December 1, 1999

By David Trumbull

The (D)Evolution of Liberalism


"Kansas bans teaching evolution!" blazed the headlines earlier this year. Images of Dayton, Tennessee, and the Scopes monkey trial came to mind. Then I read the story and found that Kansas, in fact, had not banned the teaching of evolution, but had merely removed it from the list of required subjects. Given how a presumably "required" subject, arithmetic, is taught in many government-run schools--just watch a clerk at CVS struggle to make change, even with a cash register that does the math for her--I wonder, what difference would it make if they did ban a subject?

While the headlines evoked the image of an intolerant school board, the reality was exactly the opposite. Evolution will continue to be taught to public school children, with government sanction, at taxpayer expense, the only change is that it will not be under compulsion. According to the liberal establishment, the Kansas school board's granting greater freedom, by reducing the number of required subjects, is the moral and intellectual equivalent of burning heretics at the stake. Why? Because, to echo George Orwell, for today's liberals, freedom is slavery.

Illiberal liberalism

In contemporary America, banning books or plays is a liberal, not reactionary, activity. This paradox has been commented on by many, including, most recently by Cambridge's Harvey Silverglate in "The Shadow University," his book about repressive speech codes.

Recently, in Amherst, Massachusetts, the high school canceled its planned spring production of "West Side Story" because students and parents complained that it demeans Puerto Ricans. Those who bothered to see Leonard Bernstein's adaptation of the Romeo and Juliet story know that it celebrates the overcoming of racial hatred! Nevertheless, a few were offended, so the many will be barred from seeing a performance of this award-winning musical.

Ban a work of literature by a dead white male and the current intellectual orthodoxy will consider you a champion of "liberal" thought. "Anti-Semitism" was the charged used in an attempt to close down a production of The Merchant of Venice last year in Lenox Massachusetts. Shakespeare and Company--not to mention the voice of reason--did prevail in the end though. By having the characters of Bassanio and Antonio played as homosexual lovers, director Tina Packer out PC'd the Politically Correct crowd and the show went on.

If this trend continues there will be no hope for the Bard. Richard III? Forget about staging that! It's insensitive to the differently-abled and to gays. Perhaps a re-write where Richard, who is totally comfortable with his sexual orientation as well as his bum leg, becomes a loving mentor to his orphaned nephews.

Henry V? No way you can do it if you get any government funding. After all, it has positive references to God and to prayer. Maybe you could do it as a big lovable king Hal, sort of a Lancastrian Bill Clinton, who takes his dispute with France to a United Nations tribunal for a non-bloody resolution.

Taming of The Shrew? Problems too obvious to mention. Maybe a role reversal could save that one. Kate teaches uptight, controlling, traditionalist husband to get in touch with his inner feelings. Later she leaves Petrucchio to join lesbian commune.

Why, perhaps even West Side Story could have been salvaged by this method. I doubt it though. Think of the plot: boy meets girl, boy and girl fall in love, boy and girl die of boredom because in the new politically correct world Montagues and Capulets have worked their differences out in therapy, obviating the conflict that makes the story interesting.

So this is the new censorship. No need to ban anything. Just make it so boring no one will bother with it. While we're at it, let's get rid of Godless evolution in the schools. Let's require that it be taught by the same methods and with the same effectiveness that we teach English literature and math.


David Trumbull is Chairman of the Cambridge Republican City Committee.