Friday, July 10, 2009

My Life With the Kentuckians: Is Dennis Cheek fit enough to survive the vetting process for education commissioner?

According to several news sources, Dennis Cheek, one of the candidates for the Kentucky Commissioner of Education, a man who is an experienced science and social studies teacher and school administrator, the director of the Office of High School Reform, Research, and Adult Education in Rhode Island, and who possesses two PhDs, once wrote a paper that questioned the evidence for whether human beings evolved from apes.

The revelation has caused a great deal of chattering among some in the education bureaucracy who wonder why he did not divulge this to the Board of Education, which is looking into his background.

Although the views Cheek expressed concerning human origins are in agreement with those of most people in the state, some of the more exotic and excitable species of Kentuckians are wondering whether he is well-adapted enough for the secularist environment of the state's education bureaucracy.

Richard Day, a dominant male in the education community and the one who dug up the old creationist paper, displayed openly aggressive behavior at his blog "Kentucky School News and Commentary" in response to the revelation about what he considers Cheek's checkered past:
What I can't figure is - why didn't Cheek inoculate himself against the sizable vulnerability represented by creationism? Did he bet it wouldn't be discovered? Did it not come up in Missouri where he was also a finalist for their top post?
Exactly why Day considers someone's past creationist belief a potentially disqualifying factor for a schools chief in a state which not only still has a creationist statute on the books, but is the home of the hugely successful creation museum is not self-evident. But the discovery clearly caused Day to climb the walls of his cage, and will certainly cause others among the professional education community to raise their tales and lower their heads.

Years of continued observation of the professional education community has made it fairly clear that they are not well-suited to understand the beliefs and values of the communities their schools were built to serve. They are known to become visibly anxious and erratic in their behavior whenever issues such as school prayer, the role Christianity has played in our nation's history, or human origins are raised. And the higher you go in their dominance hierarchy, the more unfriendly behavior they seem to display toward the common cultural beliefs of their students and their families.

Day's revelation followed an editorial in the Louisville Courier-Journal, in which a species related to the professional education bureaucrats knows as "journalists" (a cultural subgroup that is now on the endangered species list) questioned Cheek's past involvement in the Templeton Foundation.

It is a measure of the cultural isolation of the editors at the Courier that they would be scratching their heads at anyone's involvement with Templeton, which the paper inexplicably calls "controversial and polarizing." In fact, it is a relatively mainstream organization one of whose purposes is to try to bring together diverse intellectuals of differing viewpoints to discuss the relation of religion and science.

The only people who find Templeton's innocuous objectives controversial are the more exotic subspecies of scientific atheists like Richard Dawkins, P. Z. Myers, and Jerry Coyne, who are known to inhabit a few isolated university biology departments.

That the Courier would consider the views of these outliers as somehow the norm may be due to the Courier's habit of imitating the radical secularism papers like the New York Times have come to exhibit.

Journalist see, journalist do.

But one wonders if the issue should really matter at all. Cheek, who has been involved with public education for many years, now says he has come to believe that humans really did descend from apes.

And after having observed behavior similar to that he is now encountering in Kentucky, it is easy to see why.


David Adams said...


This is funniest thing I have read in quite a while. Thank you. Richard "Dominant Male" Day! Ha!!!


Art said...

Exactly why Day considers someone's past creationist belief a potentially disqualifying factor for a schools chief in a state which not only still has a creationist statute on the books, but is the home of the hugely successful creation museum is not self-evident.

Well, Martin, it's called competence. A concept that is quite completely foreign to conservatives, but something that concerned parents and citizens (well, some of us) sort of wish our administrators would at least pay lip service to.

The fact is, someone who denies the common ancestry of humans and primates really has no place overseeing science education. They should be theme park tour guides.

Anonymous said...

It seems it is the more vocal defenders of the candidate who are culturally isolated. In this day and age when newspapers everywhere are suffering from shrinking ad revenue and losing readers by the hundreds, it is heartening to see publications such as the Louisville Courier show no intention of giving up on "afflicting the comforted". It is isolationist thinking that imagines "scularism" or scientifically informed conclusions belong to the coasts (and that punching bag of a placeholder NYT) and not in "down to earth" Louisville, KY.


Anonymous said...

Of course we descended from apes. I'm reminded of that everytime my mother-in-law visits. Also, look real close at David Hawpe.

Richard Day said...


I agree with David. Funniest piece in a while. I didn't count. How many Darwinian references was that?

Thanks Art and Truti.

A retort awaits over at my place:


Wayne said...

Dennis is smart guy and no slouch. Sad to hear that he may be buying into the Darwinian "common descent" dribble though. Science is a bad joke in its present state. Darwin's creation story is becoming the basis of a new state religion that is pushing science away from any footing in reality.