Friday, November 17, 2006

Freedom, Pluralism and Deception

In an earlier article (part one, part two), we learnt a number of things about the "British Centre for Science Education" as we examined their views upon the subject of parents teaching children at home.

The BCSE, Its Competence, And Its Agenda

That article showed us two things. Firstly, it again highlighted the "BCSE"'s lack of knowledge of the education system in the UK - something that they are representing to MPs as their core competency. Secondly, we saw evidence of a deeply illiberal and interventionist approach to family life. If parents are likely to teach their children something wrong - then the state needs to intervene, sharpish!

The BCSE's home page contains a noble, if somewhat ungrammatical, claim:

BCSE believes in the tools for everyone to think for themselves - Science, Education and Reason - and the outcome - Democracy, Pluralism, Freedom and Righteousness.
We saw that this love of freedom and pluralism doesn't extend too far. Should parents teach their children things contrary to Darwinism, then the BCSE's members would like government monitors and inspectors to start intervening. As such, the BCSE decided that one of its four fundamental priorities would be to campaign for more "regulation", "inspection and monitoring" of home-schooling. In one BCSE leader's words, "a lot of problems come in because some parents believe they know better than educators on how their children should be educated."

That's probably not the most liberal or pluralistic of statements you've heard recently, is it?

Why Are They Doing This?

My analysis is that the BCSE are not equipped for an open and fair debate about Darwinism's problems, and the merits of alternative scientific models. Instead of open discussion in which alternative views can thrash it out on equal terms (as happens in real science), the BCSE simply want to suppress discussion of anything that contradicts the presuppositions of their own hard-line materialism. And if democracy, pluralism and freedom have to go to the wall in the struggle, then so be it.

A Little Follow Up

Today I want to draw a little more attention to the BCSE's leadership on this matter. Let us take their own statements, and hold them up to the light. Do they match the tolerant, freedom-loving image they wish you to associate with them?

Here's Ian Lowe. You may remember Ian for some of his earlier quotes, such as this one:
Have you lost sight of the fact that the actual enemy here is the fundmanetalists (sic), and not in fact the big mouthed atheists?
or this one:
"I have little or no time for religion of any kind"
But what's particularly relevant is what Ian said about his goals and motivations:
"That's where we need to be - that being a fundamentalist christianis as [sic] socially as acceptable as being a paedophile."
In the same message, Ian discussed further how he wants to achieve such an aim. It is quite revealing, and certainly will give new insight to anybody who saw Ian's letter in the Financial Times[1]:
It should be relatively easy to rally against the fundies.

Pick an obnoxious trait, focus on whatthat would mean for the public at large, exaggerate it, and demonise that trait to the point that no rational person would consider supporting them. Caricature the entire dominionist/reconstructionist movement as nothing more than an embodiment of that trait.

Then, in every public debate or discussion, keep returning to the same obnoxious trait, referring to it the same way, giving the media their sound bite, and making sure that even if someone can't tell you one single element of a group's actual beliefs or plans, they can tell you that they have this obnoxious trait.
Now, let's just make sure we got that. This is crucial for interpreting what I'll present next.

Ian, in what he thought was a private conversation with his fellow activists, tells us just what he intends to do. His aim is not to have a fair interaction with those who he disagrees with. No; he wishes to deliberately "exaggerate", "demonise", and to "caricature". This should be done "in every public debate or discussion". His opponents' "actual beliefs or plans" are not important - the important bit is to brand them with the exaggerated, caricatured, trait.

That's worth keeping in mind if Mr. Lowe should pop up in public again wanting you to take his statements as being accurate or reliable, isn't it?

Ian Lowe, The BCSE, and Home Education

Well, bearing all that in mind, we now come to a message where Mr. Lowe gives some more of his views on parent-led education.

Whilst allowing that many home-educators have honourable motives, Ian sees two main problems with home-schooling[2]. Here's one:
Firstly, there's the fact that it's used as a method of bypassing any aspect of modern society - a parent of a sufficiently isolationist mindset is free to educate a child that the holocaust didn't happen, that people of a different religion are subhuman or in some other way lesser - it is easy for a parent to opt not to educate girls properly, teaching them only housekeeping duties etc.
And here's the other:
Secondly, and more disturbingly, it is a means for a small subset of parents to carry out quite horrific physical and sexual abuse on their children, safe in the knowledge that no teacher will ever see the bruises or be confided in.
Well, it seems that Lowe had read my previous critique of the BCSE's position on home education. What spin will he put on that? Let's give him a chance to show us the liberal generosity which the BCSE wants you to know is its hallmark[2]:
Clearly he's the sort of person who wants to keep everything behind closed doors.

