Wednesday, June 07, 2006
Florida weighs in on post-modernism
The following section, relating to the required curriculum, of the Florida Omnibus Education Bill was recently passed by the Florida legislature and signed by Gov. Jeb Bush (declared, incidentally, by the Weekly Standard on its cover as "the best governor in America"):
Generally, yeah, this kind of thing is just a bad joke, a sop to one or another dumbass constituency. But in this case I think it's happy instance of unintended consequences. I think it reads more naturally as pro-reality rather than anti-post-modernism. That is, I would read it as supporting a secular rather than a religious view of history, which is a *definite* win in today's climate. And though I doubt it was meant that way, it would be easy enough to flip it around in practice. Especially since most of the people who are scared of post-modernism are as dumb as a bag of hammers anyways. /ducks/ :-)
For what it's worth, the line referring to "revisionist" and "postmodernist" was deleted in the final version of the bill signed by Governor Bush.
See page 44, paragraph (f) of HB 7087 at this link:
The entire legislative history of the bill is available at this link:
How will this provision be construed under statutory consstruction rules? Do we look to the intent of the enactors? If so, can we look to legislative history to aid in determining such intent? Or are we limited to the meaning of the provision at the time of enactment or as understood? If "meaning" and/or "understood" are to apply, then by what measures and of whom? And does the striking of "revisionist" and "postmodernist" mean that revisionism and postmodernism must therefore be acceptable as meant and/or understood at the time of enactment in its construction?
By the way, is there a conflict with the First Amendment's speech clauses?
Maybe Jeb Bush will attach a statement to the act reserving future executive challenge on constitutional and other grounds, in preparation for his presidential ambitions.
It is at times like this when I think back to my beloved C.M. Kornbluth, that visionary member of the Futurians who described it all in stories such as "The Marching Morons" (1951).
If the history of the United States shall be taught as "genuine" history, it will doubtless include a genuine discussion of the great industrialist and innovator Henry Ford, who said, "History is bunk."
Our right wings friends never fail to remind us that we are a "Christian nation" because, among other things, the Declaration of Independence references God ("the Creator") - who is noteably absent in such other important founding documents as, say the Constitution. So I don't doubt that there is a reason why the Declaration of Independence is held up as the model of the principles defining our country, and not, say, the Constitution - which actually defines our government. No Bill of Rights need be mentioned here, no sirree, not when God can brought up instead.
I look forward to finding out whether the Florida legislature will similarly declare that the "correspondence theory of truth" is correct and that, say, Thomas Kuhn (or perhaps David Hume) cannot be taught in the Florida public schools, except as exemplars of error, and so on.
Damn, Levinson, shut up before you start giving them ideas!
None of this really matters. The A+ program introduced by Jeb Bush in Florida has pretty much eliminated social studies and history from the curriculum. Students who do not pass the FCAT (state test) are removed from Social Studies classes and assigned to test-taking classes. History classes are now being told that they have to focus on reading and not history. Schools that consistently score low on the FCAT (mainly high poverty schools) are given a special waiver so they don't have to meet the state standards for social studies -- they don't have to teach it.
I know because I live in Florida and I'm an educator.
I think you are a little harsh here, though I really liked the Kuhn comment. I mean taking the position that there are facts about history that are testable (and getting them right) actually requires that they not deny any of the controversies that you mention. Saying that there are facts about history does not entail that these facts are known or universally agreed upon. It certainly doesn't prevent some of these facts from being of the form, "X and Y thought different things about Z".
Mostly this is just a feel good measure aimed at an exageration of certain relativists. While kinda ridiculous there are have been a handful of people who believed some ridiculous things in the name of cultural relativism (any society's story of history is equally valid). Sure this is mostly a gross charachature and has nothing to do with the coherence theory of truth (which requires coherence with experimental evidence as well) but what's the big problem if they attack non-existant idiots?
As far as things for legislatures to do this seems like a relatively harmless way to keep them entertained.
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