Bleeding Kansas: Pawn in the War for the Enlightenment

WHEN WE FIRST reported on the latest round of anti-evolution madness in Kansas, we learned that the lovely and brilliant Board of Education incumbent, Kathy Martin, was being challenged by Republican Bill Pannbacker. The August 5 Republican primary will decide which of them is going to run against Democrat Chris Renner in the November general election.

We also learned that Kathy was still a creationist, but her Republican challenger wasn’t; nor was their eventual Democrat opponent. See: Kathy Martin, Kansas Creationist, Up for Reelection.

At first glance, this may seem like small stuff, trivial local politics, boring school board elections — nothing to see here but some creationists making fools of themselves in the Kansas corn fields. But if you read our humble article through to the end, perhaps you’ll see that there is more going on here than an unimportant election over some one-room schoolhouses in the middle of nowhere. Much more.

In today’s Topeka Capital-Journal we read: Evolution hot campaign topic. Excerpts:

Ask Republican candidates for the Kansas State Board of Education about the issues they think are most important and you will hear about the teacher shortage or engaging students with vocational education.

On the campaign trail, however, many voters are using evolution as their litmus test. “Everybody wants to talk about evolution and creationism,” said Bill Pannbacker, a candidate for the District 6 seat.

That shouldn’t be surprising to Mr. Panbacker. After all, he’s challenging our dear Kathy, whom we came to cherish back in 2005 as the perfect symbol of ignorance. Continuing:

Off and on, evolution, creationism and now intelligent design have consumed the state school board for about a decade. The yo-yo control of the board — from the hands of conservative Republicans to moderate or liberal Republicans and Democrats — has kept the issue alive.

“Somebody called it the elephant in the room,” said Kathy Martin, an incumbent and Pannbacker’s opponent. “I don’t see that as ever completely being resolved.”

For once, we agree with Kathy. As long as she lives, she will never resolve the matter. But the voters in her district may resolve it for Kansas. More from the article:

As with each board election when five of 10 seats are up for grabs, power can easily shift hands. In 2005, a conservative-controlled state board pushed through state science standards critical of evolution and refused to limit the definition of science to a field that seeks natural explanations — a move decried by science associations. When elections shifted power into the hands of six moderate or liberal members, the board changed course.

That’s the recent history. Kansas was once played as a pawn of both sides in pre-Civil War national politics (see Bleeding Kansas), and now it has it become a pawn once again. But this time they’re being used as a pawn in a war between those who want to conserve the progress of the Enlightenment and those who want to cast that hard-won progress aside and embrace the darkness.

We regard the former — the pro-Enlightenment conservatives — as the true conservatives, the only ones who are worthy of that label. Their opponents — or shall we say the Adversary — are the false conservatives. Well, that’s our take on things.

This school board contest over Kathy’s seat is reaching a climax. The primary election is August 5, less than a week from now. It’s only local politics, and it may seem trivial, but the issues are large. Larger than the players know. So stay tuned, Curmudgeon fans!

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3 responses to “Bleeding Kansas: Pawn in the War for the Enlightenment

  1. OK, next time you write about Kathy Martin, could you please substitute a picture of Dr. Olivia Judson for Martin’s picture and just caption it as “Not Kathy Martin” ?.

    It seems there are more articles about Martin than of Judson and I’m not Judsoned up yet.

  2. But Kathy has such a lovely mind!

  3. Pingback: Kathy Martin: Kansas Primary Election Tomorrow « The Sensuous Curmudgeon