I Have A Remedial Education Proposal – For Legislators
Part of the problem that having a representative democracy creates is that the representatives are often only as educated and savvy as the populations that elect them (particularly on a more local scale). This results in elected officials, who are in charge of making important law and policy to govern those they represent, endorsing, doing and saying incredibly stupid and damaging things.
It becomes more pronounced when legislators are required to make determinations about issues that require some specialized knowledge or expertise, because it all comes down to whether or not they find the experts presenting recommendations credible. And biases against positions make it easy to discount good evidence based policy. What’s more, a huge handicap is created when legislators approach policy with fundamental ignorance of science: how it works, what is consensus and why scientific consensus should carry great weight.
When this sort of ignorance and “everyone is entitled to their own facts” sort of attitude is allowed to continue, you see idiocy on grand scales. On just one day during a Utah legislative session, the following headache inducing nonsense was aired, championed by the head of our public lands office, Kathleen Clarke.
- We must reject the scientific conclusions that come from Fish & Wildlife because “they’re just a bunch of biologists.”
- We need to come up with science that refutes all of Fish & Wildlife’s conclusions and all of the public lands reports have been given a specific conclusion that aligns politically against conservation.
- Science is “pretty slippery.”
- Science is like scripture, if you don’t like what it says, just consult another verse.
The day of this session, it was more or less solid headdesking with some facepalms interspersed for variety. Issues like this always seem to come down to a mixture of totally misunderstanding science and a deep and sustained fear of federal regulation that borders on paranoia.
Because these people are given public trust to make policy and laws for us, I see no other option but to insist on a basic level scientific, medical and sociological literacy. Those legislators whose education and experience background are lacking should be required to attend seminars getting them up to speed; they are entrusted with nothing less than our lives and futures.