Sylvia Allen’s Appointment
Is An Insult To Intelligence
Despite The Want To Giggle At Her Unfounded Logic, A Creationist, Science Doubter Taking A Key Role In The State’s Education Plan Is Ignorant, To Say The Least
State Sen. Sylvia Allen at NullifyNow! in Phoenix, Ariz., Jan. 29, 2011.
By Wayne Schutsky
Modern Times Magazine
Dec. 29, 2015 — By most measures, Arizona ranks in the bottom five states nationwide when it comes to education. Whether we’re talking spending per student, performance metrics or teacher support, Arizona just cannot seem to get out of its own way.
Education Week named Arizona the 47th best (or 5th worst) state for education in its Quality Counts 2015 report that gives all 50 states and Washington, D.C. cumulative grades based on six criteria in the areas of educational policy and performance. Never a legislative body to back down to a challenge, Arizona lawmakers appear hell-bent on securing the rock bottom spot in 2016.
Enter Sen. Sylvia Allen, R-Snowflake. Senate President Andy Biggs recently named the Dolores Umbridge doppelganger the chairwoman of the state’s Senate Education Committee. The move is nothing short of bewildering to citizens who place value on public education.
Why is the appointment so perplexing? There are so many reasons that if one has to ask, they should ask somebody.
Glad you asked.
Allen is just about the least qualified member of the senate when it comes to the topic of education (and that is really saying something) due to outlandish anti-science statements she has made in the past.
First, there’s the chemtrails. As evidenced by a 2013 post on her Facebook page, Allen buys into that conspiracy theory hook, line and sinker. For those not in the know, the term chemtrails refers to a conspiracy theory held by mostly right-wing loons expressing the belief that the white trails left behind in the sky by jet-powered airplanes (commercial and others) are not caused by normal emissions and actually contain harmful chemicals purposefully dispersed by the government to poison the general populace.
Sounds like a pretty sound theory, I know. There’s only one problem. Our good buddy — science — has disproven this Tea Party fan fiction. Not that I expect a little thing like science to stand in the way of some good ol’ fashioned fear mongering.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the trails that appear behind airplanes in the sky are called contrails (close, I know), short for condensation trails. They are made up of ice crystals composed mostly of naturally-occurring water in the air and some moisture from airplane exhaust.
Now, I am not saying that airplane exhaust is a healthy thing to breathe in, but it’s not exactly some secretive government “super poison” either.
Chemtrail truthers often argue that normal contrails disappear relatively quickly, so the ones that linger obviously contain government mind control drugs that are turning us all into mindless sheeple (thanks, Obama). But the damned EPA has an explanation for that, too.
According to the EPA’s “Aircraft Contrails Factsheet”:
Contrails have been a normal effect of jet aviation since its earliest days. Depending on the temperature and the amount of moisture in the air at the aircraft altitude, contrails evaporate quickly (if the humidity is low) or persist and grow (if the humidity is high). Jet engine exhaust provides only a small portion of the water that forms ice in persistent contrails. Persistent contrails are mainly composed of water naturally present along the aircraft flight path.
So, Allen believes in one measly, obviously untrue, conspiracy theory. That doesn’t necessarily mean she will be a complete blight on Arizona’s already limping education system, does it?
Well, as it turns out, chemtrails aren’t the only anti-science sugar plum dancing in Sen. Allen’s head.
That old “the Earth is only 6,000 years old” theory is also in there to keep chemtrails company. Allen prescribes to a religious ideology known as Young Earth Creationism that uses Biblical evidence to pinpoint the age of the Earth at 6,000 years. The theory can be traced all the way back to the 17th-century Archbishop Usher in Ireland.
So, is Young Earth Creationism valid? No, according to science. While scientists have not developed a way to determine the Earth’s exact age, they are able to posit an estimate based on the age of very old rocks.
“The ages of Earth and Moon rocks and of meteorites are measured by the decay of long-lived radioactive isotopes of elements that occur naturally in rocks and minerals and that decay with half lives of 700 million to more than 100 billion years to stable isotopes of other elements,” reads an excerpt from the U.S. Geological Survey article entitled “Geologic Time: Age of the Earth”.
According to these measurements, the Earth is at least 4.3 billion years old. So, you know, just a few years off from Allen’s “educated” opinion.
I am not trying to denigrate Allen’s religious or personally-held beliefs for fun. While it may seem like I’m hitting the conspiracy theory pinata with my scientific stick just for giggles, I only do so to prove the larger point that this woman is wholly under qualified to lead the committee that will have a profound affect on the future of education in this state.
Arizona’s schools are already limping along due to years of massive budget cuts and the lack of a real commitment by Gov. Doug Ducey and the legislature to finally adequately invest in the state’s children, and Allen’s appointment could be the straw that breaks the camel’s back.
According to the Arizona Commerce Authority, some of the key industries coming to Arizona include aerospace & defense, technology & innovation, renewable energy, bioscience & healthcare, optics & photonics and advanced manufacturing.
STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math education) is more important than for children, yet the Senate’s education committee is now headed by someone with a woeful misunderstanding, or potentially willful ignorance, of science.
That would be like the U.S. Senate putting a climate-denying anti-science ventriloquist dummy in charge of NASA, one of the agencies doing the most to study global climate change. Oh, wait, that already happened. Thanks Ted Cruz.
Fixing Arizona’s education system is no easy task, but finding the place to start is a much simpler one. The state government must reinvest in education in a serious way and stop empowering unqualified anti-science politicians to make decisions that will adversely affect students.
It’s not rocket science.
But it still might be more than Allen can handle, something that doesn’t bode well for the state’s students.
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