How safe are his children going to be?
That's nice, isn't it? Question the BCSE's illiberal views, and you're probably - or even "clearly" - a child abuser! Wow. I'm not sure that would be totally clear to everyone who read my article, though if you're in doubt you can follow the link and read it again. I think the most credible interpretation of Mr. Lowe's response is that it shows that the criticisms of "BCSE Revealed" are hitting home. I'd say that Lowe's reaction indicates that our public exposure of the BCSE's views and methods is making him rather uncomfortable. What I'm saying is both too well documented to be refuted properly - but is also too painful to pretend that it isn't there. Or as we might say, "Surely the fellow doth protest too much!"

I call Lowe's analysis of why people home-school "spin", of course, because Lowe, as is the BCSE's wont, merely makes an assertion. He says that home-schooling is chosen by parents who want to assault their children - but he gives us no statistics or facts to show that this assertion has any substantial basis in reality. We are left wondering - how many holocaust-denying home-schooling families does Lowe actually know? How many families has he actually come across where it's taught that people of other religions are sub-human? In the United States, an estimated 2.5 million children are home-schooled; so if Lowe's view is reality, then it ought not to be too hard to show it.

Of course, it's not really uncommon to find this kind of overwhelming prejudice and ignorance on the Internet. You don't have to search far. But to actually find someone who wishes to pass himself off as a credible authority in education saying such things, is a little more troubling.

Hang On...

But if we bring in Mr. Lowe's earlier statements about his intentions, then we see things in a different light. If we let Mr. Lowe be his own interpreter, his statements look a little different. It's not ignorance after all - it's just what he said he was going to do.

Remember, that Lowe's stated goal is not to discuss issues of education with fairness, honesty or open-mindedness. His stated goal is to make the public think of Christians as they do of paedophiles. His stated goal is to use "exaggeration", deliberate "demonisation" and "caricature", so that the public mind is completely corrupted by it.

And here, we see Lowe acting in perfect conformity with his beliefs. In fact, he's taking them very literally indeed. He doesn't just want people to think about his enemies in the same way as they do of paedophiles... he actually wants them to suspect that they quite likely are paedophiles. Is this what the "righteousness" in the BCSE's slogan is referring to?


Well, that's pretty unpleasant material for me to have to research, and for you to have to read. But as long as Lowe and others are passing themselves off as respectable, credible educators, it's necessary. As long as Ian Lowe is appearing in the Financial Times masquerading as a spokesman for a "Centre for Science Education", it's material that needs to be exposed.

Having seen what you've now seen, what do you think of the BCSE? What are their real goals? Are you led to believe that they are trustworthy? In the light of what you've read above, can you rely upon what they say?

Looking to the future, let's ask one more question. Imagine that a real, credible science education institute had this kind of scenario. A prominent member openly admitted an agenda to pervert the truth, and to accuse those who disagree with him of being child molesters. What kind of thing would then happen? Especially if that institute was publically committed to "freedom" and "righteousness"?

Would it be likely that the organisation would...
  • Rid and distance itself from such a member promptly, and make sure everybody knew about it? Or would it...

  • Carry on as usual and hope that nobody notices?
We shall wait and see. It will be another data-point for us as we try to evaluate the credibility of the "British Centre for Science Education".

An After-Word

It is interesting to me to notice that just before Lowe made some of the comments above, a video of well-known campaigning atheist Richard Dawkins became public. In this video, he discusses tactics and political strategies for countering Christians' arguments, and for restricting their civil liberties.

Within this discussion, the topic of home-schooling comes up. Dawkins argues that it should be made illegal. He argues that in order to obtain this goal, atheists should argue that it is a form of child-abuse. If the public can be led into equating home-education with child-abuse, then it will get some traction for outlawing it - which will in turn, get more traction for the overall goal of preventing Christians from passing on their views to their children.

That's interesting, isn't it? It certainly tells us what hymn sheet some of the BCSE's activists are singing from.

The video is available on YouTube, here. The whole recording is about an hour; to get to the material on home education, wind forward to about 49 minutes. Many thanks to one of my correspondents for bringing this material to my attention.

David Anderson
bcse-blog at dw-perspective dot org dot uk : Non-anonymous factual corrections welcomed.

The BlackShadow Yahoo group posts have been removed from the Internet by the BCSE; if you wish to see for research purposes, then e-mail me for a copy of the archive.

See BlackShadow Yahoo group, message 1029.

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