Friday, May 12, 2006

Textbook Example
This blog gets its name from the fact that nearly every day, there's something in the news that makes you want to have a stroke. While I frequently find myself more entertained than pained by the Wisconsin legislature's wacky Republican membership, today even they are making my head hurt. The Wisconsin ACLU reported in its quarterly newsletter about a bill proposed during the last session by state senators Tom Reynolds of West Allis and Mary Lazich of New Berlin. The bill, SB506, would prohibit school boards in Wisconsin from adopting any textbook that uses the terms "CE" ("common era") and "BCE" ("before the common era") instead of "AD" and "BC" when referring to years.

Ow! Ow! Ow!

According to one online report, Reynolds told his colleagues, "[The] revision of well-established historical references is simply an attempt to sterilize educational materials from even the most innocuous religious references. This trend is unnecessary and should be discouraged."

What Reynolds doesn't know (although the list of things Reynolds doesn't know is undoubtedly a lengthy one) is that CE and BCE are not new terms. The Oxford English Dictionary says they date back to 1881. He also doesn't know that common-era notation is more accurate than BC and AD, given the hazy dating of the birth of Jesus. What Reynolds does know, however, is that CE and BCE have gained in usage precisely because they acknowledge that we live in a pluralistic world where not everybody's a Christian. So we're safe in assuming his bill is largely about showing non-Christians who's in charge. In other words--it's another, uh, textbook example of Christo-fascist bully tactics.

The true intent of Reynolds' bill is revealed in the penalty the bill would impose on those school boards that dared to violate the law--a fine of not less than $25 and not more than $100. So as a way of actually protecting the integrity of historical references (or protecting the Christian children of Wisconsin from evil secularism, whatever you want to call it), it's not exactly a deterrent. But as red meat for the wingnuts in Reynolds' district and around the state, it's top sirloin.

(In a legislative body filled with Republican nutjobs, Reynolds still manages to stand out, as former Madison mayor Paul Soglin pointed out at his blog last December. A website from one of the neighborhoods in Reynolds' district also keeps track of his antics. It headlined a squib on his legislative agenda, which includes knee-jerk support for the death penalty, by saying "Reynolds pushes bills to kill gas tax, people, textbook terms.")

SB506 actually got a public hearing in March, but failed to pass when the legislature adjourned earlier this week. My guess is it'll be back, as long as legislators like Reynolds come to Madison to represent their constituency of one--Republican Jesus.

(For more on common era notation, click here for the long version and here for the short.)

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?