‘Stuff that you long ago forgot isn’t general public knowledge’

What do Christian fundamentalists have against set theory?” asks Maggie Koerth-Baker at BoingBoing.

She goes on to answer why — basically for the same reason that Christian fundamentalists do everything: Us-vs.-Them tribalism. But don’t let me spoil the ending, go read the whole thing (the kicker is terrific).

What I want to highlight here, though, is her introduction, which I may plagiarize if I ever decide to write my own memoirs because it so closely parallels my own experience:

I’ve mentioned here before that I went to fundamentalist Christian schools from grade 8 through grade 11. I learned high school biology from a Bob Jones University textbook, watched videos of Ken Ham talking about cryptozoology as extra credit assignments, and my mental database of American history probably includes way more information about great revival movements than yours does. In my experience, when the schools I went to followed actual facts, they did a good job in education. Small class sizes, lots of hands-on, lots of writing, and lots of time spent teaching to learn rather than teaching to a standardized test. But when they decided that the facts were ungodly, things went to crazytown pretty damn quick.

All of this is to say that I usually take a fairly blasé attitude towards the “OMG LOOK WHAT THE FUNDIES TEACH KIDS” sort of expose that pops up occasionally on the Internet. It’s hard to be shocked by stuff that you long ago forgot isn’t general public knowledge. You say A Beka and Bob Jones University Press are still freaked about Communism, take big detours into slavery/KKK apologetics, and claim the Depression was mostly just propaganda? Yeah, they’ll do that. Oh, the Life Science textbook says humans and dinosaurs totally hung out and remains weirdly obsessed with bombardier beetles? What else is new?

For me it was grade 3 through grade 12. And neither classroom video nor Ken Ham had yet surfaced, but we did watch those Moody Science movies and read books by Dr. Henry Morris — so I know quite a bit about bombardier beetles, too. We didn’t use the BJU textbook in biology, but one of the textbooks for my Bible class was Hal Lindsey’s The Late Great Planet Earth. (Yes, in high school, I took a final exam on Hal Lindsey. Aced it.)

But I also share Koerth-Baker’s sense that, much of the time, my school “did a good job in education.” The tricky thing, for years afterward, was figuring out the difference between that much of the time and the time we spent galloping off to crazytown.

I also know just what Koerth-Baker means by “it’s hard to be shocked by stuff that you long ago forgot isn’t general public knowledge.” I’ve gotten better at remembering that some of that stuff from fundie-world should be shocking, though. It helps to have a wife who finds it all hilarious. I can usually crack her up just by reciting the Pledge of Allegiance to the Christian Flag, or the Pledge of Allegiance to the Bible, or by singing a few bars of “Bright and keen for Christ our savior. …”

Big-time extra credit to anyone who recognizes that last reference.

(Via Jeremy Yoder’s always cool “science online” roundups at Denim and Tweed.)

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