The Baltimore Sun brings startling news:
Maryland public school students will need to know their green to graduate under a new policy adopted today by the state board of education.
State officials and environmental activists called the vote "historic" and said Maryland has become the first state in the nation to require environmental literacy to graduate from high school. Under the rule, public schools will be required to work lessons about conservation, smart growth and the health of our natural world into their core subjects like science and social studies.
The requirement applies to students entering high school this fall. Local school systems will be able to shape those lessons to be relevant to their communities, but all will have to meet standards set by the state.
We could take this opportunity to rant, yet again, about how the notorious fraud of global warming is promoted using your tax dollars. We could review how electric cars are worse for the environment than modern oil-burning ones, or talk about how even environmentalists are admitting that, in many cases, recycling is unhelpful.
|Maryland's new high school diploma.|
We all know this would accomplish nothing whatsoever. The government, and no few voters, in Maryland will choose to believe in this environmental extremism regardless of the evidence placed before them. The question is outside of the realm of science; it's barely within the realm of normal politics.
It is, in fact, a question of religion - and Maryland's public schools have just established one.
This sounds shocking, but public support of religion has a long and solid tradition in America. The very first publicly-funded American schools, established in the Massachusetts Bay Colony long before there even was a United States, were for the express purpose of furthering the cause of religion:
It being one chief project of that old deluder, Satan, to keep men from the knowledge of the Scriptures... It is therefore ordered that every township in this jurisdiction, after the Lord hath increased them to fifty households shall forthwith appoint one within their town to teach all such children as shall resort to him to write and read, whose wages shall be paid either by the parents or masters of such children, or by the inhabitants in general. [emphasis added]
Taxpayer-funded compulsory schools go back a long way. For many years, the Bible itself was the primary textbook of the public schools both in Massachusetts and elsewhere. As recently as the turn of the last century, public school teachers were expected to be leading exemplars of Christian character and good morals.
So the states were establishing a religion? Not exactly. Yes, they promoted what might be called "lowest-common-denominator Protestantism," but beyond the most basic Sunday-school stuff, they didn't get into the sort of theological differences that distinguish Presbyterians from Baptists from Congregationalists from Pentecostals.
Americans considered the Bible to be the Word of God, more or less, and considered Jesus Christ to be the Son of God; that was good enough for common ground. Jews didn't buy into that, but there weren't enough of them to be too much of an issue and reasonable accommodations were generally made.
That didn't cut it for increasing numbers of Catholics, however, who didn't appreciate having the Pope's authority questioned. Rather than fight the school board, cities with a large Catholic population founded their own private parish schools which were funded by the parents instead of being funded out of general revenue, many of which survive to this day and provide some of the best education found anywhere.
In short: the Protestant majority ran the public schools to their taste. Anyone who believed otherwise strongly enough to pay for a school was free to teach their kids in some other way more suitable to their religious tastes.
With the decline of Christianity and rise of ACLU-style secular humanism from the 1960s on, religion as such has been mostly purged from American public schools - or so we are told. In actual fact, the generic Protestantism of the past has been replaced with a different belief structure that's every bit as dogmatic and impervious to rational argument - leftist liberalism.
Though devoid of the usual trappings and rituals of religion unless you count voting Democrat as a religious ritual, liberalism is a religion every bit as much as Christianity or Islam, in that its core beliefs are entirely outside the realm of rational argument, and anyone who questions them is a blasphemer to be burned at the stake.
What Maryland has done may be wrong factually and morally, but remember, Maryland is almost as blue a state as Washington DC. A fervent belief in the most destructive aspects of environmentalism is exactly what most parents there want their children inculcated in; it's what they themselves believe.
Of course, since the economy of Maryland is dominated by employment in Federal bureaucracies, very few of the parents will pay the price inflicted by their chosen anti-growth, anti-development, anti-freedom, anti-modern-technology policies. The government of Maryland is merely reflecting local voter preferences, which is what you'd expect in a democracy.
It would be interesting for a lover of liberty to sue the Maryland Department of Education for unconstitutional establishment of religion. However, it may be hard to find out: like the Catholics of a century ago, they've probably long since removed their own kids to a private or home school, where Edison's light bulb still burns over the heads of diligent scholars.
Given that public schools can't teach real literacy, environmental "literacy" may be the best they can hope to accomplish. We can't wait to see the fatuous nonsense promulgated as "environmental literacy" by the Maryland Board of Ed. Perhaps they'll hire His Greenness Al Gore as a consultant?