laughable in its assertions (in my opinion).

Ken Ham is one of the more public figures in our current national spasm of extreme religiosity.  He’s attempting to have built another show-piece in Kentucky, a theme park based on Noah and the Flood.  The problem with this, however, is that tax dollars are being used in its construction and it is a blatantly religious enterprise.

In the meantime, Ken Ham and Answers In Genesis have recently been disinvited from a conference on homeschooling.   There are multiple ironies in this, especially since, on the face of it, Ham and these particular homeschoolers would seem to be sympatico on the issues.

Be that as it may, it prompted me to make a couple of observations regarding this whole phenomenon.  According to the Home School Legal Defense Fund,  homeschooling is a growing practice.

it is estimated that the annual rate of growth of the number of children being homeschooled in the U.S. is between 7% to 15%. Reports from 1999 determined that approximately 850,000 American children were being home schooled by at least one parent. This number increased again in 2003, to over one million children, according to the National Center for Education Statistics National Household Education (NHES). NHES compiled data showing that in 2007, over 1.5 million children in the U.S. were home schooled.

There are several reasons for this, but the most stated are:

Religious or moral instruction 36%

School environment 21%

Academic instruction 17%

Other 26%

Questions of violence, socialization, academic standards, and related issues play into these decisions.  Not all homeschooling is, as is popularly thought, conducted for religious reasons, but certainly religious homeschooling gets the lion’s share of the publicity.

Creation Museum exhibit (Creative Commons)

I have the same reservations about homeschooling as I have with special private schools that seek to isolate students from the wider community.  Despite the problems with “the world” to put an informational barrier between a child and that world can put that child at a disadvantage later.  But I can’t argue with the sentiment that many public schools are dysfunctional and do a disservice to students.  The 17% of the sample opting for homeschooling for academic reasons probably have concerns with which I’d agree.

The more people pull their children out of public education, though, the less incentive there is to fix that system.

Part of the academic experience is and must be socialization (although I firmly believe most of the problems we have with public education today stem from the fact that in America the primary purpose of school has always been socialization, often at the expense of academics, and we’re paying for this unacknowledged fact today).What profoundly disturbs me about the 36% of those who homeschool for religious reasons is precisely the problem presented by people like Ken Ham.  Parents who reject science as an enemy to their religious beliefs do neither their children nor this country any good by isolating their children and inculcating the distorted views presented in the name of some sort of spiritual decontamination.  What these parents wish to tell their kids at home is their business—but there is also a vast pool of legitimate knowledge about the world which needs to be taught if these kids are to have any chance at being able as adults to make reasoned and rational choices, for themselves and for their own children and for the society in which they live and work.  Few parents have either the time or the training to do this, at least in my opinion, whether they are certified or not, simply because they are only one voice.  Much education happens in the crossfire of ideas under examination by many.  The debate that happens in a vibrant classroom setting is vital to the growth of one’s ability to think, to analyze, and to reason.  The by-play that will likely happen between dissenting viewpoints, or between different apprehensions of a topic, won’t happen in isolation.

Ken Ham tends to bar outside viewpoints when he can.  He has a history of banning people from the Creation Museum when he knows they are antagonistic to his viewpoint.  In the face of overwhelming evidence, he tries to assert a reality that has long since been shown to be inaccurate.  That he was barred from a conference of folks who will then educate their children in those same inaccuracies is an irony of epic proportions.  But, as they say, what goes around, comes around.

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Category: American Culture, Anti-science, children, Community, Culture, Current Events, Education, Evolution, History, Politics, Psychology Cognition, Religion, Science, snake oil

About the Author ()

Mark is a writer and musician living in the St. Louis area. He hit puberty at the peak of the Sixties and came of age just as it was all coming to a close with the end of the Vietnam War. He was annoyed when bellbottoms went out of style, but he got over it.

Comments (31)

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  1. Jim Razinha says:

    Gatto's Underground History is his ax and he's a grinding. I haven't brought myself to think about sociology, so I just go with his flow, neither agreeing nor disagreeing, and the history could use review/research before buying into it but it does prompt questions.

    The tone of the Seven Lesson Schoolteacher that I mentioned above (http://www.newciv.org/whole/schoolteacher.txt) comes off as more of a resignation (which it was of sorts) to the realization that after years of fighting the system he'd never win.

  2. Finished it. I agree with his basic thesis, that the school "system" is not what people believe it is. This is something I've been on about for decades, that the general public thinks it's about education, when in fact that's secondary at best. I find it useful that he makes a distinction between education and "schooling" and would use that device myself from now on.

    However, I find some of his blue-skying about how smart we used to be dubious at best. He points out, rightly, that Jefferson was an advocate of public education and saw a need for it—if we were so damn well off then, where was the need>? Jefferson had his blindnesses, but the condition of the common man was usually not one of them. I think Gatto actually falls into the trap of taking at face value the self-assessments of contemporary accounts when discussing groups of people. We have this same problem today in arguments between Right and Left as to who we consider worth considering—who constitutes The People. (You can find a well-portrayed, ironic depiction of this problem in Scorcese's marvelous film, The Age of Innocence, in every instance where the narrator talks about "New York" as a single entity. Obviously, she's not talking about dock workers, street cleaners, factory workers…but they aren't "New York" in the calculus of what matters.) Certainly Fennimore Cooper sold millions of copies of his books, but not all of them stayed in the United States and I guarantee not all of them were read.

    Anyway, with large provisos, I can recommend the book for what it offers in terms of analysis of why the system is not what it has generally been thought to be and some of his recommendations for new approaches. But it should be otherwise taken with a big spoon of salt.

    I do look forward, Jim, to reading your piece on homeschooling, though. The voice of experience is always valuable.

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