In 1642, Puritan John Cotton, father of Increase Mather and grandfather of famed Salem witch hunter Cotton Mather (goofy white people names, I tell you), wrote that, “the more learned and witty you bee, the more fit to act for Satan will you bee¹.”
Almost 400 years later, this puritan spirit of anti-intellectualism is alive and well in the good state of Texas, America’s America, where Governor Greg Abbot’s call for an increase in funding to early childhood education was meet with resistance from the religious right.
Abbot’s call echoed something President Obama suggested earlier but got lost in the Beltway, buried under the calcified strata of Republican antipathy towards the American people. Abbot’s call isn’t exactly progressive; he doesn’t even want to expand access or eligibility. He just wants to spend a little more money.
But we can’t have that. In a strongly worded letter penned with the sap of a John Birch tree, soaked in the “vital fluids” of a McCarthyite redbaiter, and left to simmer in a vat of Fox-quality tea, advisers for the Lieutenant Governor, Dan Patrick, condemned the pre-K initiative as “socialist” and “Godless.”
The letter says that, “We are experimenting at great cost to taxpayers with a program that removes our young children from homes and half-day religious preschools and mothers’ day out programs to a Godless environment with only evidence showing absolutely NO LONG-TERM BENEFITS beyond the 1st grade.”
They went on to compare preschool programs to programs that were “historically promoted in socialistic countries, not free societies which respect parental rights.”
Patrick says that he didn’t know what the advisory board was thinking — which makes two of us, possibly more if we include the advisory board themselves — and said the letter was “unsolicited.”
This is a board that Patrick had a hand in creating, though; calling themselves a “grassroots advisory” board (read: Koch-sponsored astroturfing agency), the group was constructed by Patrick shortly after he took office.
Here’s Ed Kilgore’s take on this lunacy:
This may seem rudimentary to some folk, but it’s important nonetheless: no matter what arguments conservatives come up with to resist or oppose this or that effort to improve public education, the threshold question to ask them is whether they believe in public education at all. It’s really not something you can take for granted these days, and I’m not being snarky about this or adopting some ideological definition of “believe in” or “public.” […]Regular old K-12 public schools also “remove” children from religious schools, or from home-schooling, or from other Godly Environments. So there’s nothing you can do to placate these people on education issues, other than agreeing to abolish public schools altogether.
Which, as we all know, hurts African-Americans and the poor. But then, that’s the point: how else can you proclaim to love God if you’re not punishing and making life harder for the weak, the sick, and the voiceless?
It’s what Jesus would want. After all, the more empathetic and merciful ye bee, the more fit to act for
communism Satan will ye bee.
¹ This isn’t a typo. You can thank English verb conjugation for this archaic and unusual spelling of “be.”