Mike Myer's Sunday column, "There Is 'Odor of Ignorance,'" attacks the "big-city types" at the Charleston Gazette-Mail for what he argues is a bigoted editorial about the citizens of Tyler County and, in particular, School Board President Bonnie Henthorn, for her decision to home-school her children:
But reaction has been brutal in some quarters. A Charleston newspaper, citing Henthorn's disagreement with how evolution is taught in public school science classes, commented that, "News reports make it seem that another Scopes Monkey Trial is brewing in Tyler County."
No, they do not. There is no substantial controversy over how evolution is taught in Tyler County schools.
The key qualifier is "substantial" because there certainly has been controversy. (See, for example, the Intelligencer's coverage on January 14 and January 27.) And as the press accounts suggest, evolution was an important part of her decision. The most complete online description for Henthorn's action that I found was the Parkersburg News and Sentinel's coverage. On evolution:
A Christian-based education is what Henthorn seeks for her children. She spoke of how a recent study about a starfish development through natural selection relates to the theory of evolution.
"There's very little here for Christian kids if you really want your kids to have some background in Christian education," she said. "If you really want them to have any kind of an opposite view of evolution kids are being taught we came from starfish. They've had 10 years of that (her children), so now it's time for them to have a little bit different. That's where I'm coming from. That is not a reflection of the teachers. That's a reflection of the curriculum and the state decisions that are being made that are pushed down onto Tyler County."
Okay, while this may not qualify as "substantial," it certainly was about evolution and it was also controversial.
Myer continues his attack on the editorial:
"A strong odor of ignorance hangs over Tyler schools," the paper added.
What? Talk about profiling, stereotyping, sweeping generalizations or whatever you want to call bigotry.
Okay, here's what the Charleston paper said in its January 22 editorial after its "brewing"comment to support its "odor" conclusion:
News reports make it seem that another Scopes Monkey Trial is brewing in Tyler County. Henthorn told education reporter Ryan Quinn she is upset because public school biology classes teach evolution as a fact. She said she wants her children to learn “opposite science, because there is science on the other side.”
No there isn’t. All of the world’s reputable biologists are confident that every animal, including humans, slowly evolved from more primitive creatures over eons through the process of natural selection, as outlined by Charles Darwin a century and a half ago. The Smithsonian Institution in Washington has a huge wing illustrating evolution, and multitudes of schoolchildren visit it yearly.
Fundamentalists endlessly dispute evolution, contending that planet Earth was created only about 10,000 years ago — despite scientific evidence that the universe is around 13 billion or 14 billion years old and Earth itself is around 4 billion years old. They try to teach “creationism” or “intelligent design” in science classes, but courts block the attempts as illegal intrusions of religion into government schools.
One of Henthorn’s fellow board members, P.J. Wells, agrees with her. He told reporter Quinn that schools should be allowed to teach children that God created all creatures exactly as they are. He said scientists “want us to believe that we evolved from apes, which we didn’t.”
A strong odor of ignorance hangs over Tyler schools.
I'll let you decide whether this is an example of bigotry.
Finally, after Myer accuses the Gazette-Mail of a cheap shot against Tyler County residents, he can't resist finishing the column with his own cheap shot:
An odor of ignorance can be detected around the controversy. But it's not emanating from Tyler County - a place, incidentally, where there also is no odor of burning books.
I assume the "burning books" reference is to the Kanawha County textbook controversy 42 years ago. His best shot is to point to something that happened over four decades ago? (This reminds me of how many times I've read or heard that the late senator Robert Byrd was a member of the Klan in the 1940s to prove that Democrats are just as racist as Republicans or whomever.) Can we agree that unless we're talking about history, we ought to get into the 21st century for our examples?