The Electric Commentary

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Frum taken out of context by Adler.

A few days ago I linked to this article in The New Republic by Ben Adler in which he asked some high profile conservatives what they though of evolution. He quoted David Frum as making this fairly odd statement:

How evolution should be taught in public schools: "I don't believe that anything that offends nine-tenths of the American public should be taught in public schools. ... Christianity is the faith of nine-tenths of the American public. ... I don't believe that public schools should embark on teaching anything that offends Christian principle."


Frum claims that this quote is very out of context in his blog at the NRO:

Then he asked me about whether I thought evolution should be taught in public schools. Here's the answer that he quotes in his survey:

"How evolution should be taught in public schools: 'I don't believe that anything that offends nine-tenths of the American public should be taught in public schools. ... Christianity is the faith of nine-tenths of the American public. ... I don't believe that public schools should embark on teaching anything that offends Christian principle.'"

Two ellipses in three sentences should stand as a warning to the reader that there's funny business going on here. Those are my words all right - but they are not words given in answer to the question in italics. They are answers to questions posed later in the interview, when Adler embarked on a very argumentative and tendentious line of queries about who should decide what gets taught.

I have no idea what proportion of Americans object to the teaching of evolution, but I very much doubt that it's 90% or even 50%. I was responding rather to a question about who should decide on public school curricula: parents or professionals. My sympathies are ever and always with the parents, in the full knowledge of how wrongheaded parents can be. At the same time, as I didn't go on to say, because I was losing patience with the argumentative Adler, I think that one of the great advantages of a system of private higher education is that it enables universities through their admissions criteria to influence the choices that parents make. I'm all for scientific education - achieved via market choice and democratic decision.

2 Comments:

  • As I mentioned in the comments on my blog, I think the New Republic should run a full transcript of the interview on its Web site.

    By Blogger MDS, at 1:32 PM  

  • Agreed. I don't understand why the online portions of magazines and newspapers don't so so more often. It's not like it costs that much more (nothing really) to put the full version on-line.

    I'd very much like to see the context of everyone's statements now, although it sounds like this interview was especially contentious.

    By Blogger PaulNoonan, at 2:14 PM  

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