8/14/12

Christian Extremism Undermines Education in Mississippi

As someone who values education, there are few things I find more discouraging than the realization that some students enrolled at our state's public universities cannot write a complete sentence. I'm not talking about first-year students but juniors and seniors. I'm also not talking about students who are flunking out but those who will undoubtedly graduate with a bachelor's degree. And while Mississippi is by no means the only state facing this problem, I see it happening here far more often than it should.

There is little question that the widespread Christian extremism afflicting our state is part of the problem. Religious conservatives have been waging a war on education, budget cuts have taken a toll, and we have seen many local efforts to undermine science education. Christian extremism goes hand-in-hand with anti-intellectualism, and providing our children with a solid education is simply not a priority for our politicians or most voters.

I am not a parent, but I do not see how parents can put up with what passes for education around here. Why aren't the parents raising hell at the state legislature? Are parents really so concerned with maintaining the absurd religious beliefs of their children that they are willing to undermine their education?

When we hand out college degrees to those who can barely read or write, we do them a disservice by leading them to believe that they have accomplished something. And we do a disservice to everyone who earned a degree (I think we all know that showing up for class once in awhile and paying one's tuition is not the same thing as earning a degree). For college degrees to have any real value, they need to mean that the student has met certain goals and has at least some measure of competence. When this is not the case, nobody benefits.

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