Tuesday, May 18, 2010

My Enemies List: Addendum #5

I've been writing this installment of My Enemies List for literally weeks. Why has this taken so long? Well, every time I thought I had enough things to be angry about regarding these particular groups, I would find out something new and it would totally up the ante. And I had so much anger that I had to remove an entry from this particular entry because it would have been entirely too long if I hadn't. It will appear at a later time.

The Texas State Board of Education: Yes, everyone has already discussed this one. I know. But it doesn't make this any less valid. In the simplest terms, the TSBE wants to conservatize the teaching of the social sciences to present what they believe is a more balanced version of history. And from that simple version, that if the board wanted a little more attention paid to conservatism and such, I don't have a problem with that, if what is being taught is intellectually honest and backed up by the facts. But that is not what happened by a long shot. What happened was a small group of people has done everything in their power to turn their particular political position into a version of history that is not just a series of lies, but big fucking lies to support that vision. They gamed the system to do so, and did so in massively unethical ways so that the whole system is now fundamentally flawed. Conservative groups threw a lot of money into the races for school board seats and elected ultra-conservative members who then were able to pick "experts" by having two or more board members agree on them, despite their qualifications or background, so people who have no background in the study of history, including a former vice-chairman of the Texas Republican Party who wrote a book which is filled with quotes from the Founding Fathers that he can't verify to support his arguments and a Massachusetts preacher who thinks that disasters were punishments from God for America tolerating homosexuality. Yes, these were the people who were sifting through the social sciences to try to come up with a curriculum for Texas school children, and by extension, a lot of other states. The most damning quote for this process comes from then chairman of that board who proudly exclaimed "There were no historians, sociologists or economists consulted at the meetings." I mean, I can't believe he is pleased that the students of his state, and a lot of other states are going to be willfully ignorant because he didn't want professionals to do the job. I mean, it would be as silly as someone who didn't go to dental school performing procedures on people or making recommendations like every child should brush their teeth with maple syrup 3 times a day (because let's face it, that is about the same amount of wrong as some of the changes that the Chairman of that board, a dentist, wants to bring to the curriculum). And some of the things that they want to de-emphasize are some pretty massive issues... like slavery. They want to make it appear that it was just some leftover thing from British colonialism and that is isn't that big of a deal. Or that McCarthyism was justified. And that Roe Vs. Wade was the most important Supreme Court decision of the 20th century. Of course, there is also the board's position on the teaching of evolution, but if you've read the compiled Enemies List, you know that also makes this an easy choice for the list.

Anti-Vaccine people: I wanted to throatpunch some people a few weeks back, I really did. I've had strong opinions about this matter for some time, but after watching a recent episode of Frontline about the increasing numbers of parents who are choosing not to get their children vaccinated. To put it mildly, I was very angry. I mean, Polio and Diphtheria could be completely and totally eradicated, much like smallpox was in the late 1970's, through aggressive vaccination and then no one would ever need those vaccinations ever again. The fact that American soldiers are fighting in a region where polio is endemic should have some of these people freaking out. Later studies determined that there was no causal link between vaccination and autism. The Lancet even withdrew the paper that forwarded that claim back in 1998. So basically we have a bunch of people not getting their kids vaccinations against preventable, but hard to treat diseases that historically have killed, weakened and maimed generation upon generation of children and adults because of a myth and their shortsightedness. Because the thing that makes me very angry is the fact that their choices have unintended but very real consequences for the community as a whole, because those that choose not to get shots spread diseases not only to other people who have chosen not to get immunized, but to those who are too young, immuno-compromised or poor to do so. And they may tell themselves that if their child gets sick, they will quarantine them away from the community, but with the incubation/identification periods of some of these maladies being so long, like whooping cough's 21 days of infectious fun before it starts actually sounding like its name, that doesn't seem like that good of an option. I am sure there is going to be a murder one of these days after the baby/child of one parent dies because they were too young to get vaccinated, and their neighbor with older children decided that they didn't need to be inoculated and they got sick. Now, I am not saying that vaccines are harmless, or that there haven't been problems in the past with them (the whole cell whooping cough vaccine in particular), but in general, the diseases that immunizations protect your children from are far worse than nearly every side effect, even the rare ones, you may encounter from them. I also have in mind the vaccine for the Human Papillomavirus, given to young teenage girls so that they have later protection from one of the causes of Cervical cancer, which some parents believe is going to encourage their children to have sex. Granted, these bother me far less than the wholesale non-vaccination people by many orders, but still, I think it is a foolish to help your child later in life because you are afraid of them becoming sexually active after getting injected with something.


Dan said...

With you 100% on both of those.

The bastards.

Megan said...

Damn straight.

I can see why it took you a while. If I once got started on either one of these subjects, I'd have a very difficult time stopping.

I'm with you too.

MC said...

Dan: I'm getting mad just thinking about them.

Megan: I could still be writing about the Texas Board of Education this second... there is just so much stuff I cut out of that.

alex dante said...

(Disclaimer: my partner & I recently had our first child, who just turned 3 months today, and both we and she are and will continue to be fully up to date on our vaccinations. Up until a few months ago, I probably would have been in whole-hearted agreement with your post. Lately, though, I've started to pay a lot more attention to the difference between what I "know" and what I _actually_ know....)

The thing about the vaccination fear is that many of these people still remember thalidomide babies. Perhaps they've even read the recent research disproving the claims of the effectiveness of antidepressants. For them, there is no way to distinguish between "good" science and "we think it's good now but it's damaging your child in a way we're yet to measure" science. Or even "we know this doesn't work but it's a good income for our pharma branch" science. Is it any surprise that they choose to err on the side that they _feel_ is more cautious?

At this point, you're effectively siding with the 'science' side, but it hasn't _ever_ been infallible. (And yes, I understand that by it's nature it never will be...) You're still exhibiting _faith_ that the scientific approach will, in the long run, be the more effective one, but at the same time you're critical about the faith displayed by some of the TBE's members. From the parents' perspective, it's _your_ faith versus their's.

Don't get me wrong, I think there's a lot of deserved anger for the people that are deliberately pushing the claims of a vaccine/autism link. Pointing it at parents trying to care for their children and accusing them of not having as much faith as you do in something unknown doesn't end up helping anyone, I believe.

MC said...

The problem has been that those making the decisions not to get the vaccines is they don't remember polio and the like, so I don't think Thalidomide is fresh in anyone's mind.

alex dante said...

And now you're assuming you know what these people know. You're pretty close to straw-man-ing your argument.

MC said...

I am using the words of bioethicist Arthur Kaplan to back that up (about those parents not remembering the childhood diseases they are denying their children vaccinations for). You were the one who introduced thalidomide into this argument and ascribed those memories to those very same mothers.

Historically measles killed 200 million people, and I can bring up equally impressive figures for a number of other vaccine-preventable diseases.

So my thinking that not having people dying from those diseases or developing resistances to the medications that treat them once they have emerged makes me somehow less rational than the people I am attacking from your point of view then?