In the "This-isn't-rocket-science" category of "who-to-vote-for," my answer is always "vote for people who can do math and won't cost us a gazillion dollars by landing the school district in a federal lawsuit it can't possibly win."
If the self-proclaimed creationists make it on to the school board...
-- I'm sorry... I can't believe I even had to write those words.
Common sense dictates who to elect to School Board
The School Board primary on Feb. 16 has drawn quite a few letters extolling the virtues of various candidates.
I have one rule for voting in local elections – I am completely happy if the candidate can do math, regardless of where they are on the political spectrum.
Take School Board member Tim Stepanski, who ran as “the eye for the taxpayer.”
Politically speaking, I disagree with his political commitment to conservative, anti-tax, principles but I completely agree with his commitment to good mathematics. Once he'd seen the actual numbers the school district was up against, he made a tough decision to support the tax levy increase. His principles remain in place, but he did the math and put his responsibility to the kids first.
You have to respect that -- and I do.
I also have no interest in the religious views of anyone running for office. Frankly, it’s none of my business, or anyone’s business, how elected officials worship or which god, or gods, they worship. I don’t care. I don't care, that is, so long as they don’t make their religious views my business.
But they cross the line when they think it’s OK to use my tax dollar to fund teaching their religious views in a science classroom.
(Personally, I approve of teaching kids about religion in literature or history or social science classes. It’s important that kids, especially in today’s global economy, understand how people from all parts of the world think – even in distant and strange places, like Madison, say.)
So long as candidates don’t insist on teaching their religious views as science, no problem. I mean, imagine if a religiously committed School Board member, maybe one who worshiped the old Scandinavian gods, insisted we teach science students that lightning is caused by Thor swinging his hammer. Thor is not a scientific hypothesis and this fact, along with the establishment clause of the U.S. Constitution, explains why fundamentalist Christian beliefs (in the form of creationism and its slicker but equally unscientific little brother, “intelligent design”) have repeatedly been removed from public schools by the federal courts.
Speaking of which: in a bit of karmic turnabout, I find myself indebted to the local chapter of the Eagle Forum for their recent poll of School Board candidates. Fortunately for all of us, this poll identified some candidates whose personal views could weaken the science curriculum and drag the school district into federal court.
Three of the remaining six candidates — I understand that Knepel and Williams have withdrawn — told the Eagle Forum that they were in favor of teaching creationism, a religious doctrine, in science classes. Those who demonstrated this lack of respect for either competent scientific education or the rule of law are Randy Marquardt, Douglas Rakowski and David Weigand. The Eagle Forum site notes that Mr. Weigand would be in favor of “teaching the TRUTH about evolution” — but to my jaundiced eye this suggests he believes evolution isn’t true. His original answer online indicated a desire to teach creationism in science classes.
Ziegler gave no response to the question but both Van Eerden and Corazzi gave answers indicating they believe that, regardless of your upbringing, a public school board needs to follow federal court rulings and teach science, rather than religious doctrine, in science classes.
Quite apart from simply upholding Constitutional principles, there are even more practical reasons for adhering to federal court findings. The now infamous Dover case (Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District), in which some School Board members pressured their science classes to include creationism, wound up costing that school district over $1 million in legal fees after a spectacular loss in federal court and a scathing opinion from the judge, one of the most conservative in the country.
Maybe Marquardt, Rakowski or Weigand won’t try to impose their religious views on the science curriculum, but let’s take them at their word: they think religious doctrines should be taught in a science class — even though pursuing this agenda would land West Bend in federal court.
And make no mistake: it will.
West Bend is now on the media’s radar and some of these creationist candidates are affiliated with the same people who made West Bend a national laughingstock during the last year; those who, first, attempted to eliminate anti-gay and lesbian language from the district’s hate speech policies and, second, helped put West Bend on the map as the book-burning capital of North America. The whole world is watching us now and waiting for the chance to send in reporters, film crews and the National Center for Science Education and ACLU legal teams. I don’t think we need any more of that.
One last irony: Weigand and Marquardt have been endorsed by Common Sense Citizens of Washington County. Here’s what I want to know: how much common sense does it demonstrate to endorse candidates who publicly assert that their religious beliefs should be intruded into the school curriculum in a way that could cost the district millions in legal fees and international ridicule?
Common sense dictates a common sense approach to electing this board. Let’s elect people who will guarantee competent scientific education for the kids, keep us out of federal court, and off the front page of the New York Times.
Common sense dictates Corazzi, Van Eerden or Ziegler.
No really, the current year -- for those of you double-checking -- is 2010, not 1350.