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Letter from the Editor

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What has 100 feet and one tooth? Answer: 50 Tennessee state representatives.

The punch line to that joke used to be: "The front row at a Willie Nelson concert." But after reading about our GOP legislators' latest efforts to turn Tennessee back to the 1800s, the first answer seems more appropriate.

Our hillbilly stalwarts in the state House (soon to be renamed the state double-wide?) voted 70 to 28 for a bill that would "allow" science instructors to teach alternatives to accepted scientific thought, including, of course, evolution. The bill is supposedly designed "to create an environment within public elementary and secondary schools that encourages students to explore scientific questions, learn about scientific evidence, develop critical thinking skills, and respond appropriately and respectfully to differences of opinion about controversial issues."

But the intent is clear: to allow teachers to introduce alternative "theories," such as creationism, in science classes.

It is, of course, absurdist political theater, yet another example of social engineering and meddling in places where our legislators shouldn't be meddling. Creationism is Christian theology, period, and has no business in a science class in a public school. But that doesn't bother these clowns, who seem intent on making Tennessee the backwoods, possum-eating, snake-handling laughingstock of the U.S.

How did the Republican Party get this way? Republicans are supposed to be the party of free markets and small government and jobs, jobs, jobs, not social engineering. I've voted for lots of Republicans, but increasingly the party has fallen into the hands of, well, idiots.

Let's say you're the CEO of a large, national tech corporation considering opening a new facility. How eager do you think he or she is going to be to send employees to Tennessee, where science teachers are encouraged by state law to introduce their students to religious doctrine?

In truth, the bill is a symbolic gesture, meant to appease the rubes and the GOP's far-right base — and piss off progressives. (Consider it successful on that count.) But the bill will accomplish something: If Governor Haslam signs it into law, we'll have another clear indicator of just how low he's willing to go to pander to his party's neanderthals. And how little he cares about its effect on actual job "creationism."

Bruce VanWyngarden

brucev@memphisflyer.com

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