In this essay, Michael Apple traces the origins of the populist movements that seek to remove Darwin from the classroom. He does this by examining a great deal of their writings on the subject as well as case law on the debate. He sees them as a product of economic circumstances and the huge cultural shifts that have occurred in recent years. Many believe their way of life and religion are threatened and feel the need to fight back. Apple writes, “This movement—what I call authoritarian populism—has struck a responsive chord with millions of people who feel economically and culturally threatened.” Apple examines the political and linguistic strategies employed by religious conservatives in the United States in order to further their agenda. In a cultural discourse where people are easily swayed by emotion and rhetorical devices, religious groups have been masterful in trying to import Intelligent Design into the education system by dressing it up in scientific clothes. But more than that, they have inspired a righteousness that feeds on itself and encourages more and more distortions. The religious Right has demonstrated such linguistic talents before. For example, their claim that by bringing religious beliefs into the public arena of education, they are not doing anything more or less than what, say, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and other leaders of the civil rights movement did is more than a little interesting. And it has been effective in enabling members of this movement to see themselves as the new oppressed. To them, everyone’s voice is heard except for religious conservatives. Apple concludes that there is no real conclusion to this debate; it will keep on happening. It is important to recognize what is legitimate and true about people’s concerns and what they have gotten themselves worked up about. It is also important to look for good argument underneath what may be merely a thicket of empty rhetoric.
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