The Stupiding of America, Part 1: Tennessee Gets Even Stupider:
The Rude Pundit loves the state of Tennessee. He has had more amazing, enthralling, erotic, and exotic moments there than he can count, from going to a snake-handling church to seeing Dizzy Gillespie in one of his last concerts. He lived and worked there for a good chunk of the 1990s, and he goes back at least once a year. He has taught in public schools all over the eastern part of the state (as an artist-in-residence kind of thing for Sevier, Knox, and Blount counties). So he can say with some authority and with the love that a distant, wayward cousin can have for his relatives back in the mountain shack: it's filled with a lot of fucking stupid people who are manipulated by the cynical and stupid and stupid/cynical fuckers in their state government.

Take, for instance, the "education" bill that Governor Bill "No One Accuses Me of Being Muslim Despite My Distinctly Middle-Eastern Sounding Last Name" Haslam allowed to become law without his signature. The bill, well, law allows teachers to "explore" controversies around scientific subjects. Oh, it sounds innocuous enough: "The state board of education, public elementary and secondary school governing authorities, directors of schools, school system administrators, and public elementary and secondary school principals and administrators shall endeavor to create an environment within public elementary and secondary schools that encourages students to explore scientific questions, learn about scientific evidence, develop critical thinking skills, and respond appropriately and respectfully to differences of opinion about controversial issues."

Actually, the law itself is baldly specific about what is available for questioning: "The teaching of some scientific subjects, including, but not limited to, biological evolution, the chemical origins of life, global warming, and human cloning, can cause controversy." It's like a nutzoid conservative wet dream, a beautiful merging of religious and corporate interests into one ball of retardation. Evolution and cloning make Baby Jesus cry and global warming makes oil and coal companies get all sweaty. Teach the controversy, motherfuckers, even if there is none.

But don't worry: "This section only protects the teaching of scientific information, and shall not be construed to promote any religious or non-religious doctrine, promote discrimination for or against a particular set of religious beliefs or non-beliefs, or promote discrimination for or against religion or non-religion." You got that? They'll only teach the non-religious way that evolution is wrong and how we were all spooged into existence by a masturbating invisible sky wizard.

The law is such a clusterfuck of backwards-ass thinking that it'll assure that every school in the state teaches "controversial" issues in a different way, leaving out the fact that, for, you know, scientists and their, you know, science, none of this is controversial in the least. But, hey, high school student Jesse, Jr., son of Jesse, heard on the radio that he didn't come from no got-damned monkey, and Phil Valentine knows more than any pinhead researcher.

Yes, yes, don't teach 'em that science is science. That might cause the yahoos to really question something. Better to make 'em think that their stupidity is wisdom and that the fuckheads who manipulate them are the intellectuals.

But, wait, it gets worse. 'Cause there's the bill that Haslam did sign into law this week, which "Authorizes local governments to display replicas of historic documents such as the Magna Carta, Declaration of Independence, U.S. Constitution, and Ten Commandments in county or municipal public buildings and on county or municipal public grounds. The documents may be displayed in the form of statues, monuments, memorials, tablets, or any other display that respects the dignity of the documents." Sneaky motherfuckers. Calling the Ten Commandments a "historic document" is like calling The Cat in the Hat a guide to pet care. Like with creationism and climate change denial, just because you say it doesn't mean it's true. Hell, call it a jobs bill for monument carvers. That makes more sense.

Good luck, Tennessee. The Rude Pundit will see you in June. Enjoy your record-setting heat wave that has nothing at all, surely, to do with climate change. Keep up the good work on having one of the highest teenage pregnancy rates in the nation.

By the way, does the scientific questioning bill allow for students to ask teachers about the effectiveness of abstinence-only sex education when study after study shows it's a complete and utter failure? Or is that too much learning?