Saturday, May 17, 2008

Fundamentalism and Education (aka: Even Phonics?)

Sometimes, the fundamentalist world appears downright silly. Certainly, the political arm of fundamentalism, the Christian Right and its many manifestations offers us a study in silliness. One place this is clearly seen is in the arena of education reform. It seems as if the Christian Right likes to join forces with the "Plain Old Right" (mostly religious as well) and pontificate on many things. One of these objects of pontification is that old reliable political button pusher, education.

The Christian Right would like us to believe that public schools are attempting to lead our children down the primrose path to hell through the avenue of secular humanism. What the hell is secular humanism, you might ask? Basically, it is anything that is not: 1. Christian; 2. right wing, 3. in support of traditional values. Of course, this begs another question: What are traditional values? Ah... now that is a bugaboo now isn't it?

Whatever it is that the Plain Old Right and/or their bedfellows the Religious Right are after, it definitely involves education. Strangely (and I am a literacy education professor at a college), it is all quite concerned about phonics. One thing that you can count on in curriculum prepared by the Christian Right-winger publishers for use in Christian schools is that they will teach reading by phonics. It seems that phonics represents traditional family values (whatever the hell that means).

It was with great surprise a few years ago that I noted the Southern Baptist Convention (fundamentalist) was presented with a resolution that all Southern Baptist parents get their kids out of the evil and godless public schools (or something along those lines) post haste. The resolution didn't make it out of committee, but it was reported in our local newspaper. It would have been a devastating blow had the suggestion been implemented. The county where I reside has about 100,000 residents. About 60% (or more) are Southern Baptist. Southern Baptist make up a good portion of the teaching force. The churches might had a hard financial "row to hoe" with all of those deserters from Babylon. Most of the Baptist teachers I knew thought the whole idea to be silly.

Then there is that pesky old reading problem and the secular humanism represented by other methods. Fundamentalist crusaders are xenophobically pressing to bring our nations back to God. A good place to start is with the kid's ABC's!

For a look at the fundamantalist subculture, see my new book (Read an excerpt, too!) at

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