Sedalia, Missouri, you should be ashamed of your schools, or: The dumbest anti-evolution victory I’ve ever seen…

It was just a high school marching band, like so many other high school bands in this country, a band that no one outside of the area of Sedalia, Missouri would be likely to have heard of, were it not for a breathtakingly stupid action by its school superintendent. You see, the band had an idea for a clever and amusing way to illustrate their theme for the year of the “Brass Evolutions.” It was this T-shirt, to be worn by band members and reported by the Sedalia Democrat:

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When I saw it by way of ERV, I thought it was kind of cute and a rather clever way of illustrating the theme. As the assistant band director described:

Assistant Band Director Brian Kloppenburg said the shirts were designed by him, Band Director Jordan Summers and Main Street Logo. Kloppenburg said the shirts were intended to portray how brass instruments have evolved in music from the 1960s to modern day. Summers said they chose the evolution of man because it was “recognizable.” The playlist of songs the band is slated to perform revolve around the theme “Brass Evolutions.”

Sounds about right to me. But this is the Bible belt. Poor Mr. Kloppenburg must be hopelessly naive or not from around that neck of the woods, or he would have known what was coming next:

The band debuted the T-shirts when it marched in the Missouri State Fair parade. Summers said he was surprised when he received a direct complaint after the parade.

While the shirts don’t directly violate the district’s dress code, Assistant Superintendent Brad Pollitt said complaints by parents made him take action.

“I made the decision to have the band members turn the shirts in after several concerned parents brought the shirts to my attention,” Pollitt said.

Pollitt said the district is required by law to remain neutral where religion is concerned.

First off, this little kerfuffle in a little town in the heart of the Bible belt demonstrates one thing: When those who are “skeptical” of evolution tell you it’s not about religion, they’re either deluding themselves, lying, or maybe to them it’s not about religion but they’re deluding themselves that the same is true for most people. It’s not. To the vast majority of people who “don’t believe in evolution,” it’s about religion. It’s always been about religion since Darwin’s time and before. Look at the terminology used by Mr. Pollitt: The school must remain “neutral” towards religion. The theory of evolution has nothing to do with religion! It’s science, supported by enormous quantities of evidence. Religious fundamentalists who are ignorant of science, like the people in Sedalia who complained about an innocent and rather amusing band T-shirt, may think that evolution has something to do with religion, but that’s their problem. Well, unfortunately, it’s our problem too, because their scientific ignorance is passed on to their children all too often. It’s attitudes like this that endanger science:

Band parent Sherry Melby, who is a teacher in the district, stands behind Pollitt’s decision. Melby said she associated the image on the T-shirt with Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution.

“I was disappointed with the image on the shirt.” Melby said. “I don’t think evolution should be associated with our school.”

Read that once again: “I don’t think evolution should be associated with our school.”

And again: “I don’t think evolution should be associated with our school.”

Actually, I don’t think that any students should be associated with your school, Mrs. Melby, if that’s the attitude the school has towards well-established science. Think about it: Evolution is science. Why on earth should it not be associated with a high school? Band parent Sherry Melby is a moron. Sorry, there’s no other way to put it, and I’d say the same thing to her face if I ever met her. Evolution is the underlying theory that permeates all of biology. Would she say the same thing if the band had decided to illustrate a band T-shirt with Albert Einstein or perhaps some form of the big bang progressing to galaxies progressing to solar systems to illustrate the evolution of brass? Maybe she would have.

Mr. Pollitt, though, still gets the award for the most disingenuous quote:

“If the shirts had said ‘Brass Resurrections’ and had a picture of Jesus on the cross, we would have done the same thing,” he said.

Well, he might have, but I bet he would have fought it for a while first or complained bitterly about having to succumb to those nasty anti-religious types. Succumb to anti-science nonsense, and he acquiesces without much of a fight.

Here’s the really sad thing about all of this, though:

Pollitt said the district would now have to absorb the cost of the T-shirts — $700 — that would have been paid for by the band parents. Pollitt said an anonymous donor had originally planned to pay half the cost, but declined after the evolution image was placed on the shirts. However, the donor does plan to fund half the price of the new T-shirts.

So, because some religious loons complained about this shirt, a small school district will be out about $1,050 ($700 plus $350, half the price of printing up the new shirts) for no good reason at all and have a stack of T-shirts that will either end up being thrown away, burned, or turned into dust rags. (Actually, it wouldn’t surprise me if they were burned or otherwise disposed of, so that no one could make off with one and wear it.) That’s money that could have gone towards books, supplies, or other school needs, but now that money’s been, in essence, pissed down the drain. Because of fundamentalist religion, the district has wasted tax dollars that could have gone to the education of children.

Finally, if you want to see something that is truly depressing, read the comments after the news article.