Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Words Words Words

What are the basic building blocks of our Pop Culture? Musical notes. Pictures. And words. These things you're looking at right now, these arrangements of consonants and vowels of variable length. That's all they are. And people have the strangest relationship with them.

Consider this story, which I picked up from my local Fox News outlet:

-- ORLANDO, Fla. (WOFL FOX 35, Orlando) -- The age old debate over creative design versus evolution took center stage in Orlando on Monday as the state school board held its final public hearing on a proposal to use the word "evolution" in science classes.
The school board is considering revisions that would substitute the word evolution for what is currently described as "biological changes over time." --

What exactly is being debated there? Not the concept of evolution. No. It's the use of the actual word "evolution." "Biological changes over time" means essentially the same thing, but is somehow more acceptable to one portion of the population or another.

So it's not the idea, it's the actual physical word itself that offends.

Another example. Consider if you would, the N-word. Now, what word did you think of when I wrote "the N-word?" Was it "Nifty?" Or "Nuclear?" Or "Nottingham?" I bet it wasn't.

But for some reason, it's okay for me, a suburban white kid, to write the phrase "the N-word," but it is not okay for me to write the N-word. The meanings are the same, only the physical appearance of the word on the page is different.

When it comes to that particular word and all the other loaded terms we have skulking in the shadowy corners of Pop Culture America, I am of a mind with Lenny Bruce and Richard Pryor. I believe, as they did, that you don't get rid of offensive words by forbidding them. Forbidding them only gives them more power. You get rid of offensive words by holding them up to the light, by ridiculing them and getting people to laugh at them.

As for the use of the word "evolution," that's nothing more than the Thought Police in action. Take away the word and take away the thought. I'm old-fashioned enough to think that science class is a place to teach science. Religion is fine and good and if you believe God created everything with a six-day wave of His hand, then more power to you. But science class isn't the place to teach that any more than it's a place to teach Shakespearean sonnets or the Treaty of Versailles. Just as I wouldn't recommend bringing in litmus paper and Bunsen burners to Sunday School, I don't recommend religion in Biology 101. So call the thing by its name and if it raises issues -- here's a novel idea for schools -- discuss them.

Good God, somebody might even learn something.

No comments:

John and Dave talks Oscar nomination predictions